Seriously, Why Even Bother With The “American Idol” Finale At This Point?

noah | May 7, 2008 11:00 am

I suppose that lots of reality-show viewers get so invested in the contestants they like, and the outcomes that they want to see that become less possible with each passing week, that they actually lose interest as the climactic episodes come closer. But this season of American Idol has to take the cake on actually driving viewers away from it, thanks to the tireless efforts of the judges, who are so in the tank for David “Licky-Loo” Archuleta that their post-Archie critiques have become a must-fast-forward part of the show for anyone who wants to remain sane. Forgetting lyrics and mashing your gums together in order to let said moments slide by? No problem! Having your voice crap out on the climactic part of a song? That’s OK, dawg, you still brought it! Singing “Stand By Me” in such a way that the song’s message is completely switched up, so that it becomes more about how any problem will be improved by merely basking in your glory? Hey, misunderstanding lyrical intent is part of the Archuleta package–and it has been since the kid was 12 and mugging his way to a Star Search win!

Q: It seems like you’re always emotionally connected to the lyrics you’re singing.

Archuleta: When I was younger, I didn’t know what made me sing the song differently or how I sang it. I still don’t really understand fully, but the lyrics do mean a lot to me now, a lot more than before. I didn’t even pay attention to the lyrics when I was 12, 13. Probably around the second year I did “Star Search” is when I paid more attention to the lyrics. I thought the music itself had such a power to it, and now that I’ve understood how powerful lyrics are as well, I think that has allowed me to progress.

That’s from a Billboard chat with David that made me continue to feel bad for the kid, even while I think his level of talent is really overstated–almost as much as his commercial ability is. I mean, his “vocal paralysis” backstory is sad in a pulling-at-the-heartstrings way, but the rest of the interview is sad in a “this is what passes for an interesting pop star” way–a kid who’s been tirelessly dragged along the assembly line of televised vocal competitions to be “famous” yet completely ignorant of the pop music marketplace, beaten down to the point where he’s just putting together syllables to please the adults that are surrounding him, all of whom see a big dollar-sign mirage when they look at him and all of whom are probably going to dump on him really hard when his Idol coronation album inevitably flops.

Mind you, the other three remaining singers aren’t without their flaws. While I continue to really root for Jason Castro’s everydorm persona and ability to make the judges (who are apparently seeing Leona Lewis’ success as evidence that the old model still works) go into full-on tantrum mode, he definitely needs a little more polish. (At least he sang through his little lyrical misstep last night, unlike Brooke “D.O.” White–who probably would have wilted if she had to take the mean-spirited critiques everyone gave Jason, which came on the heels of Paula’s losing the script last week.) Syesha Mercado has a reed-thin voice and a really grating persona that was best epitomized by her comparing her Idol trajectory to the civil rights movement. (Whoever said that she’s probably going to compare herself to one of the presidential candidates if she keeps on going in the competition is right on.) David Cook is about five beats per minute away from Aaron Lewis territory, but I’d take him over the creepy Wayne Newton Mach II that is Archie any day.

I’m going to keep watching, if only because I have to see this thing through. But the desired outcome of this year’s edition is so bad, so off the mark, that I can’t help but wonder how the producers are going to fix the show next year, or at least get the 18-to-34 demographic back into watching it again.

Also, seriously, can Randy Jackson be fired, or at least given a thesaurus? At least Paula is entertainingly incoherent.

Q&A: David Archuleta of ‘American Idol’ [Billboard]