Monday, May 25, 2009
Idol '09: Kris Allen
Kris! You won! And I voted for you! AMAZING! Congratulations. Why do you look so shocked? I always enjoyed your performances throughout this season. Ain't No Sunshine, She Works Hard For The Money, Falling Slowly and Heartless all stand out as really interesting original arrangements and great performances. I think you have a great vocal quality. I thought the judges dismissive nature toward you during the second half of the season was ludicrous. But you showed them! I love how they wanted more self-confidence from you without ever trying to, you know, boost your ego. "Get confident, stupid!" is always sage, advice. But despite my judge-hate this season, I think your win is well-deserved and makes me happy.
You know what makes me less happy? All this talk post-finale about how "America" wasn't ready to accept a maybe-gay Idol so they went with a safer choice. Maybe anti-gay voting did play some part in some people's motivations across the country. How the eff would I know? They don't do exit polling. Nobody knows. I don't, however, think it's the main reason you won and Adam lost. I think that rationale is rather insulting to you and to me for voting for you. Now I would never say that people don't cast a protest-vote against someone on this show by voting for their competition. I have done that this year with Gokey, especially after his Rock Week performance. I voted for you and Allison because I was done with the free pass the judges were giving Danny, and wanted to reject the finale they'd have forced upon me. So I can see Gokey Fans who didn't like Lambert voting against him by voting for you in the finale. . And while I think people could cast a few protest votes against him on your behalf, I ultimately believe people are more compelled to vote for someone they like and not against someone they don't. For instance, I've spent several seasons of watching Idol without feeling the need to vote for anyone, so I wouldn't have picked up the phone for you during Rock Week if I didn't actually think you and Allison were worth my effort. Note that I didn't vote for Adam that week. The reason I voted for you was simple: I liked your singing more than I liked Adam's. Oh sure, Adam's got a bigger voice that can do crazier things, but that doesn't mean that's what I prefer listening to.
I also think it's weird that Adam fans who were so "SHOCKED!" by his loss - though I can understand why it's disappointing to have your favorite lose - are now acting as if "America" freaked out because Adam was maybe-gay. As if they suddenly realized this after 13 weeks of having no problem with it I find the implication that not voting for Adam is intrinsically homophobic, to be ridiculous - especially since i just finished yelling at Obama in an email about Don't Ask-Don't Tell, which I wrote after I finished an email to my state senator supporting about gay marriage in NY, which was on the heels of showing up at the Midtown Rally in support of Gay Marriage last weekend. So get over this gay non-issue, people. Kris is good and sings the acoustic rock shit that i and others enjoy. So that's who I voted for and why. I bet the vote was very close and had Adam won the story would be how "predictable" the ending as because Adam was all anyone could talk about all season. Don't rob Kris of his well-deserved victory lap over sour grapes.
Another thing to think about: as i said in a separate post, gay-ness aside, with Adam really suffered from was being the front-runner all season. He came out of the gate so strong (whether you liked it or not, it was certainly strong) that there was nowhere for him to go. The front runner almost always loses in Idol. This show is all about underdogs making good. Let me rattle off a list of names: Tamyra Gray, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, Bo Bice, Chris Daughtry, Melinda Doolittle, David Archuleta. They were all championed early on by the judges, and while some of them made it farther than others, none of them won. All of them suffered from the reality tv rule of law about momentum that I've unnecessarily renamed "Show-mentum". Show-mentum refers to a contestant's ability to pace themselves so that they do not peak to early, while still delivering a quality performance week-to-week. Too often the best talents rocket out of the gates in the semis and then they don't really have anywhere to go. In order to win, in order for people to vote for you at the end, it has to feel for the audience like that's where your story should end. The judges, try as hard as they might to undercut their least favorite contestants, don't really decide that. It's about what the contestants do. People who are too good at the beginning suffer the same fate as those who never really connect with the audience. If it seems like being on the show can't help these people because they are either not good enough or already too good, eventually people feel less inclined to vote for them. This is what I think happened with Kris and Adam. Adam always seemed at home on the big stage, and Kris had to grow into it. When Kris did the acoustic version of "Heartless" it was a game-changer because he became new and interesting. And if someone's been watching you twice a week for almost 4 months and at the end still thinks you're both new and interesting, than you are more than likely to win. It doesn't translate to future stardom, just the finale win.
So Kris, will you be like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood (superstars), David Cook and Jordin Sparks (talented semi-successes), Fantasia Barrino and Ruben Studdard (great vocalists, but mostly ignored) or Taylor Hicks (idol albatross)? Only time will tell. I think if you connect with the right songs you could definitely be at the top of the Cook-Sparks category, which would be really sweet. Best of luck with it all. And like the other Top 10'ers. Have a great tour.