Tonight I donated two hours to FOX’s American Idol that I will never get back.

  Finalist Lee DeWyze arrives for the 9th season finale of American Idol in Los Angeles

I  watched much of this season on a time-shifted, fast forward setting.  I cannot say that I bonded intensely with the finalists, and I found the mentoring a silly filler. (Except Harry Connick, because he was so uber involved and uber adorable)  Three hours a week is more than this show merits.  The DVR allows me to edit as I desire, but even in 3X mode, the time I expended was overly generous. I have a little of the fairy Godmother in me: I like to see dreams come true.  Lee DeWyze’s ascension from a sweet, unaffected paint salesman to a sweet, unaffected winner suits me fine.   Sure, he did not sing as well as Crystal Bowersox in the home stretch….but he was so darn cute.  And clean. We know who votes for American Idol- young girls and middle aged women.  The fix was in.  I have a feeling the producers knew full well that he would triumph by past vote tallies.  Twitter mentions undoubtedly verified this assumption.

Most of the minority contestants had early exits, and this concerns me.  Could it be that the style of music that the show embraces alienates these cultures?  I have no answers, just observations.

Finalist Crystal Bowersox arrives for the 9th season finale of American Idol in Los Angeles
I am sure that Crystal Bowersox will have a wondrous career, and she deserves it.  Her voice is nimble and earthy, capable of channeling intense emotion.  She is not as malleable as Lee- I think she resisted efforts to become more mainstream, mainly in appearance.  Her integrity is  certainly worth congratulating, but the strategy probably did not help her.  Mothers of young girls with unlimited cellular packages or available land lines might not wish to put the Parental  imprimatur on a pierced, dreadlocked unmarried busker with a baby.  And her devotion to the street look meant that she persisted in wearing chipped black polish on the biggest performance day of her life.  Crystal, Crystal- I know guitar requires short nails- go without polish.  Chipped polish looks unkempt.   Idols are kempt. Point of reference:  Carrie Underwood.  Wow.
It was sweet that all the old Idols came to say goodbye to Simon; he was genuinely moved.    Paula had to show up, and praise the Lord, she did not sing or dance.  All the people who have missed her might rethink the missing.  She was pretty in pink, I’ll say that.
As for the special guests- very random.  I feel ancient remembering Joe Cocker, Chicago and Hall and Oates as part of my concert-going youth.  The Bee Gees?  Ouch on the ears, ouch on the eyes. Christina Aguilera was not spectacular, Bret Michaels was more inspirational than sensational. Alanis Morissette was not as good as Crystal on her song, and Janet Jackson was just a monotonous mess with an unimpressive dancing finish.  For this live TV event, her cleavage was well covered.  
The Pants on the Ground phenomena was reprised with a group of idiotically dressed dancers wearing the saggy trouser style decried by the song.  Channeling Alanis- isn’t ironic? 
Idol has become too bloated.  The orchestra/band is huge.   There are back up singers for the back up singers.  The house musicians are so amazingly talented that they overpower the kids trying to make their way. The audience is assaulted by laser lights, fireworks, four judges, mentors, performances by people who were famous decades ago.  Every glimpse of the cast is scripted, packaged and sponsored.  The visits home have devolved into a rote mode. 
 I read that next year they are shifting to a long performance show, with a half hour results show. I think that will be good. I would also like to see the finalists as people rather than products, or product promoters.  Send them to an animal shelter, have them work at a charitable venue, team them up and set them on an obstacle course or a paintball field- let them become real to us.  Have them mentor a choir or a young musician.  Let them draw songs from a hat and improvise.  Duets are a great opportunity to witness teamwork.  It is time to shift the paradigm.
I think that the ten years of Idol have been an amazing journey, but the bloom is off the bush.   Ratings are off 10% and voting is reduced even more. It is time for a bit of rethinking.  I realize I am old- not the target audience. I think I will miss Simon’s pithy evaluations, but I am not sure exactly what else needs to be tweaked.  Ideas? Or should we all shift to So you think you can dance ?
File photo of Simon Cowell posing backstage at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood

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