Culture

American Idol: Prophecy Fulfilled

This year's final two American Idols, Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips

So the utterly predictable happened. Phillip Phillips, herein known as P2, is the Season 11 American Idol champ. As predictable as a giant nose zit at prom time, P2 was propelled over the finish line by millions of teenyboppers and cougars with flames bursting from their cell phone speed dials.

I won’t belabor P2’s lack of singing ability other than to say he agrees, as he observed last Thursday with Jay Leno: “As everyone knows with me, it’s not about the singing.” I’m glad he agrees.

The last performance night saw Jessica Sanchez singing the daylights out of everything and P2 doing his usual hipster Mumble Pop bit. Why he chose his atrocious cover of Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out” as his best performance to repeat will remain one of life’s enduring mysteries. If he had chosen his audition version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” I would have said great choice. I was at first intrigued with P2 based on that—I attributed the less than stellar singing to nerves—but as the season went on, I grew tired of his one-note parade and especially tired of the high praise from judges who really should have (and probably do) know better.

But the third and last song for each was telling. This was the song they would personally choose to be their first single if they won the contest. (Allegedly. More on that in a bit.) After wowing us all season with her powerful, clear vocals, Jessica chose “Change Nothing” written by Jaden Michaels, Joleen Belle and Harry Sommerdahl. Um, no. This was her last chance to impress the judges and the fans, and she chose a really blah song. The judges didn’t like it, and neither did Jessica, apparently. How much a role the producers played in this will probably remain an Ultra Double-Dog Secret for all time, because it sounds like Jessica wanted to do something more urban, more “me,” as she put it. How much did Jessica’s relative lack of maturity play in her giving in to what the producers wanted?

A drum corps wanders onstage during P2's last performance.

P2’s last performance, on the other hand, wowed them. His cover of “Home,” written by relative unknowns (unless you live in the north of England) Drew Pearson and Greg Holden, drew a standing ovation from the judges. It was good, but really, how much of what wowed everyone was P2 and how much was the arrangement, what with half the UCLA marching band tromping around on stage? Literally half the song (I counted) consists solely of P2 and the backup singers going “woooooo, a-woo, a-woo-oo-ah.” Heck, even I could nail that. It seems even P2 was less than thrilled with the song, according to Rolling Stone, thinking the song was a little too pop for him. He wanted to do something a bit more rocking. Again, the finger points to the producers.

But after that final performance, the die had been cast, the arrow launched, the bell rung, and any other metaphor you might think of for a deed that can’t be undone. Frankly, I think Jessica could have blown the doors off the place with a more appropriate final song and still have lost. According to Nielsen the AI final garnered 22 million viewers, the lowest rated final in the show’s history, yet Ryan Seacrest announced that they received 132 million votes.

There was little suspense on finals night, except for just how tacky it might turn out to be. Turns out it’s hard to underestimate the tackiness of the AI producers. We were treated to the spectacle of an on-air marriage proposal by Ace Young from season five to Diana DeGarmo from season three. (Yeah, I know. Who?) As Ace got down on one knee, he said to his beloved, “We have conquered Broadway together, we have created all your new music together, … and with the help of David Webb Jewelry, I have a way to make this fun last forever.” He only forgot to add that he’s an incredibly cheap bastard who turned this once-in-a-lifetime event into an opportunity to plug a commercial jeweler in order to score a free ring. That’s a marriage starting off on the right foot.

It wouldn’t be a finale without some pointless musical performances. P2 sang “Bad Moon Rising”and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” with CCR’s John Fogerty. They harmonized in the way creamed corn blends with lemon sorbet.

Joshua Ledet, this year’s No. 3, started singing a great arrangement of Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot” until a crazed woman named Fantasia Barrino, allegedly the winner of AI season three, came out on stage and started to shriek into a microphone. Young children and small dogs fled, screaming, from living rooms across America.

Tony award winner and Broadway veteran Jennifer Holliday joined Jessica Sanchez on the Dreamgirls hit “And I Am Telling You”. Jennifer out Jessica’d Jessica, slaying the song but making really scary monster faces along the way, sending the young children and small dogs up the stairs and out the window à la The Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion.

The Top 12 did some group performances with lame arrangements and even lamer choreography, allowing the entire world to see that heartthrob Colton Dixon suffers from a severe case of CRD (Caucasian Rhythmic Disorder).

And then came the final moment. Ryan Seacrest did his best to ramp up the suspense, but really, even Jessica knew that P2 would be the winner. The aforementioned teenyboppers and cougars seemed to be really happy, and Twitter exploded with estrogen-based joy. A small sample:

  • My boyfriend won American Idol tonight! Been supporting this guy the whole way! Love him!! Phillip Phillips–Allison Schiller @AllisonSchiller
  • PHILLIP PHILLIPS MARRY MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE– Single Girl Problems @Singlegrlprob

Yeah, he has a great music career ahead of him—assuming teenybopper girls and cougars have enough disposable income to buy his albums.

But he also faces an uncertain future. This fascinating article tells the story of Idol finalists over the years, and it’s not a pretty picture. I don’t care for Phillip Phillips, but I don’t want to see him fail, either. He, Jessica, Joshua, and the Idol finalists would do well to draw some important lessons from what has happened to those who preceded them.