The Very Best Moments of American Idol, 2009 (Part I)

Posted on 21 May 2009


It was the best of seasons, it was the worst of seasons: American Idol, 2009.  But now that it’s over, including the shouting, why dwell on the shortcomings of 19 Entertainment’s golden child, the American dream gone haywire?  Why do that when, week after never ending week, the show brought such fun into the living rooms of so many across the nation? 


Every viewer remembers with fondness his or her favorite moments.  Here are mine:


Hero worship of the Almighty Buck.  Who says capitalism is dead?  It’s alive and well on American Idol and thriving with each passing season!  Seven years after Kelly Clarkson, the show’s first winner, warbled her tearful victory song, Fox’s brainchild has come a long way from its illusion of empowering unknowns to realize the American dream through million-dollar recording contracts (from which, by the way, hefty promotional and other mandatory fees are sucked).  Now that Idol’s rampant capitalism is out in the open, I say, “Bravo!” for honesty is the best policy.  Simon Cowell, the business shark-cum-judge, is to thank for letting the cat out of the bag.  Early on this season, he deadpanned to a contestant not to his liking, “We are looking for the entire package” — thereby broadly hinting that said contestant did not represent that package.  If a candidate does not possess bodacious looks (or at best, inoffensive) along with a ready-made stage presence and oh yeah, a palatable voice, he or she has about a snowball’s chance in hell of advancing within the competition — if Simon and his fellow judges have anything to say about it.   And they do.


But this not about Simon.  I’m talkin’ important stuff here, the thing that pumps the heart of every megalomaniac.  Molded upon its British predecessor, Idol was, of course, conceived as a moneymaker.  With Season 8 less than 24 hours behind us, the show has far surpassed this gal’s original assessment of it as a goldmine.  From paid downloads to pricey post-finale tour tickets to a plethora of merchandise that has Disney, Idol’s recent affiliate, grinning like good ol’ Mickey Mouse, to the commercials whose airtime rivals that of the actual performances and has, in several cases, caused the show to run late, it is clear.  The economy is booming, at least for those at the top of the Idol food chain.  


The introduction of the fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi.  With the addition of seasoned songwriter, one Kara DioGuardi, Idol may have sought to offset the elevator-like moods of Paula Abdul or perhaps enhance the show’s respectability.  All hope died aborning.  Entrenched in 19 Entertainment’s stable of writers, DioGuardi is the author and/co-author of the schlockiest tunes that the show’s winners and runners-up are obligated to include in their first post-Idol CD’s.  As a bastion of blatant commercialism, Simon Cowell’s take on music is as far removed from a genuine art form as Michael Jackson is from reality.  However, on air during the finale, Cowell himself decried the cheesiness of a song penned by DioGuardi, a song intended as the show’s tiebreaker for the two who battled it out on stage Tuesday night.   That would be Kris Allen and Adam Lambert.  I had to clarify the combatants because the previous week, DioGuardi and Cowell themselves nearly came to blows on air.


The near-fisticuffs resulted from Simon’s criticism of a song that Kara both had created and chosen for Danny Gokey.  Danny is the guy who, hmmm, had held the third-highest spot in the contest before he was forced to sing Kara’s song and yes, subsequently got voted off.  As Kara and Cowell continued to differ over what constitutes musical artistry, DioGuardi’s hot, vitriolic salvo degenerated into biting imitation of the judge whose wardrobe consists of three T-shirts.  When host Ryan Seacrest admonished the judges throughout the season to “Play nicely, children”, he meant it … particularly the “children” part.  Which brings me to my next choicest moment, the Judge’s Save!


My favorite new addition to this season, the Judge’s Save blows to smithereens, once and for all, the delusion that the American public chooses which contestant gets the boot and which one lives to see another round.  By consensus and majority rule, the four judges are empowered to rescue a single contestant from the chopping block.  Alexis Grace, the tiny girl with the big, promising voice, was the victim of this subterfuge.  The precise moment that the kid opened her mouth to sing once more for her life, the judges went into a Hail Mary huddle, buzzing audibly over their decision: a resounding “No.”  How the judges could have heard Alexis perform as they yammered on will remain one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe.  Clearly, the panel had made up its collective mind well in advance.  So much for the deus ex machina.  The decision to pull somebody’s you-know-what out of the fire came much later in the season with contestant Matt Giraud.


