It’s been a while since I caught an episode of American Idol, and no, I don’t miss it. First, I really don’t care which mediocre performer the audience deems worthy of a bright future playing at state fairs. Secondly, how can one “miss” anything when each development is broadcast or written about everywhere, ad nauseum?
Of course, this year there was a perceived new wrinkle in Simon Cowell’s on-going campaign to advance the dumbing down of American music: one of the two finalists, Adam Lambert, is a nail polish and eyeliner wearing shreiker of questionable sexuality while the other finalist, Kris Allen, is a married, wholesome-looking Christian former worship leader. Many in the blogosphere have become determined to stage the showdown as believer-vs.-gay guy.
Having never heard either of them, I have no opinion or concern regarding who should have won. However, Mr. Allen was declared the winner last Wednesday night. For some, his victory confirms America’s raging homophobia:
Everyone, from the judges to Google to Yahoo to the Vegas odds makers, predicted a Lambert victory. They were right, and everyone knows it. In the end homophobia won, and everyone knows it.
Yes, homophobia is alive and well, which is why Lambert lost the ultimate title. Go ahead — give me another reason. Yes, Lambert is over the top and screams a lot and is campier than Liberace at Radio City. Sure, Kris Allen is a cutie, and has pleasant enough vocals, and he’s nice. But a better singer, or performer, than Lambert? Please.
By anyone’s estimation, Lambert was the best vocalist of the entire Idol season and one of the best, if not the best, in the history of the program. He towered over every contestant, exposing them as the amateurs they are. Every Lambert performance was an event. If this competition were only about singing, he crushed everyone else the second he walked onstage.
Kris Allen is a very affable and attractive young man. He is a decent vocalist with a very limited range and marginal talents. He should have made it to 3rd place at best. Time will tell if he reaches the level of John Mayer or Jack Johnson.
The final round, if vocals were the actual standard, should have been Lambert and Allison Iraheta, the precocious 17 year old with the whisky crusted Janis Joplin voice. But vocals, as evidenced by this and other Idol seasons, are not the final standard. In the end, a ‘likeability’ factor intrudes, turning ‘Idol’ into the Miss America Pageant or, more realistically, the high school Homecoming coronation.
Melinda Doolittle lost to Jordin Sparks. Chris Daughtry lost to Taylor Hicks. Jennifer Hudson lost to … anyone. It’s a real shame that Idolis decided by the public and not just music professionals, because let’s face it, the voting public is not that bright. The public voted George W. Bush twice as president. The public thinks Halliburton is Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s daughter. The public votes on who they want to ‘hang out’ with.
In that event, Allen won by a landslide. Lambert hangs out with kinky L.A. theatre folk who dress weird, stay out all night, and possibly do drugs and get into compromising positions. Allen hangs out at a local Arkansas bar, has a beer or two, strums a song, and then goes home to wedded Christian bliss. (Of course, I’d rather hang with Lambert’s crowd. How much fun do you think they are? Are you kidding?)
If the contestants had zero backstory, Lambert would have decimated the competition. Instead, Allen’s Christianity, church roots and corn-fed wife were exploited, as were Lambert’s musical theatre roots (i.e. his ‘theatre fag’ history). He didn’t say a word about his sexuality, but didn’t need to. For that we had the Internet, zapping anyone’s private photo library to the world, so photos of Lambert swapping saliva with a guy went viral, as well as a lot of his very strange yet riveting LA cabaret performances, turning off the homophobic majority.
The overwhelming condescension notwithstanding (“…the voting public is not that bright”) Mr. David does have at least one valid point: Idol, like all competitions which ostensibly measure talent, is a popularity contest. Just like the Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, and every other ultimately pointless competition over which people make a ginormous deal. And what of it? Only drones care what other people think of their particular tastes. Listen to, watch, and read what you please.
However, the notion that Kris Allen’s victory confirms that America hates gay people goes beyond stupidity and into the realm of insult. Most popular music is about as edgy as Wonder Bread. Has it occurred to Mr. David and everyone else crying foul that maybe folks just liked Mr. Allen better for a whole slew of reasons that we will never know about?
Equally inane is the rallying of support for Mr. Allen for no other reason than his religious beliefs. Consider this Tweet from one pastor:
Everyone who voted for danny gokey should vote for Kris Allen! We need a believer to represent! Kris is an awesome young man from a great ministry!
We need a believer to win American Idol? Really? Why is that exactly? In the wake of Mr. Allen’s victory, has there been a mass conversion to Christianity across the nation? Would a victory for Mr. Lambert have caused the collapse of the church?
Finally, do I really need to point out the irony of believers competing for or getting so emotionally invested in a contest with the word “idol” in the title?