After Tuesday night’s lackluster and rushed “American Idol” performance show, the results night finale was a welcome blast of energy and powerhouse performances. Superstar singers like Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Marc Anthony treated the audience to the kind of amazing vocals that vibrate right inside your chest along with your heart. The range of musical guests was crazy and exciting, and the Top 13 joined together for some of the best vocals and choreography of the season. It was just a damn good time, as a finale episode should be. And oh yeah, Scotty McCreery won.
Pimping the Show
Ryan started off the night with the big news that 122 million votes had been cast, a “worldwide record.” Consider that the Top 3 night earned 95 million votes, and the finale performance night had a four hour window rather than a two hour one. It seems that Haley’s votes, for the most part, went to no one (and while not huge, there was a significant ratings dip for “American Idol” performance night.) Either that, or we’ve finally discovered the voting window that causes even teenager’s fingers to go numb from repeat texting, clicking and dialing.
Dressed all in white, the Top 13 performed together on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” It started a little shaky, but eventually things smoothed out. The group looked to be having a good time, Stefano Langone especially turning up the “How you doin’?” vibe with some feisty dance moves and swagger. On the girls’ side, Naima Adedapo enthusiastically led the dancing groove, with Ashthon Jones close behind.
James Durbin and Judas Priest
The show started off with a bang, with James joining Rob Halford for some killer vocals on Judas Priest tunes. James was perfectly clad in the Halford-style leather studded vest with black captain’s hat, and was having a good time living it up on stage. Halford seemed to enjoy James’ enthusiasm, and the two stalked around each other on stage and traded some stellar screams. Halford has more grit to his voice than the not-as-seasoned James, but the two blended nicely. There were strobing lights, police sirens and pyrotechnics, and we were all in James’ metal heaven.
James and Halford man-hugged it out at the end of the performance, to wild cheers and a standing ovation from the judges. James and Judas were inittowinit, yo!
Speaking of “in it to win it,” the “American Idol” crew put together video montages for all three judges, capturing their journey from auditions to the finale. We got a fond look back at the more lighthearted and freewheeling opening rounds of the show, back when the judges were still likable. The montage captured Randy’s continual questioning of “What kind of show is this?” and “What is going on here?” and his eventual “In it to win it,” uttered 95 million times since the Hollywood round.
Jacob Lusk, Kirk Franklin and Gladys Knight
Jacob was introduced along with “gospel star” Kirk Franklin, with Knight joining them mid-song on “I Smile.” The small but energetic Franklin was an enthusiastic showrunner, playing the piano, giving shout-outs to urge Jacob on, directing the giant gospel choir, and giving props to Ms. Knight. Jacob seemed happy to be in his niche, with people who appreciated his style, and he blended his vocals nicely with the always amazing Knight. It was a vibrant, uplifting performance.
Casey Abrams and Jack Black
Dressed in matching gray, sharkskin suits, Casey and Jack went crazy all over Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” Probably one of my least favorite Queen songs ever, but it was fun watching the guys have fun acting like loons. Although I think Jack showed Casey that it’s possible to be kooky and still hit all the notes. The two scatted and be-bopped their way into a growling contest, ending up in a head butt, staring eye to eye. I could have done without the girls in booty shorts on bicycles, but overall it was an entertaining and funny highlight of the show.
All the Single Ladies
This was one of the best performances of the night. Wearing various fab styles of dresses in red and black, the Top 13 ladies (minus Lauren) did a medley of Beyonce tunes. And yes, they did the cool hand flipping move from “Single Ladies.” One of my first thoughts during the feisty number was that the Karen Rodriguez I liked from auditions was back, her voice well suited to the pop dance tunes, her awesome curly hair back in full force. She and Thia Megia also had a nice duet, once again showing Thia has the pipes to be a solo artist.
Though there was a brief pile-up at the stairs where the girls tried to figure out where to stand–and how to sit in micro-mini-dresses, Haley Reinhart nailed her verse on “If I Were a Boy.” Then she and Ashthon blended their voices beautifully in harmony. Surprisingly, Pia Toscano didn’t seem to have as much of the spotlight as the other girls, but her notes were true and clear as always when she did get a brief solo.
The Nokia Theatre went absolutely crazy when Beyonce made her grand entrance, and there was a fabulous moment as she joined the line of “American Idol” girls and they did a bit of synchronized booty-shaking. I wasn’t as thrilled when Beyonce’s dancers gradually moved in front of the Top 13 girls, and edged them out until they were a mere cluster of back-up singers at the back corner of the stage. The top girls were still thrilled to be breathing the same air as the pop diva, however, and all smooshed in for a hug a group hug at the end of the performance.
