Love it or hate it American Idol changed the way we watched TV. Starting with the low budget season that crowned superstar Kelly Clarkson to the final season that saw Trent Harmon take the final title over judge and fan favourite La’Porsha Rene millions of Americans, and Canadians tuned in week after week to cheer for their favourite. But what should’ve been the biggest season in 15 years was one that, for me anyway, seemed to struggle out of the gate to get started.
Throughout the auditions the trio of judges frequently told those they were letting down that they were looking for someone big for the final season, so that they could end the series the way it started…with a bang. The crowning of Trent Harmon was just one of the ways that season 15 failed to live up to its potential…and promise to be the greatest season of Idol ever.
Looking over the field of contestants that came out to audition for the chance at being the final Idol many with strong potential were sent packing long before the Hollywood rounds…out of the ones that did make it that far only a handful, if that many, could even remotely hope to live up to the potential of some of Idol’s biggest stars like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. And one by one even they were knocked off by an, apparently, tone deaf voting public leaving Trent and La’Porsha in the bottom two. Although not my taste, there’s no question that La’Porsha had the best voice out of the two finalists but, as happened more than once in the 15 year history, once again America chose the other guy. Will Trent Harmon measure up to Kelly Clarkson or will he sink to the bottom with some of the past Idol winners that just couldn’t find their footing after Idol? With Big Machine Label Group backing him I’d expect a certain measure of success from Trent, I suppose it depends largely on the type of artist they try to brand him as…country or pop. One will succeed and the other will fail.
Aside from America’s consistency for making poor choices, in recent years, the one night of Idol I always looked forward to was the grand finale. As the show grew in popularity, and viewers, it drew some of today’s, and yesterday’s biggest stars to its stage. From artists like Pitbull and Fall Out Boy (2015) to Demi Lovato, Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker (2014) even Queen & KISS graced the Idol stage back in 2009. But in the finale of finale’s the only guest performers were past Idols. Don’t get me wrong Idol has a lot of extremely talented alumni aside from the obvious Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson but having Idol alums on an Idol finale are a given…what surprised me was the total lack of any other artists, aside from compulsory performances by each of the judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.
The show began with a cheesy message from President Barack Obama congratulating Idol on 15 years and then going on to compare the voting on Idol to voting for President and how when you don’t vote the other guy wins…something tells me President Obama wasn’t always happy with the results of the voting, it’s ok neither were we. Naturally being Canadian all we could do was watch and yell at the TV when the wrong person was sent home because in 15 years Idol never figured out a way to include the millions of viewers on this side of the border.
Obama’s rant was followed by an equally cheesy reunion between Ryan Seacrest and his season 1 co-host Brian Dunkleman, the two exchanged a few jabs that sounded better on paper than they did when delivered.
To me a storied show that has created stars that have seen nearly a 100 million in album sales in 15 years you would think that it’s grand farewell would be a little bit bigger. If was one of the finalists of the 15th season I’d feel a bit gypped as their predecessors got to perform with some of the biggest acts ever to take to the stage and all they get is the chance to perform with past Idols, and not even the biggest Idols ever…Carrie Underwood’s duet was reserved for Keith Urban and Kelly Clarkson’s incredible performance of her biggest hits was pre-recorded (she had a legitimate excuse she was due to give birth at any time the night of the finale).
But to Idol fans it was a great showcase of some of the incredible and not so incredible talent that the show has produced over the past 15 years. Even popular rejects William Hung (She Bangs) and Larry Platt (Pants on the Ground) made special appearances in the finale…fun fact William Hung has had more album sales than Season 9 winner Lee Dewyze. Highlights for me in the finale were Scotty McCreery’s rising cover of Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loved Mama” and Casey James & Katharine McPhee’s cover of Lady Antebellum’s “I Need You Know” (did you know that Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum auditioned for American Idol twice and didn’t make it to the judges round, either time?), the duo’s cover was part of an incredible acoustic medley that really showcased some of the best voices that Idol ever produced, including Clay Aiken who really stood out with his performance of Josh Groban’s “Annie’s Song” and Pia Toscano (recently named the most talented Idol contestant of all-time according to a recent consumer survey conducted by E-Score®, she, shockingly, placed 9th in season 10) who nailed Celine Dion’s “All By MySelf”.
However, the performance of the evening was given by Season 11 runner up, once again not even America’s choice, Jessica Sanchez who revived her Season 11 rendition of Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer” and quickly brought the crowd to their feet, again.
Of course throughout the evening there were the congratulations videos from past judges Ellen, Steven Tyler and Nicki Minaj…but noticeably absent was Mariah Carey who has been very vocal about her dislike for the show since season 12 in which her feud with fellow judge Nicki Minaj seemed to take the focus away from the talent on the stage.
The biggest surprise…or not so surprise was when Ryan Seacrest signed off for the last time he ended it with the words…for now! Could Idol’s end be short term? Is it possible that something is already in the works to revive the series? I guess time will tell!
What’s your favourite, or least favourite Idol moment of the last 15 years? Will Idol be back? Let me know in the comments, or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #MondayMusings