Diary of an American Idol Junkie

by Kim Grams

The week before the finale:

When I go to church, I’m there for the Word and Sacraments.  I don’t expect to be entertained by a rock band at the altar or something resembling the American Idol finale.  HOWEVER, when I want to be entertained by watching something like American Idol, it’d better knock my socks off.  

We’ve had Kelly vs. Justin, Reuben vs. Clay, Fantasia vs. Diana, Carrie vs. Bo, Taylor vs. Katharine, and now Blake vs. Jordin. I’m getting a little jaded.  It’s hard to be moved or excited year after year.

For the finale, I want some spectacular vocalistic (my word) feats.  I want power notes that give me goose bumps or a rockin’, upbeat song that makes me want to dance.  I don’t want boring ballads or your grandma’s favorite song.  NO Bee Gee’s.  Please.  (If Lutherans believed in purgatory, what level would that be?  Making solo artists sing songs in falsetto that only work with the group of people who originally sang it?  What were the producers thinking?) 

What’s good about Blake:

He’s hip, fresh – there’s never been a contestant like him. The beat- boxing is fun, plus he can actually sing.  Sanjaya getting voted out was a blessing for Blake.   All those screaming, crying girls don’t just stop voting.  They need someone else to “crush” on.  Add the Sanjaya votes to the Blake votes and that’s a lot of votes.  

What’s good about Jordin: 

She’s young with lots of personality, but sings like a seasoned pro.  If she wins she will be (I think) the youngest American Idol winner.  For sheer power vocals, she’s got it in the bag.  It helps her to be up against Blake, because her style is similar to that of Melinda and Lakisha.  People who like power singers or don’t “get” the beat-boxing thing will vote for her.  And when they showed the clips of her visit home, she had quite a few screaming, crying fans of her own.   

For the first time, I’m undecided on who gets my vote.  Melinda was my pick to win, but I did think she might “skew older” with the votes.  I like both Jordin and Blake for different reasons.  It will come down to song choice and who has the best vocals THAT NIGHT (I almost never vote by single performance, but by body of work).  And, after 5 previous finales, I want the “Wow”. 

The day after the Finale, 2 hours before the results:

Here’s what it comes down to:  Blake will be great in a studio, but he’s not a power singer.  He’s also like Taylor – as much fun to WATCH as to hear.  On his first song (Bon Jovi’s “Shot Through the Heart”), the Kodak Theatre ATE HIM ALIVE.  He did that number WAY better the first time.  Being a repeat, I already knew what to expect, and how cool it was earlier in the season.  Round two’s Maroon 5 song, “And She Will Be Loved,” was better because the BAND wasn’t so loud.  Blake has clear, smooth vocals.  Kinda like Keane.  I liked Keane.  Good performance, but not amazing. 

Jordin’s voice fit the venue better.  I liked the Christina Aguilera song, which I was unfamiliar with, so I’m not comparing it to the original.  I’m glad she sang at least one non-ballad.  We already heard the Martina Mc Bride song earlier in the season – she did it great both times.  All in all, solid singing – and I do judge vocal quality.  But I’m not blown away, having seen this all before.  Round 1 goes to Jordan; Round 2 I’d call a tie.  Neither one has made me jump out of my seat. 

Round 3.  Blake sings.  Halfway through his performance, I know two things: first, this song is NOT in his comfort zone of song style; second, it IS in Jordin’s and if she knocks it out of the park, she will win the competition on this one “song-writing competition” selection.  (I pause the DVR during commercial, since we’ve caught up to live time, to explain this “how Jordin will win on this song” theory to my kids).  As Jordin prepares to sing, I’m yelling, “C’mon Jordin – bring it!” at the TV. 

Halfway through her performance, I know two things: one, I have goose bumps, I’m crying, and something in this finale has finally had the “Wow” factor; and two, if Jordin does not win after this we need to get more music education back in the schools, because she clearly stomped Blake on this song. 

And now the big question: Are there more screaming, crying girls voting, who may not be as savvy on vocal quality (or have WAY more time than me to vote) . . . OR are there more voters who recognize vocal excellence and will vote on the merit of the singing.  My pick has won in every single finale, with the exception of Reuben and Clay (and I STILL think there was a problem with the voting – come ON; look at the album sales!!!)   

5 minutes after the Finale results:

Jordin won and all’s right in the music world.  And I only had to sit through 2 hours of filler!  Loved the performances with current American Idol contestants and previous winners, along with some famous people.  They should cut the other solo artists (Bette Midler with a song that was old when I was in high school 20 years ago?) and the golden Idols (which my kids loved, but I thought were just painful).  They need fast-paced finale that’s exciting and zips right to the results. They don’t need Tony Bennett, Gwen Stefani or Green Day.  Idol Winners ARE big stars now. They are the ones I want to see on the show – for one hour, not two.  And this season I won’t have post-Idol withdrawal – tomorrow, So You Think You Can Dance premieres and I’m ready to get on the phone for my favorites. See Mom?  All those dance lessons and high school choir tours DID pay off! 

Kim Grams is a writer and pastor’s wife who lives in Scottsbluff, NE