Hellfire, Ducks and Matches
Steven Tyler’s video tribute was just as you’d expect, with Steven getting bleeped out every five seconds. He confused contestants with his odd poems of critique, he sang along, and he hit on anyone in a skirt–including Jennifer. The highlight was Steven leaning back in a broken chair and nearly flipping over backwards behind the judges’ table. As Randy had done, Steven was laughing uproariously as the clip came to an end, as was everyone else.
Yes, Tony Bennett is going to be 85 in August, but he still managed an entertaining duet with Haley on “Steppin’ Out with My Baby.” Haley had the perfect, sweet and high counterpoint to Bennett’s husky staccato delivery. At one point Bennett seemed to have slipped up on the verse, but the two kept right on going, and even did a little dance together–complete with spins. It was a sweet performance, showing off Haley’s versatility as a singer. Sadly, it was way too short.
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Jennifer Lopez’ video montage was mostly about how every contestant was in love with her, girls all starry-eyed and guys flirting up a storm. We once again got to see the hilarious exchange with Top 24 contestant Tim Halperin, who asked J-Lo how old she was. “I’m young enough for you,” Jennifer shot back, causing an excited thumbs up from Tim. There was also some Randy smackdown, as Jennifer chastised him for repeatedly trying to horn in on the compliments she was getting from everyone.
TLC, Lil Jon and the Top 13 Girls
I’ve seen some criticism online about the TLC performance, but I have no idea why. My only criticism is the need to have a rapper in every performance now–the girls rap themselves, why do they need a guy leading them in? In any case, T-Boz and Chilli looked eerily the same and sounded great on “No Scrubs” and “Waterfalls.” Near the end of the performance, Karen, Naima, Thia and Ashthon joined the two girls and did that cool shrugging dance move from their “Waterfalls” video. Ashthon has some great behind the scenes photos of TLC and other moments from the show on her Twitpic feed.
Tim McGraw and Scotty McCreery
I think it says something when it’s halfway into the show before you see one of your Top 2 contestants performing. Tim McGraw looked and sounded amazing–I still prefer people to wear something fancier than a tee-shirt on a night like this, but Tim does make a tee-shirt look good. While Scotty blended nicely with Tim, you can see how far the teenage “American Idol” contestant needs to go. Tim let his vocals do most of the work, the sweet tones of his voice conveying a lot of the meaning and emotion, while Scotty fell back on some of his on-the-nose gestures to accompany the lyrics. The power of teen girl crushes was in full force, however, as they seemed to cheer every one of Scotty’s bizarre hand movements, especially the down-on-one-knee-point-to-the-sky maneuver.
The Bad Auditions
“American Idol” did lighten up on the bad auditions this year, though there were still enough to make a montage out of. The producers let aspiring DJ Joe Repka narrate the segment, wearing a suit on top, shorts and Birkenstocks on the bottom. You have to give the guy credit for being a good sport. Unfortunately, the segment ended with all of the disappointed contestants and their parents swearing and pushing the camera away, and sometimes parents swearing at their own children. The desperation and anguish was supposed to be funny, but it was actually pretty sad, dampening any humor the montage of crazy had begun with.
Marc Anthony and Sheila E
I was already feeling the love for this number when Marc Anthony’s voice soared high up into the rafters of the Nokia Theatre, a warm and sensual tone that you can feel as much as hear. Then I caught sight of the gorgeous and sassy lady dancing behind her drum set and I shrieked “IS THAT SHEILA E?” And it was. One million bonus points for Marc including the fabulous timbales goddess Sheila E in his number. For those that don’t know Sheila E, check out her website, and take a time warp back to one of her first appearances, with Prince-penned tune “Glamorous Life.”
Back to Marc, his “Aguanile” number was sensational, and then of course Jennifer had to come out and dance all around him in a white fringed leotard. I’m fine with a little sensual samba, but the camera zooming in on her gyrating behind for two minutes was a little much for a family show. The happy couple ended with a kiss, and Ryan Seacrest’s jubilant “Now we know what they do at home!”
But seriously, SHEILA E.
You Suck Again!
“American Idol” gave us the comedy stylings of Casey and James again, with a video segment about who had the most “shocking” exit. Casey ranted about the cruelty of being voted off twice: “‘You suck!’ Then, ‘You suck again!'” James criticized Casey for his emotional collapse in the Top 11. “You just dropped an $8000 mic. Be more courteous!” Then Pia showed up in a little princess crown and sash labeled “Most Shocking,” shutting the guys up instantly. “That’s what I thought,” she snapped, chin tipped up. You tell ’em, Pia. Hilarious moment.
