'American Idol': On the scene for the finale!
Good morning, PopWatchers. How is everyone today? Have we all slept off our Idol hangovers? I like to picture you out there in your sleepy stupor, Kris fans conked out with lampshades on their heads and party streamers around their necks, Glambert fans just starting to rub the guyliner from their tear-stained cheeks. It’s my honor to bring you the final On the Scene report from American Idol 2009, a report that will be kept fairly direct for a variety of reasons, not least of which being the fact that my seat at the Nokia Theater last night was located somewhere just north of Fresno, resulting in my experience of the finale being something akin to watching the show on a very small television situated very far away. The people down there were so small, like ants! And the jumbotron sometimes defaulted to funny patterns instead of the onstage action! And the sound was bad, and easily overruled by the screams of thousands of euphoric teenage girls! And Cory the Warmup Comedian didn’t do anything Cory the Warmup Comedian hasn’t done thousands of times before! But what a night, PopWatchers, what a majestic, majestic night, in which, really, there were no losers, except for maybe Rod Stewart, Bikini Girl, and at least two out of the four Black Eyed Peas.
If you’ll be so kind as to follow me after the jump this one last time, I promise to share with you my thoughts on those performances and many more, as well as all the action outside the Nokia, where I’d been stationed almost literally around the clock since Monday. And then, because it is what we do, I will open the comments up to you, the Idol Nation, to share as many thoughts as you want on the broadcast and the results. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Kris Allen is Your.Next.American.Idol. The underdog! The dark horse! The kid who auditioned at Churchill Downs and, like Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby, overcame impossible odds to win! Me, I wasn’t so shocked — I’d been calling it for Kris all day. But hey, I just work here. Need a scapegoat? Might I suggest Danny Gokey? Get him!
I’d been on the Idol Talking Head Tour for the past few days, which put me outside the Nokia before dawn yesterday, chatting up Fox affiliates and developing the kind of sunburn you can only get when you’ve got a full tube of sunscreen in your purse, but you forget to apply any of it. It also gave me a unique vantage point on the Idol circus in full swing. Rumors flew fast and furious — at one point, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Britney Spears, and Whitney Houston were all “slated” to perform, though I’m pretty sure that Britney and Whitney were the same rumor, run through the telephone game blender by correspondents desperate for something, anything, to say during their next hit. Kim Caldwell and Justin Guarini hosted marathon sessions of Idol Tonight, while their less-successful former contestant counterparts roamed free, like a wilderness safari of failure. I never saw a David Cook or a Carrie Underwood in the flesh, but I shook KLK’s hand, took an iPhone photo for the LA Times’ Richard Rushfield of him posing next to Syesha and her boyfriend, smiled at Mandisa’s weight loss, shook my head at Nikki McKibbin’s weight gain, watched Blake Lewis and Diana DeGarmo have a fake fight in which they brandished microphones like lightsabers, coveted Mindy Doo’s silver shoes, introduced myself to Carly Smithson like a dork, helped several people identify Kimberly Locke, briefly confused Haley Scarnato with a local news reporter, heard a quartet of non-finalist females from this season (including Kristen McNamara) sing “It’s a Small World” to a reporter from something called Disney Destinations, helped get Brooke White past security, and was introduced to Ace Young on live TV in Salt Lake City. I shared sonic space with countless teenagers screeching out Michael Johns’ name, and hordes of unabashed adults clamoring for the touch of Jason Castro’s hand. And then there was the middle-aged woman on Tuesday who spotted Bo Bice, yelped, “Hey! That’s what’s-his-name!” and went scampering over to get his autograph. Ah, fame. ‘Tis so fleeting, and so fickle. And, I suppose, ’tis the crack cocaine that fuels the Idol addiction. (Crack cocaine ’tis also what I needed to make it back to the Nokia by 5:30 a.m. this morning, but that ’tis neither here nor there…)
It was glamorous, to be sure, and also pretty damn funny — at one point, I was offered a piggyback ride down the carpet by a cop — but one cannot spend all day standing around on a red carpet waiting for Janice Dickinson to give her pick for the night (Glambert), or trying to identify the former Idol I’d most like to have a beer with (JPL). By around 4:15, I’d loaded up my gear and headed indoors — using my lanyard full of assorted Fox News credentials to get me through the backstage entrance so no one would confiscate my BlackBerry and laptop — to take my seat in the loge. There, I found my date for the evening, EW’s Los Angeles bureau editorial assistant John Young, who’s in training to join the Idol coverage team for 2010. (John’s EW nickname is, tragically, Button.) I wolfed down a granola bar, and scanned the miniscule figures on the stage to see if I could identify a single one of them. I could not. And then:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN BOYS AND GIRLS ARE! YOU! READYYYYY!
