That other thing about American Idol that frustrates me

Am I really going to write about the American Idol finale as opposed to LOST?

Um… yeah (don’t hit me).

I’m not going to debate or discuss who should have won or who needed the title more or anything like that.  Instead, I want to talk for a moment about the process. Specifically the “winner’s song” that they make both finalists sing.

Ever since Jordan Sparks sang a tearful rendition of “This is My Now” and overpowered a season of extraordinary creativity by Blake Lewis, I’ve been bothered by the way they make the finalists sing a winners song as part of the competition.

I understand, it creates an instant marketability for that song, and that in some ways it is a song of a style consistent with the American Idol pop-star they are looking for; however, why can’t they have both finalists sing that song the next day on the results show? Or, why can’t they create a set of songs, tailored to different style singers and let the two finalists pick from a small set of songs that AI would like to market if they win.

Singers like Blake Lewis, David Cook, and Adam Lambert have excelled in the competitions in recent years because of the creativity they showed in their covers of well known songs. Giving them a song fans are unfamiliar with takes away from that; and while they can still adapt what they are given with unique arrangements or singing styles, they are still tied to the bubble-gum feel-good lyrics and overall tone of the song. If they were to completely abandon the message of the song, and no one knows the original, it ends up just sounding weird instead of original.

I find it interesting overall that as the show comes to a climax, the contestants are given less and less opportunity to showcase their own style.  Judge’s choice songs, Simon Fuller’s choice, best performance from earlier in the season, winner’s song… if you think about it… Lambert and Allen had great restrictions placed on them for 4 of their final 6 songs of the competition – 3 of them completely out of their control.

You might say that’s just the way the record business will work, but I don’t believe that. Paula Abdul is not going to pick 3/5 of your first album if you win American Idol. A winner is going to work with his/her producer to create an album that builds upon the singer’s strengths, not what Randy would really like to hear them try or their strongest performance out of Rod Stewart’s music catalog or Disco/Motown/Movie weeks.

As I said off the top, I don’t mind who won.  I don’t really care, to be honest… most often I come to like bands a good year or so after they’ve been “out there.”  They may have been producing music on an idie label or played on college stations or the 61, et cetera, but it just feels wrong.

And, while I agree with much of what Simon Cowell said, I thought it was really tough to have him rip the lyrics of the winner’s song last night after Adam sang it and then have Kris go out and have to sing that same song.  I would’ve found it almost impossible not to be self-conscious when singing about mountains and butterflies or whatever… I would’ve cracked a smile or burst out laughing.


Contributed by: Scott Copperman


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