I am not proud to admit this, but I approach tonight’s finale of American Idol not knowing a whole lot about what happened this season, other than there was Beatles Night and Sinatra Night and, Canadian Content Shania Night.
I do find it interesting that not only are both the finalists from states that went blue in 2008, both are basically from Chicago: Crystal is from Ohio, but lived and auditioned in Chicago, and Lee is an Illinoisian who also auditioned in Chicago. This makes it depressingly hard to frame the results in terms of the Culture War or red vs. blue. I guess you could say that Ohio is a swing state and closer to the South, therefore if Crystal wins, it’s a red-state victory. But that would really be pushing it. Unlike last year, when we all got to pretend that Kris vs. Adam was a metaphor for all of America and possibly Canada as well.
Also, I was going to make a joke about what Idol always reminds me of, but I see someone has beaten me to it by titling this clip. It’s a well-chosen clip, though it omits the performance that precedes the judging; the point is, American Idol either needs to do a Wagner theme night or hire a singing shoemaker to replace Simon.
Update: So the winner of this rather dull final episode was Lee. I guess this can lead to lots of articles about how both the American President and the American Idol represent the Chicago Way. Or perhaps not, since these contestants aren’t interesting enough to become political footballs. It may be, seriously, that Idol isn’t as much fun when Southerners aren’t in the final running. I’m not talking about the fake politics of it, but the genuine culture clash — regional artistic culture — represented by that “A little bit country/Little bit rock n’ roll” type of showdown. It creates a certain tension that Chicago/Ohio vs. Chicago can never quite recapture. Especially since so much of Idol is based on regional, cultural, and national conflict; a lot of the success of the U.S. version derives from the sight of Simon, a British guy, a representative of the Old World, locking horns with the American contestants and panelists.
For more specific takes on what all this meant, and what Simon means to all of us, see James Poniewozik’s recap. My second post in a row linking to him, but both links are worth reading, so why not?
Update 2: Myles McNutt calls Leda Wise (as I have taken to calling him) “the worst winner in the series’ history.”
Update 3: Ken Levine, who will no longer be reviewing Idol now that Simon’s gone, has posted his final recap, along with a discussion of what’s been wrong with the show since Paula left.