The most karaoke season of American Idol ended last night with, in my opinion, the least karaoke-like singer winning the prize.
David Cook, a sometimes sullen 25-year-old rocker from Blue Springs, Mo., was named the winner of “American Idol” on Wednesday, receiving 56 percent of the 97.5 million votes cast after Tuesday’s performances, easily defeating David Archuleta, a 17-year-old balladeer from Murray, Utah.
It was in many ways a surprise victory. During Tuesday’s competition, all three of the program’s judges seemed to endorse Mr. Archuleta as the winner. To many in the 7,000-seat Nokia Theater here, Mr. Archuleta’s final performances were more electric. Simon Cowell, the sometimes petulant judge who rarely is at a loss for words, seemed to speak for the other judges at the end of Tuesday’s show when he said Mr. Archuleta “came out here to win” and did so by “a knockout.”
Oops. Yes, it was a knockout (by 12,000 votes allegedly) by the “underdog” and not by the media favorite. Frankly, I thought it was going the other way as well. Here you have a cute boy-band-in-the-making kid who pulls in that 10-15 year-old demographic with all those mothers poised to buy his music just sitting there waiting for the producers to leverage the New Backstreet ‘N Sync Machine for all they are worth and it all goes away. Well, they will still proceed with plans for the runnier-up, it’s just not going to be as big.
The music and television industry are facing increased competition from Internet sources and have to work on different ways to gather and maintain audiences. American Idol has been a consistent performer, but the winds may be changing:
With network television and the music industry both up against a fractured audience and new forms of media, Cook and runner-up Archuleta became standard-bearers for today’s broad-based popular culture.
“Idol” remains the only show able to consistently deliver vast numbers of viewers, eclipsing even the Oscars.
However, after a season in which the series came under fire for various offstage controversies and suffered a midseason sag in ratings, television’s titan stands at a crossroads. It remains to be seen whether this year’s dip in popularity is a one-year phenomenon or the first step on the inevitable downward spiral all successful TV shows eventually face.
I have been a casual watcher of American Idol over the years and firmly believe this year was highlighted by the most brutal untalented singers in the history of the show. Having said that, I always considered David Cook to be the most talented of the bunch. Last night you could see how a performer like Seal completely out-classed the Idols. I guess this is what you get when you try to artificially create a star to fit the mold.
Look for changes next season in the Idol format to reach a younger crowd. I suspect having Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and even Maria Carie will not be back in the future. Let’s face it, those artists don’t resonate with the target demographic.
Oh well, with David Cook, a good kid has won the prize:
Asked what went through his head when he heard his name called: “That my music teacher, Mrs. (Fredalyn) Gentry, made me sing in the Christmas pageant in second grade. Now I’m here. The ride has been pretty nuts.”
Cook’s journey was made more emotionally difficult by the illness of his older brother, Adam, who has terminal cancer. Cook kept his personal story out of the “Idol” process as much as he could. But several times, including Wednesday night, his emotions overcame him.
Good for him and I wish him the best.