Waffling between contemporary R&B, old school soul, and boy band sound, this young man with a sporadically decent voice and an unfortunate ubiquitous fedora failed to define his stage persona and, ultimately, garner lasting support from the viewers.  When America had had enough of this kid, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Kara DioGuardi rushed to his aid.  As a grateful Matt wept with relief, believing his talent worthy of the save, Simon Cowell viciously cut the celebration short.  He let the world know that Matt would not advance past the following week.  To rob that young man of his shining victory before the American viewing public was akin to watching someone kick a newly healed animal for the sheer, sick fun of it.  Cowell’s monumental hubris demands that he have the very last word, no matter how long its acid may scorch a contestant’s psyche or the minds of potential record producers.   And, Idol/19 wouldn’t have it any other way.         


Paula Abdul’s performance (singing, that is).  Whatever possessed a middle-age choreographer who could not sing a lick back when she was playing footsy with Arsenio Hall — and who still can’t — to take the stage during the world’s biggest singing contest?  Was it validation?  Record sales?  Exhibitionism? That nasally-thready voice robotized through an electronic box, the hairstyle and lighting calculated to disguise her age, the Madonna production-like sycophants lifting and tossing Abdul about like so much floss all added up to one of the most cringing moments of my life.  Sadly, that is not a moment I will ever get back.  Ever.


But hey, it’s not Paula’s fault.  She was simply jumping on the bandwagon of the show’s newest trend of giving airtime to people without an ounce of musical talent, i.e., the guest mentors!


Read Part II tomorrow on Write On New Jersey.

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7 Responses to “The Very Best Moments of American Idol, 2009 (Part I)”

  1. Lori says:

    I do not care for American Idol and I like the show even less for the changes that they made this year like the judges Save. The Judges save can not help anyone in the top five and the next week two people go home so it’s pointless to me to use at all.

    And the fourth judge just takes to much time and causes the show to go over which causes problems. I saw a interview with morning news show and They said that AI has jumped the shark an old tv saying that started with Happy Days show when Fozi jumped the shark in Hollywood) which means the show is not good anymore and it has lost it’s viewers it once had.

  2. Marcia Watson says:

    Great article! And I wholeheartedly agree with the author that the fourth judge is a total bust and literally a waste of time, since the show invariably went overtime due to the long-winded commentaries.
    I found myself cringing as well throughout the whole season!

  3. sue b says:

    American Idol is going to the chopping block. Nice well written article. Forth judge is a joke. Simon rules and the rest just follow.

  4. Bev says:

    Your description of Paula’s “performance” made me so happy I missed it! 😉

  5. Allison says:

    I watched Idol this year,but there’ll never be another Taylor Hicks!I like Kara,but the contestants should be in the spotlight,not the judges!Great article!

  6. Kathy says:

    Good article. AI lost it’s charm long ago. By using I-tunes it is even more apparent AI is only out to suck as much money out of the show as possible. It has long ceased to be a contest to the finish line since they can sign as many singers as they want to their many record labels. They rush these singers into the studio to record run of the mill CD’s that sounds like everything else out there. If the other networks would actually put something worth watching opposite AI, the Idol ratings would sink even further than they have already.

  7. Jeremy says:

    I agree with lots of this however Idol can still have it’s moments. Like the Carrie Underwood/Randy Travis duet. Even tho I’m sure Idol brought them there for the money I’m also sure that they didn’t think they’d be creating a moment. A moment that was simply so beautiful it was obviously meant to happen.

    I agree with Alexis and the save ruining her chance completely. I mean she was so obviously one of the better contestants there. The save ruined her chance because the voters really. The voters knew Adam and Danny would be safe so all of them voted for either their second fave or more often than not whoever was the least competition for their favorite to bounce them through to the next round… ie… Michael, Anoop, Lil… etc…

    If they would’ve had half a sense to listen to Alexis they would’ve kept her!

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