The ''American Idol'' finale: Jordin wins!
Dear Nigel Lythgoe, Simon Fuller, Cécile Frot-Coutaz, and assorted producing partners:
I'd like to rewind American Idol's season 6 finale and propose a few trades. I'll give you Gwen Stefani if you'll let me have LaKisha Jones. You take Green Day, but I get Phil Stacey. And while we're at it, let's swap out Bette Midler for, oh, what the heck, why not Haley Scarnato?
I know you think you're getting the good end of the deal, landing a stageful of multiplatinum superstars in exchange for a bunch of amateurs who'll be lucky if they're playing amusement-park stages or landing supporting gigs in Off Off Broadway shows five years from now. And on most nights, you'd be right.
But the thing is, the Idol finale should not be confused with the Grammys, or the American Music Awards, or even ''Idol Gives Back.'' And it most certainly shouldn't be used as a vehicle to promote some megastar's latest single, or a new Vegas casino gig, or Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?.
That's why your decision tonight to focus the bloated, 130-minute telecast on pretty much everyone except for this season's 12 finalists was so disappointing and, ultimately, infuriating. The situation is so dire that I've got no choice but to paraphrase the wretched debut albatross that you've hung around poor Jordin's neck: This was their now. Why not let them (and us) live in the moment?
In fact, here's an ideal guideline for the season 7 send-off: Don't allow any non-Idol performers to take the stage unless they agree to duet with one of the 12 finalists. Think about it: Instead of piping in a ''live'' feed of Gwen (who appeared to have a giant flower attached to her derriere) performing ''4 in the Morning'' with utter detachment, you could've forced her to show up at the Kodak and duet with Chris Richardson on ''Don't Speak,'' a number he'd already nailed earlier in the season. Can you imagine the watercooler buzz you'd have scored if Kiki had rescued Bette midway through her abysmal, convulsive ''Wind Beneath My Wings''? And for cryin' out loud, Tony Bennett's ''For Once in My Life'' was taken from his album Duets, and Melinda Doolittle's Memphis audition number was...''For Once in My Life.'' Do I really have to do the math for you?
Then again, maybe you like the numbers exactly as they are. Clive Davis sure seemed happy reporting the staggering sales successes of Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, and Kelly Clarkson even if he managed to make a dig at the original Idol champ with his comment about the importance of working with the right songwriters and producers. Shady! (For more on the Kelly-Clive skirmish, check out Dave Karger's recent EW cover story.)
Who knows, though? Maybe the powerful record exec was merely issuing a warning to Jordin and Blake not to go all rogue on him when it comes time to cut their albums in the fall. After all, Clive can giveth, and he can also mention your subplatinum sales figures in front of an audience of 30 million people. Poor Taylor!
Not only did the Soul Patrol man suffer that indignity, but his jittery, bar-band-y performance of ''Heaven Knows'' shriveled in comparison to Kelly's ferocious ''Never Again'' and Carrie's tender, stripped-down ''I'll Stand by You.'' By the way, what possessed the country chanteuse to hack open the front of her elegant evening gown and slip on a pair of jeans? Then again, maybe the more important question is why Ruben was the only former champ (save for Broadway-constrained Fantasia) who didn't get his own solo moment.
Or perhaps I should ask why Jordin didn't land a more high-profile duet partner on ''You're All I Need to Get By.'' I know I've been tough on the effervescent teenager the last few weeks, but watching her in that cotton-candy-colored dress, nailing every note of her number (and not frozen in front of the mike stand, either), reminded me why at certain points in the season, I've proudly worn my Team Sparks jersey. In that moment, on that number, the season 6 champ could've held her own with anybody.
Funny enough, Jordin transcends my natural fear of child stars; where most of 'em come off as creepy and robotic, somehow, this season's champ brings enough innate dorkiness to the equation to make her ambition palatable. It also helps that despite often sounding like she's thisclose to losing control of her massive instrument, she has managed to bring an emotional connection to her material that her chief season 6 rivals often neglected to provide. As one TV Watch reader posted on our message boards today, ''When Jordin sings, I feel something. I don't know why, but...I like it.''
But then again, I could say the same thing about Blake, who may not be Original, who may not be a powerhouse vocalist, and who's trying to bring back a look he refers to as ''grandpa pants,'' but whose off-kilter fun is something that should be celebrated, not derided. His beatbox battle with Doug E. Fresh tonight was a hoot in an '80s-throwback kind of way and, as Ryan noted, proof positive that Idol has evolved since the days of From Justin to Kelly. If he can get ''Time of the Season'' to radio next week, it could be a contender for official Song of the Summer. (That is, as long as Timbaland doesn't drop some kind of otherworldly beat behind that little ditty from the African Children's Choir.)
And now, shifting gears from the enjoyable portion of tonight's show, I am going to cram into one paragraph the things about tonight's telecast that deserve to be ignored but that, much like the gag-inducing wet cardboard you sometimes encounter on Manhattan sidewalks, I inexplicably must acknowledge: Jordin and Blake's awkward kiss after their awkward duet on ''I Saw Him/Her Standing There'' (ew!); everything about this year's Golden Idol awards (human gimmick Margaret Fowler, Sholandric ''We Couldn't Get Anyone Funny to Show Up'' Stallworth, the reliving of Idol's most shameful season 6 moment by sponsoring a bush baby at the Milwaukee Zoo); and, finally, Sanjaya. I'd decry his encore performance of ''You Really Got Me,'' but the ugly truth is that each word a journalist types about the kid adds an extra second to his 15-minute clock.
What did you think of tonight's wildly anticlimactic result? Would Phil have gone farther than he did if he'd better utilized the terrific falsetto he busted out on ''Ooh Baby Baby''? Did you notice the continuity issues with Gwen's microphone during her performance? And was I the only one envisioning Gladys Knight assessing the top six ladies at dress rehearsal and declaring, ''Only Melinda and LaKisha are allowed within three feet of me!''? Finally, how awesome was Paula's unbridled enthusiasm for pretty much everything that went on up on the Idol stage tonight? Whoo! I love dawgs, too!