What James’ Bachelor Party Will Look Like
Next we got Stefano rocking out his falsetto on “Kiss,” leading the Top 13 guys off on their medley of Tom Jones songs. Paul sounded like he got his voice back, and added some raspy goodness to “She’s a Lady.” James then launched into “What’s new, Pussycat?” and hilariously punctuated “You and your cute pussycat nose” by tweaking Casey’s nose. Then, following the script of the entire year, the guys went and joined a seated Scotty, who sang the most country of Tom Jones’ tunes, “Green, Green Grass of Home.”
Jacob tackled “Love Me Tonight,” and then Casey picked up with “Delilah.” As Casey sloshed his way through the lyrics, the guys bundled up and swayed with their arms around each other, and all I could think was “drunken bachelor party.” Great set-up for the man himself, Tom Jones, on “It’s Not Unusual.” Though the nearly 71-year-old Jones has lost some of his power, he still has the same delicious, instantly recognizable flavor to his voice. While everyone loved the performance, the camera caught Jack Black seriously grooving to Jones’ tune.
Insert Product Placement Here
All night Ryan had been shouting out “Buy their new album! See their new movie! Catch them on tour!” It was finally time for the most forward product placement, another Ford Video, that had Scotty and Lauren auto-tuning a look back at all of the lackluster Ford videos they’ve made this season. Then they brought out teachers that had influenced them at school, and gave each of the delighted ladies keys to a new Ford Focus. They also announced money that Ford would donate to the schools (but only if people test drove their cars). Perhaps learning from the more muted reaction to the gifts last year, this time Ford granted the Top 2 contestants “any Ford vehicle they want.” Why am I picturing Lauren in a giant 4 x 4 truck with shiny rims? That is, once she gets her license.
The Audience Is Beneath Me
Lady Gaga upped the theatrics with her performance of “Edge of Glory,” spending the entire song atop a mountain outcropping high above the audience. Gaga began the performance in a glittery, fringed Cleopatra style headdress and robe, then shed both to reveal a Princess Leia gold bikini and a rocker head scarf. Like her performance on “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend, her vocals were raw and powerful, and the set design was pretty incredible.
Sadly the number then lapsed into what sounded like an 80s TV soundtrack, and Gaga was joined on her precipice by a shirtless male dancer. After all the girls in booty shorts, I was happy to see a bit of equality in the scantily-clad department, but less happy when the dancer started climbing on top of Gaga. Do what you want in your concerts, but why is it so tough to keep things PG-rated for “American Idol”? Does it really hurt your integrity to not have your bare behind in the air for one number?
After the somewhat awkward movements on the ground, Gaga decided to take that final leap with her lover, and they dove off the outcropping and disappeared into the darkness. Now that was cool.
Lauren Alaina and Carrie Underwood
Lauren must have been resting her voice after the strain from last night, as she was noticeably absent between the opening number and this duet on “Before He Cheats.” After the ton of Lauren fan comments online about the “wholesome” and “sweet” Lauren, it was amusing to see her belting out lyrics like “dancing with a bleached-blond tramp and she’s probably gettin’ frisky!” Carrie Underwood strutted out in white shorts with scarily skinny legs, tanned and loaded up with sparkle. Carrie obviously had stronger vocals compared to Lauren’s weakened voice, but Carrie dialed it back and the two blended nicely on their harmonies. Lauren was obviously thrilled to be dueting with one of her heroes.
Thoughts on the Top 2
Everyone was waiting for a flood of treacly comments when we told that the other contestants would be sharing their thoughts about the “American Idol” Top 2. Instead we got Stefano, Casey, Naima, James and Paul talking about how freakin’ young the two teens are. “They’re just learning cursive!” Casey protested. “Wasn’t ‘American Juniors’ canceled a while ago?” Stefano asked. Naima clutched her back and let out a warbly, “When I was your age, I had to walk a mile to school…” The crowd loved it, and the contestants got to say a lot of what we’ve all been thinking.
The producers may have been sucking up to Beyonce to get her to release her songs to them for future “American Idol” episodes, because otherwise it’s not clear why she had second number. Beyonce performed yet another new single, “One Plus One.” With Beyonce bathed in smoky red light, the waving hands below her in the mosh pit looked like grasping claws from pits of hell, but maybe that’s just me. The melody see-sawed up and down, and Beyonce belted out some of the best, most emotional vocals I’ve heard from her in awhile.
Once again, however, “American Idol” took us to an awkward place. Beyonce pounding the stage and wailing “Make love to me!” over and over while a bunch of young girls stretch their arms out to touch her? Kind of bizarre, but it earned her an immediate standing ovation from Randy, followed by Jennifer and Randy. While I appreciate Beyonce’s vocal abilities, I’ll just mimic my teenage niece and say, “That song is not on my iPod.”
