A deeply frustrating season of American Idol is over now, having discovered exactly zero future stars, and last night we got the massive glitzathon finale, an annual event that reliably has little or nothing to do with the rest of the season. Scotty McCreery barely even looked surprised to win the thing, and he only wisely half-bothered to sing “I Love You This Big,” his dog-ass first single. Still, this turned out to be a shockingly fun results show, especially given how boring the last few weeks have been. Scotty could have a career, or he could not; it doesn’t even really matter. What matters is the show managed to pull its shit together for its final night of the season.
At the outset, we got a montage of the judges saying tortuously nice things about Scotty and Lauren Alaina, something they’ve been dutifully doing all season. When that was over, Ryan Seacrest told us that the season racked up damn near a billion votes, so someone at AT&T is swimming through a giant bank of texting fees, just like Scrooge McDuck. Seacrest wore a classic, well-tailored black tuxedo; Randy Jackson wore an ass-ugly clown tuxedo; Steven Tyler wore a bunch of chains around his neck and just looked real extra Geico Caveman. This was a big night!
Pretty soon, Scotty and Lauren, angelic in all white, descended from an onstage staircase while the camera found Maria Shriver, in the audience, clapping and grinning vacantly and generally acting like the massively humiliating public scandal that just ended her long sham of a marriage was no big deal at all. (At least, I think that was Maria Shriver. It might’ve been Uncle Jesse’s wife from Full House.) A pair of crowd shots of the kids’ respective hometown sports arenas revealed that Scotty is, like, a million times more popular; the upper deck at Lauren’s shitty little Chattanooga basketball gym wasn’t even full.
After that, we got a big don’t-forget-about-us group-sing with the entire top 13 pulverizing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” into a cacophonous mess. We hadn’t seen one of these massive group-sing things in a minute, so I’d forgotten how godawful these kids’ group harmonies were and how they could only handle the most basic of fist-pumping choreography. Also, they never got around to singing the “You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient!” part of the song, that track’s still-funny unquestionable highlight. Lebanese and Orient people all over America must’ve been very disappointed. Also, it’s only been a couple of weeks, but goddamn if I haven’t been missing Jacob Lusk’s dancing.
In the crowd: Michael from Lost! Can you believe they got Michael from Lost to show up?
Next segment: James Durbin, who sang a Judas Priest song way back in the season’s early going, got to sing “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” with Priest themselves, rocking Rob Halford’s biker hat and everything. Halford, meanwhile, wore a truly dazzling assemblage of vinyl and spikes; he would’ve been the fucking king of the Columbia, Maryland mall-punk scene back in 1996. “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” are just awesome songs, and it was a lot of fun to see Priest in all their ridiculous glory on a massively rated TV show. And as much as I’ve hated on James for most of the season, he did just fine, never looking out of place with all these guys who should’ve looked ready to bite his head off. I heartily enjoyed everything about it.
Next up: Montages of Randy Jackson asking dumb rhetorical questions and saying “In it to win it!” over and over again. At least, I think that’s what was happening; I couldn’t really hear over the grinding of my own teeth.
Then, another star/contestant pairing, as Jacob got to sing “I Smile” with gospel exhortation hypeman type Kirk Franklin and Gladys Knight. It was fun to see Jacob again, but it’s hard to pay much attention to anything when Kirk Franklin is bellowing all over everything. That guy is essentially the Lil Jon of gospel. From what I could tell, though, Jacob acquitted himself really nicely, and there’s no reason he couldn’t have a future on that particular circuit. That’s a good thing! Gospel music pays a whole lot of people’s bills!
Casey Abrams apparently drew the short straw in the dream-collaboration competition; he ended up singing Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” with Jack Black, of all people. And seeing Casey next to Black actually put his entire season in a new context–as in, of course this goofy motherfucker had already set a precedent for Casey’s specific brand of silliness. Black sort of killed it. I always forget that being able to sing isn’t just part of Black’s persona; he can actually do it. There was a scat-off and everything.
Every year during the finale, the Idol women and the Idol men all gang up to sing big hits from a couple of respective artists, and the people involved are usually semi-forgotten canon-fodder like Donna Summer or George Michael. Not this time. This time, all the female contestants got together to sing “Single Ladies,” “Irreplaceable,” “Get Me Bodied,” “If I Were a Boy,” “Deja Vu.” “Irreplaceable” featured some godawful-boring solo moments from the still-terrible Thia Megia. They all actually sounded pretty great together on “Get Me Bodied,” a track that works really well for big group-sings. Haley Reinhart got some really nice solo moments on “If I Were a Boy.” But, I mean, I haven’t had a chance to forget about any of these songs yet; it was nobody’s idea of a rediscovery. You didn’t have to be a genius to figure out what was about to happen. Beyoncé emerged to belt out “Crazy in Love” and generally outshine everyone else onstage. Beyoncé’s backup dancer also came out with her, which relieved the Idol kids from having to look dumb dancing next to her. Surprisingly, this did not segue into Beyoncé singing “Run the World (Girls)”; I guess everyone has already justifiably given up on that song.
Next montage: Steven Tyler cussing, kicking gibberish, drooling over underage girls, making animal noises. That’s what he contributed this season. Earning his money over here.
Tony Bennett, still alive and still perfectly willing to show up for any goddamn thing, sang “Steppin’ Out” with Haley and danced awkwardly with her. It was Grammy-night bullshit, and I got through it just by remembering how awesome it was when she sang Zeppelin with her dad last week.
Final montage: People creepily drooling over Jennifer Lopez. You know, through most of the season, J.Lo was actually the only halfway competent judge on the show. She fell into overpraising just like everyone else, but she did bring something to Idol other than being hot. Just saying.