I recited Cory’s entire warmup routine to Button (“When I say American, you say Idol! American!”), then caught a glimpse of my beloved Debbie, walking limp-free around the giant stage. Hi, Debbie. I’m glad you’re okay. Cory informed us Daughtry was in the house and told the crowd, “You can’t go anywhere else in the world and get the lineup that’s gonna be here tonight.” Since the lineup for tonight was, in fact, here tonight, and not anywhere else in the world, I knew this was true. With seven minutes to go, Cory told us, “In seven minutes, you will start screaming, and you will not stop until about 10.” The audience merrily complied.
The judges began to enter, all decked out in formalwear: Kara first, then Randy, who implored us to “give it up.” With three and a half minutes to go until the cold open, Kara was still waving from the table, and Ry-Ry entered to bro-hug Cory. At two minutes, the Top 2 walked out in their blinding white ice cream man suits, then Paula and Simon hustled across the stage. Paula brought a purse, presumably so she could purchase concessions during commercial breaks, and then the cold open was upon us. As I watched the clips from Tuesday’s show unfold, I decided the judges had definitely started gearing their comments toward the melodramatic in an attempt to make it into this reel. The audience jumped the gun on cheering, and THIS… was your American Idol finale.
Loved the little judges roast that kicked things off, a hilarious takedown of the four men and women who, as Ry-Ry put it, “so professionally guided you through this season.” Randy pumped his fist and put his head on the desk as they mocked his “for me, for you” clips, and the rest of the panel applauded uproariously. No one seemed to care about Kara’s “sweetie” reel — never fear, sweetie, you’ll have your moment if it kills you, I know — but Paula’s vocabulary lesson had the loopy lady spinning with glee in her chair and fielding high-fives from Simon. I started to notice it was almost impossible to hear the sound from the stage if anyone within 30 rows was screaming “I LOVE YOU ADAM!” at the top of their lungs, which happened a whole lot. I also noticed I was going to spend the night standing up and down more often than a Catholic on speed for Easter, since the sightlines in the loge made it impossible to see if even two people down front were giving someone an ovation.
The performances, for the most part, whizzed by: I couldn’t see facial expressions and was identifying contestants mostly by their hair color, which meant that — for this reason along with many, many others — Allison Iraheta was the star of my night. She was all over the opening train wreck of “So What,” rocking out like a champ, and the jumbotron cameras stayed with her almost to the end, at which point she shook hands in the “mosh pit” until Debbie shooed her offstage. “She’s amazing,” said someone behind me. “It’s the only reason he went as far as he did, because he’s blind,” said the kid in front of me, which is when I realized I’d completely forgotten to notice Scottie Mac’s choreography. Cory helpfully identified David Hasselhoff, and with 20 seconds to go in commercial, David Cook emerged. I now know the orange bracelet DC wears is a tribute to the daughter of Fox News Tampa reporter Charley Belcher — Charley made for an excellent companion during my marathon outside the Nokia this week — and that DC’s voice can still make my heart leap. The high note he hit in that performance of “Permanent” moved me more than anything Glambert’s wailed all season, and all of a sudden I found myself yearning for an American Idol: All Stars season, if only to see those two men go head to head.
My heart sank when Ry-Ry started in with the Golden Idols — god forbid we should give that time to actual musical numbers, or keep the results show to an hour — and yet I found myself on my feet to cheer Nick/Norman, who received a grinning standing O from the back of the room as he departed up the aisle in triumph. (“I want that perch! That is power!” is my new battle cry.) The Lil Rounds/Queen Latifah duet didn’t so much do it for me — I’d blame it on the sound in the room, except that DC sounded incredible — but it was fun to watch Lil throw awed sidelong glances at the Queen. I hope she was taking notes. Speaking of notes, nothing thereof happened surrounding the Jason Mraz/Anoop/Alexis Grace number, including the Jason Mraz/Anoop/Alexis Grace number.