“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”
After all the jokes about the injuries and catastrophes that have plagued this Broadway production, tonight’s performance came down to the music. While we did get some crazy, rafter-to-floor Spidey acrobatics, the focus was on Bono, The Edge, and “Spider-Man” star Reeve Carney. To be honest, Bono sounded a little weak at the start of “Rise Above,” but he gradually found his sweet spot. The revelation, however, was Carney. He blended beautifully with Bono, but had a gorgeous tone of his own that reminded me of Tom Chaplin of Keane. Also, he’s totally hot. Seriously. And not to sound like Big Mike from last year, but you should definitely check Carney out on iTunes, where you can buy “Rise Above” from the musical soundtrack.
Can We Get Another Standing Ovation?
Full disclosure. “Dream On” is possibly my favorite song of all time. It’s definitely high, high up at the top of all my beloved music. I started excitedly bouncing in my seat, J-Lo style, when I heard that opening piano. Steven Tyler was dressed in flowing white, seated at the white piano, before strutting up to the mic stand for the rocker portion of the song. While he’s probably blown out a vocal chord permanently with his rocker (life)style and no longer sustains the notes in the opening verses, he still sounded awesome, and he nailed the plaintive, wailing, chills-up-and-down-your-spine scream at the end. I hope James, who has lovely scream potential of his own, was taking copious notes. Steven still rocks, that’s all I’m saying.
The Final Results
Oh yeah, this is a results show! Scotty, dressed in a nice dark suit, and Lauren, in a fluffy 50’s style yellow dress, joined Ryan for the final count. I don’t remember if they’ve done this in years past, but some dispute about the manipulation of votes may have been quelled tonight as an accounting firm handed Ryan the “super-sekrit” results. The two goofed off like teenagers in the nervous wait time, and then Ryan announced that Scotty McCreery was the next “American Idol.”
Scotty had to then perform his “I Love You This Big” number, but he didn’t get through much of it. He laughed at the “I don’t have much experience” line, then made his way down to his family, where he hugged every person in the front row–except a disappointed Jack Black. Scotty then sauntered back up to the stage and hugged every one of the Top 13, got a deluge of kisses from Lauren, and hugged all three judges.
There was also some buzz about a Scotty/Lauren romance, after the cameras abruptly pulled away from their post-announcement lip-lock. Scotty still insists that they’re just brother/sister type friends.
The Haley Reinhart Conspiracy Theory
You can just skip this part if you’re a non-believer, but once you start seeing the signs, you see them everywhere. While Haley’s duet with Tony Bennett tonight was amazing, it was also one of the shortest numbers of the night. It was also interesting to me that the camera showed Scotty hugging every single member of his family, and every contestant, but abruptly pulled away when he hugged Haley. (He did hug her, which you could just see in a long shot, but it appeared he might have missed Jacob on the end.)
In Randy’s segment, they showed Randy saying “In it to win it” after nearly all of the contestants, always followed by a huge round of applause. When he said it to Haley, the clip immediately cut to the next contestant, cutting off her applause. I realize this is crazy minutia and may have just been a coincidence. But like I said, when you start to see it, you see it everywhere. Good luck, Haley, on your post-“American Idol” journey!
The Final Verdict
It was an amazing, entertaining, and wild ride of a finale. The first half was better than the second, as it featured more of the contestants. It is, after all, supposed to be their show. While it’s fun to see big names performing, it shifted a little too much towards the superstars rather than the aspiring stars. They also need to have a talk with future performers about keeping the booty-shaking and simulated sex to a minimum. You have a lot of kids in the audience who aren’t ready for that kind of display yet, and it’s better if young girls can see that women don’t have to take their clothes off to be entertaining.
It’s possible Lauren Alaina will have a fabulous pop/country career, once she matures and learns to support her notes properly. The “American Idol” machine shot themselves in the foot with their incessant pimping of her, however. Desperate to maintain their story arc of “The One” from audition rounds, they kept pushing her to the final, even when she failed to deliver a “moment” time and again. If they’d accepted the inevitable, and given her some valid criticism instead of tanking Haley every week, they would have had a much more dynamic finale performance night. Either Haley or James could have joined Scotty in the Top 2, and the audience would have been a lot bigger for their showdown, encompassing more music lovers from different genres.
In the end, as much as they tried to throw things her way on performance night, my initial prediction turned out to be true. Lauren in no way had enough votes to ever get a chance at toppling Scotty. We’re also stuck now with the fourth male winner of “American Idol” in a row. Hopefully the powers that be will have some serious meetings about changing the voting rules, or changing “AI” into a one girl/one boy dual winners competition.
Check out: ‘American Idol’: Country Radio Won’t Play Scotty McCreery?
‘American Idol’ Final Performances: Worst Top 2 Night Ever?