The Only Sure Thing About Last Night’s “American Idol” Finale: Kara DioGuardi Lost
Last night’s American Idol finale held so much promise, and for two-thirds of the show it delivered, I thought–Adam bringing the drama with his dry-ice-aided, yet restrained performance of “Mad World,” Kris reeling off “Ain’t No Sunshine,” the two finalists being given songs about Big Ideas And Social Change from Idol svengali Simon Fuller, and performing them ably, albeit with Adam’s fiery, subtextually dripping “A Change Is Gonna Come” having much more potential for a post-Idol shelf life than Kris’ open-mic-night-ready “What’s Going On.” And then Kara DioGuardi, as she has done during pretty much the entire course of her first season behind the judges’ table, had to horn in and put the focus back on her, or rather on one of her worst efforts as a professional songwriter to date. (And yes, I’m including “La La.”) Further thoughts, and a chance for you to engage in the all-important ritual of postmortem polling, after the jump. I enjoyed all four of the contestants’ pre-coronation-coronary performances quite a bit, if only because they showcased just how these two guys–one the front-runner from the beginning, the other the definition of “dark horse” who, like David Cook last year, chose the perfect time to peak–are quite divergent as artists, yet still respectful of each other’s take on popular music. The two takes on soul classics, in particular, showcased this; while Kris’ spin on Marvin Gaye was a bit too mellow for my taste, it provided a pretty nice chaser from Adam’s putting-it-all-out-there “A Change Is Gonna Come.” (Which I suspect Simon Fuller picked for Adam after seeing him in his first audition, and which further solidifies my belief that the Idol producers were trying to make A Political Statement with the final, only switching gears and supporting Kris at the last minute, when Danny Gokey’s negative numbers proved to be too similar to those of, say, Sarah Palin. If only you guys were GOP strategists!) And then there was the coronation song. Oh, Kara. Somehow you–and Cathy Dennis shouldn’t be absolved here either, given the high, high highs her career has hit in previous years–managed to craft a song that had notes that were too high for Adam and words that were too shot through with cliche for Kris to bother remembering. Was your assignment actually to craft an obstacle course for the two contestants, hence the awkward key and awful lyrics? Or did you just write this when Danny Gokey had a prayer, figuring that he’d force-feed your church-ready cliches (“Every step you climb another mountain / Every breath its harder to believe,” “Break every rule coz there’s nothing between you and your dreams” … ugh, cutting and pasting these is giving me a headache, so go here if you need a heavy dose of saccharine) with enough volume-driven “meaning” to make the song actually sound OK? So my final feeling on last night is that it was a draw, although I want to give the edge to Adam for Statement Reasons (i.e. to wash the icky knee-jerk Onward Christian Soldiersness of Pastor Rolex and his noxious ilk out of the competition entirely), not to mention that his “A Change Is Gonna Come” was probably the best single performance of the evening. (I’d bring up the fact that Kris muffed the words on Kara’s song, too, but c’mon, you’d want to forget that crap as soon as you learned it as well.) All the prediction sites would seem to be similarly unwilling to take a side as far as predicting a winner; DialIdol has a different person ahead based on which stats you look at, the comment sections of all the boards are a draw, and so on. So I ask you, readers of Idolator: Who do you think won? And you know that I’m live-blogging the action tonight, too, right?