One person I did manage to pick out at a distance: Keith Urban, who took the stage alongside Kris Allen for their duet. (This impressed Button, who is still in that charming place where everything is new and exciting and not totally obvious at least 45 seconds before it happens, but we’ll beat him down eventually.) I thought “Kiss A Girl” was a spot-on song choice, and that Kris sounded as good if not better than Urban. The pair received a marginal standing ovation, and hugged at least twice off-camera. With 10 seconds to go coming out of the next commercial, the Idol women were still running to their spots for the start of the “Glamorous” spelling test — did they get there? I didn’t watch that part back — and while the response in the house was huge for the Black Eyed Peas (f. Mummenschanz), by halfway through that dud of a new song, we were all just kind of standing there and staring. I must admit that I’ve never entirely understood the point or appeal of the Black Eyed Peas, and would almost prefer Fergie to stay on her solo career/literacy kick for the time being until I can figure them out. When they finished, the Black Eyed Peas (f. Mummenschanz) took a very long time to get off the stage.
Needless to say, I was also able to pick out Bikini Girl’s structural enhancements from a distance. She was booed rather heavily in my section; had this been Showtime at the Apollo Amateur Night, she would have been chased off by the Sandman before she even opened her mouth. But then we would have missed The Vengeance of the Kara, in which Ms. DioGuardi finally put all those rumors to rest that she was in this for the sheer pleasure of shepherding young talent by engaging in a sing-off with her scantily-clad nemesis. Thoughts: 1) Okay, Kara sounded (and looked) pretty good, which took this stunt down a notch from “shameless” to “borderline endearing.” 2) This and the announcement of Kris as the winner were the only parts of the show I rewatched on my DVR when I got home. 3) Yeah, but let’s see her try “No Boundaries.”
Cory was so busy giving out iPods during the break that I missed the entrance of Cyndi Lauper, but I perked up as she and Allison started into their odd, zither-based duet on “Time After Time.” This apparently read better on TV than it did in the house, where the sound was off and we were treated to a Lauper crotch shot on the jumbotrons for most of it. As Ry-Ry headed out to interview the parents — Kris Allen’s parents > Anoop’s parents? — Danny Gokey snuck into the center of the stairs to prepare for his Lionel Richie moment, which began with a question we’d already asked and answered (is not he we’re looking for) and ended with another marginal standing O for the horn section-juiced “All Night Long.” During the next commercial, Cory popped up to the balcony, where he encouraged the fans not to lean over the edge too much because they might fall and die. Meanwhile, down on stage, a giant black and white kabuki drop was being hoisted into the sky.
Another rumor I’d been hearing all day: Kiss was slated to perform with Adam. Rushfield eventually confirmed this for me; apparently Idol stylist Miles Siggins had shown him the very jacket in which the Glambert would take the stage. But the audience had no real way of knowing, and so when Gene Simmons snuck in from the wings, there was relative pandemonium, as it is like blatant-boob-job levels of tremendously hard to hide when you are Gene Simmons. “40 seconds… I have no judges!” yelped Debbie, over the cries of an audience already on its feet. There we would stand, all the way through Adam’s “journey,” through his soft caress of “Beth,” and, naturally, across the flaming (pun more than likely intended) bombast of “Detroit Rock City” and “Rock and Roll All Nite.” I sympathized with the drummer — who I assumed was Peter Criss until I got home and was informed by Wikipedia that apparently that dude’s not in the band anymore — every time one of those giant fire bursts went off, because I could feel the heat on my face from Fresno, and his back was right up in it. But no one was immolated, no swaybots were injured in the smashing of Paul Stanley’s guitar. And thanks to an interview on my local Fox affiliate after the show, I learned that the boots Adam was wearing were his very own. Quick survey: If he’d pulled out the club kid boots earlier in the season, would he have made it to the finale at all? I went to college with people who wore stuff like that to breakfast, so it’s kind of hard for me to judge.
