Tonight, we crown the winner of one of my favorite television shows, “American Idol.” In one corner, we have adorable Kris Allen, a young married crooner from Arkansas. And in the other corner, we have goth shrieker Adam Lambert, an eye-line wearing spiked-hair tenor from California. Who will win? I think it’s already a foregone conclusion, but who am I to predict? (It’s Adam…he’s a shoe-in.)
Part of the fun of AI, for me anyway, is to be able to critique the different singers and to see how you match up with the judges. I find Randy Jackson to be somewhat on the mark, Kara to be all over the place with her opinions, Paula to be on another planet, and Simon to be right most of the time (we do have our disagreements). I’m no vocal coach but even I have learned what “pitchy” means and is and when someone is singing beyond their register (that’s uncomfortable to listen to, I gotta say). I know what Paula means when she says someone has a nice “timbre” to their voice (even though I suspect she thinks it has something to do with trees) and an even “tone.” The contestants get their clothing criticized or embraced, the way they wear their hair commented on, and even get comments on the fans in the audience and what they have to say about the contestants after they sing. And for young adults, for the most part, they handle it with grace.
But usually, the AI contestants fit a mold: they are earnest, anxious, talented, and ready for the big stage. They fit a certain profile: amateur, enthusiastic, wholesome (and if they are the “rocker” contestant for that season, it’s a studied look not a natural one), fresh-faced, a cross-section of America. White, black, Asian, straight or gay, they are all pretty much the same. That’s why I’m so surprised that America is so in love with Adam, who I happen to like, but who breaks all the rules when it comes to popular AI contestants.
First, the goth look. His pants wear him rather than the other way around. They’re tight, black or striped, hug the hips, and are usually accompanied by a leather bolero jacket or vest. And that’s just in the weeks where he’s not channeling Roy Orbison or Buddy Holly and has his hair swept back in the twenty-first century’s version of a pompadour. But the little girls, and even some of the big ones, go crazy for him.
Second, there’s a lot of caterwauling. There was the week he did Led Zeppelin and while he did do Robert Plant proud, I find the screaming into the microphone a little unnerving. Not so America. They dialed him right into the next round, timbre and tone be damned. They love this guy! There is hope for humanity after all.
Third, he doesn’t seem to care. He’s obviously jazzed to be on the show and very enthusiastic—that’s an understatement—when he sings. But he takes any criticism that is doled out with a smile and a shrug. He’s already been in a traveling production of “Phantom” or “Les Miz” (I can’t remember which) and probably will go back to a career in singing. He’s confident of his ability. And he sure isn’t going to cave if Simon Cowell tells him that he’s off-key. It seems like he takes it all in stride. The kid’s a professional.
The antithesis of Adam is the other finalist, Kris. He fits the typical AI mold, with the exception that he’s married. Not too many married contestants have strutted their stuff at the Kodak Theatre. In his jeans, with his guitar, and the mustache that still hasn’t grown in after all these weeks of trying, the kid is adorable. I’d love to put him in my pocket and just take him out when I need to hear a pretty close version to the original “You’ve Got a Friend.” But he did knock everyone’s socks off with a bongo-flavored rendition of “She Works Hard for the Money.” Didn’t see that coming. What does he have in store for the finale, I wonder?
There’s been speculation that Adam may be American Idol’s first openly-gay winner, but it doesn’t seem like America really cares. And that, my friends, is a very nice coda to another fun-filled season of American Idol. It seems like we’ve finally come to a point where it doesn’t really matter who wins, or what their orientation is, as long as they can sing.
What up, Dawg?