I was definitely not expecting to see Lil Jon on the American Idol stage half an hour after Kirk Franklin. Maybe Nigel Lynthgoe should launch a new reality show called American Hypeman. I mean, I’d watch it. Jon was there to spend 30 seconds playing opening-act to a medley from the two surviving members of TLC, who were joined by the various off-brand female contestants. T-Boz has put on weight, Chili looks the exact same, and I would’ve been fine if this montage had kept going for another half an hour. TLC, man. So good. The medley turned out to be just “No Scrubs” and “Waterfalls”; no “Creep,” sadly. And speaking of reality shows, I’m pretty sure the girl who won the reality show to become the new member of TLC was not there.
Scotty McCreery sang “Live Like You Were Dying” with Tim McGraw, who is so ridiculously diesel at this point that he looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin. Here’s something Scotty shouldn’t do ever again: Share the stage with a badass grizzled country-godfather figure. I was worried McGraw was going to start abusively fathering Scotty like in Friday Night Lights. McGraw could’ve seriously squashed that kid like a bug. I would not have been mad if that happened. “Live Like You Were Dying” remains an awesome song.
I was hoping we could make it through this particular finale without the obligatory callback to all the reject freakshow contestants, but no, that still happened. At least none of them got to make cringey stage appearances at the show itself.
In a nice little display of nepotism, Marc Antony came out to display how he got to marry Jennifer Lopez: By being a seriously strong performer with absurd levels of swag, at least when he’s not talking. Sheila E played drums and looked awesome. And halfway through, Lopez came out to dance and to support my wife’s theory that she’s now hotter than Beyoncé, whose weave looked a bit fucked up last night. J.Lo’s gratuitous ass-bounce move made that point pretty much inarguable. Great segment, though it would’ve been maybe slightly better if Anthony had sung “I Need to Know.” I always liked that song.
A montage about shock eliminations was mostly just notable because Durbin wore a CM Punk T-shirt. CM Punk is seriously the best wrestler, you guys.
The instant Stefano Langone stepped out onstage singing “Kiss,” I got all excited about Prince coming out for his Idol tribute moment. But that went into one of the other guys singing “She’s a Lady,” and no, that meant Tom Jones instead. Really shitty tease, Idol. How are the female contestants going to get to sing with Beyoncé but them males have to sing with Tom Jones? That is so unfair. The medley turned out pretty good, though! Them guys onstage seemed to be having fun. Scotty predictably sang lead on “Green Grass of Home” and sounded good enough to make me think he should’ve sung it during the season. Jacob tore “Love Me Tonight” a new asshole. Everyone sounded drunk singing “Delilah” together. Things got less fun when Jones came out to sing “It’s Not Unusual”, a song that might as well be called “Carlton Dance” at this point. The various contestants did a modified, low-impact version of the Carlton dance, while Jack Black, out in the crowd, did the real thing. Tom Jones looked weird.
I would’ve though the Ford commercials were over and done with, but no, we got a Ford commercial in the form of a heartfelt flashback to all the other Ford commercials. Remember that one Ford commercial where they were zombies? Good times. This led to Lauren and Scotty doing some incomprehensible charity thing, inviting their favorite teachers to the finale, giving those teachers free Ford Foci, and getting their own free Fords. A Ford Focus? Are you fucking serious? If I was one of their teachers, I would be incredibly pissed about not getting at least a Mustang. Also notable: Scotty and his chorus teacher looked like they were about to start making out. If I were that school’s principal, I would, at the very least, look into this whole thing.
Lady Gaga, wearing a headdress covered in chains and a bejeweled Princess Leia bikini thing, sang the fucking awesome future sports anthem “Edge of Glory” while standing on top of a gigantic pile of boulders. It must’ve been tough getting those boulders onstage! My wife made a compelling case that Gaga’s big thick bandanna was some sort of Axl Rose homage. I couldn’t tell if Clarence Clemons came through to play the sax solo or if it was just someone who looked like Clarence Clemons. At the end of the song, Gaga and the dude she was rolling around with (not Clemons) both jumped off the rockpile and steam shot up. The whole thing was just really good. Gaga knows how to stage big, ridiculous pop moments.
Beyoncé, apparently a big enough star the she warrants two appearances on the same finale, debuted the weepy ballad “1+1,” which might be the prettiest song anyone has ever written about Jay-Z. (It’s way prettier than “Ether,” anyway.) Jokes aside, the song was a formless and mostly hookless diva moment that probably won’t do a whole lot to ratchet up anticipation for her album. That album needs help. Three songs in and no hit yet. She’s on the edge of boring. (See what I did there?)
It was a pretty big get for the show to land a U2 guest spot, but getting U2 on TV in 2011 actually means getting Bono and Edge to play a song from their hilarious trainwreck of a Spider-Man musical with the guy who plays Spider-Man. I laughed really hard when someone in a Spider-Man costume swung around the venue ceiling, though I guess I would’ve stopped laughing if he’d fallen and seriously injured himself, the way everyone else involved in this play seems to be doing. The song was fucking bullshit, and it wasn’t even about Spider-Man. Spider-Man deserves better.
Steven Tyler, who has somehow managed to avoid singing all season, sang “Dream On” with a piano but without Aerosmith. Can Joey Kramer get some TV time, please? At least his gong got some shine. “Dream On” remains an awesome song, but that segment didn’t really need to be there for any reason unrelated to Tyler’s ego.
Finally, the results. Scotty left the world resoundingly unshocked. As the verdict was announced, it looked for all the world like Scotty and Lauren kissed on the lips, but the camera cut away. Then Scotty said something about how they’d been together since day one! Intriguing! Except not really! Since I am now free to entirely forget who these people are!