At least 20 seconds of rampant applause carried us through the start of the next commercial break, during which Cory came into my section and the people screamed so loud I think half of my brain pulled an Izzie. Santana took his platform, Matt Giraud materialized suddenly in the pit — it’s so hard to keep track of everyone’s whereabouts in that giant theater! — “Black Magic Woman” was lovely but “Smooth” put the still-sweaty room over the top. Holy Rob Thomas, do people of all ages love that song. Took the time to notice that MJ(fC) was on Scottie Mac duty for this number. Questioned the necessity of a nostalgic look back at the Ford videos. Heard Button groan at the blatant Ford product placement. (He’ll learn.) Nearly passed out I was cringing so hard during the Steve Martin/MJ(fC)/Sarver debacle, though I’d wager the swaybots were having a harder time than I was, their arms a tangled mess of seaweed noodles and awkward seal-clapping. The next commercial brought the first mention of David Archuleta at a shockingly tardy 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time, and everyone lost interest in squeeing for him as soon as Cory marched a little girl in a pink princess outfit up to the judges’ table and gave her a T-shirt twice her size. Ah, fame. ‘Tis so fleeting…
It was during Rod Stewart time that I noticed Scottie Mac was given no Idol moment this evening, which was really bizarre if you think about all the screen time Jorge Nuñez was picking up in comparison. It was also during Rod Stewart time that I awarded Mr. Stewart with the coveted Bette Midler Memorial Oh Dear God What Is Going On There Trophy I happened to be carrying in my bag. My favorite part of Tatiana Del Toro accepting her trophy was the Ruben Studdard reaction shot (is it possible more Americans can now identify Tatiana Del Toro than the Velvet Teddy Bear?), though it was very sweet of Debbie to walk Ms. CrazyPants halfway back to her seat during the commercial, something much of the audience probably missed because they were busy losing their crackers at the sight of a drum kit with the word “Queen” on it being rolled out from the wings. Oh yeah. That was the final rumor. I’d almost forgotten.
During Ryan’s intro, Kris and Adam fist-bumped from the power perch, and who could blame them? They were about to perform with EFFING QUEEN. And it was totally awesome, even if Adam managed somehow to oversing an effing Queen song and from where I was sitting they may as well have been performing with Spinal Tap. “Is this not the best finale ever?” Cory asked us in commercial, and as I watched Allison Iraheta doing a funny dance with her arm around Jasmine Murray’s neck off to the side of where Debbie was giving one last center stage elimination squeeze to Adam and Kris, I had to agree that sure, yeah, why not, it totally was.
There was a fancy adjudicator. They dimmed the lights and the crowd swooned like we were going on a rollercoaster. Kris won! My section erupted into cheers, and from my perspective I could see no little Adam fans erupting into tortured anguish. I couldn’t hear what Kris was saying because everyone around me was chanting “Kris! Kris!” but the vibe, in general, I would classify as “weird.” Maybe it’s because — as I learned by watching my DVR — Kris seemed utterly stunned by his win, and not in a contagious OMGICAN’TBELIEVEITTHISISSOTHEBEST! kind of way; it was more of a “S—, now I have to remember the words to f—ing ‘No Boundaries'” sort of thing. There were sparks and confetti and a heartfelt hug between Allen and his Mrs., and as we began to file out of the auditorium, my last glimpse of Your.Next.American.Idol. was him being forced to shoot and reshoot a clip of him saying “I’m going to Disneyworld,” presumably for the reporter from Disney Destinations.
And that’s it, PopWatchers. No more things happened. There are, quite simply, no more things. There is only Kris Allen, who won, and Adam Lambert, who lost, and your thoughts on both of those matters. I’ll tell you mine: Adam Lambert was never going to win this show, but I don’t think it had anything to do with platform boots or flaming bombast or some vast red state/Mormon/hillbilly/Miss California conspiracy. I think it had more to do with the fact that the sort of people who would be inclined to like Adam Lambert are not as inclined to watch this show as the sort of people who would be inclined to like Kris Allen. I think Gokey definitely put some of the Go in Glambert, but it’s more likely that Kris Allen inherently has a broader musical appeal. It’s important to remember that just because he did not win does not mean Adam Lambert will never sing for you again, it just means that when he does sing, it will not be “No Boundaries.” And I would like to remind you that if you did not spend four hours incessantly voting last night, you are not allowed to complain. This is not a democracy, it is a cheer-ocracy. And the Toros sure are number one. Anyway, it’s been a pleasure, kids, and on behalf of Adam “The Beav” Vary and all of us here at EW Idol headquarters, I’d like to thank you for your patronage and your passion. Have a kick ass summer, LYLAS, etc, blah blah.
Once more, with feeling: