American Idol Season 12 Review “Winner Announced”

Ha! My diabolical plan to reverse-psychology Candice into the winner zone on the “American Idol” finale succeeded masterfully! Can I get a what-what? For those just tuning in, I had a sneaking suspicion that Kree might win, so I publicly stated that she would in a transparent attempt to actually get Candice to the top, as I have successfully not predicted any winner, ever.

Granted, that streak was already behind me, courtesy of Angie’s untimely elimination, seeing as she didn’t even crack the Top Two. But even this close to the finish line, I’m usually wrong, so I figured if I bet against Candice, then surely she’d win, right? Because as surely as die-hard football fans can determine the outcome of their favorite teams by adhering to certain rules, I figured that if I went against the tide of my instincts, the same would hold true here, and it did. Of course, I recognize that it’s all a complete load of crap, but what are you going to do? Anything I can do to help, that’s what.

So, I’m good with this outcome all round. Yes, Kree was a solid singer, and yes, her back-story was touching, but Candice was that much better and her story is pretty sweet as well. After all, this was her third time auditioning after failing to make it before. Clearly, the third time was a charm and who doesn’t like someone who had to persevere and continue to believe in their talent, despite tremendous adversity, and go on to win in the end?

I’ve always hated to see people who were actually pretty good get turned down by the judges, while others with more dubious talents manage to squeak through. But here’s the thing: so many of them treat a fail on auditioning for the show as the end-all be-all of their careers, when really, it could just as well be a potential beginning. Much better to take the advice you get and apply it to your future, as Candice did, and look where it got her in the process.

An also-ran, as it were, just won the whole thing. I like that. It’s in keeping with the later success of her fellow if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed cast-offs that went on to make something of themselves, like Candice’s apropos duet partner in one song, Jennifer Hudson. She got an Oscar for her troubles. Not bad for a runner-up.

So, don’t cry Kree, or Angie, or at least some (certainly Amber and Janelle) of the others in the Top Ten: there’s still hope. You just have to take this opportunity afforded you and run with it. Capitalize on that spotlight you were given by the grace of “Idol” and run with it, my friends, because this really doesn’t have to be the end, only the beginning.

As for the end, as in the finale at hand, it was definitely a step up from last night’s show, but I suppose that’s an unfair comparison by default, as it all rested on the shoulders of two up-and-comers, not a host of seasoned veterans, Carly Rae Jepsen notwithstanding. (Not that she was anything to write home about, either, mind you.)

Let’s break it down. First up, as usual, a big group number, this time with the Top Ten performing “Glad You Came,” appropriately enough, from The Wanted. It was a decent enough opener, and the prefect shiny happy people-style number that “Idol” loves to embrace, even if it does make the contestants look a little cultish.

Next were Janelle and The Band Perry, who I’m not that familiar with, save “If I Die Young,” which isn’t exactly a happy-go-lucky number. This one, entitled “Done” wasn’t either, at least in terms of content, but the song itself was fairly rocking for country, which, along with the song Kree did, makes two more songs I like from the band, so I might have to check out their album. They seem pretty talented, and note how much more at home Janelle was with them than supposed “country”-girl Kree was when she did their song. Wrong, (most of the) judges! Janelle’s the real country girl here- Nicki called it when she said that Kree and Candice were both more soul-oriented than anything else.

There was an admittedly funny skit (at least by “Idol” standards) with the guys talking about being sabotaged by the girls, offering up tongue-in-cheek “evidence” like Amber drugging Devin’s drink, causing him to forget the words to his songs; Janelle changing the notes on Lazaro’s music charts so he’d sing off-key; Curtis getting bad fashion advice (“If Randy likes the jacket, you know you’re in trouble”- LOL); and, most hilariously, “bully” Candice shaking Burnell down for his “lunch money,” causing him to lose a lot of weight. It turned out to be the work of criminal mastermind Jordin Sparks, who was tired of all the male winners year after year. You & me both, sister. Oh, and don’t think I missed that dig at the show’s biggest competitor: “The good news is that all the ‘Idol’ leftovers have been doing really well on ‘The Voice’.” Ha! I see what you did there, “Idol”!

Having won me over with that amusing bit of business, however, the show wasted no time in engaging in one of those tributes that reminds me how out-of-touch “Idol” can be sometimes: a tribute to…Frankie Valli? What the what? Do these kids even know who that is? Hell, at first I didn’t know who that was, until they went into “Grease,” though I recognized “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” from Lauren Hill, and knew that it was an old song.

It was like the Burt Bacharach thing all over again. I get that people want to preserve some of the classics, but is this really the venue? Ten to one that sort of thing is what goes out the window first on the newfangled, revamped “Idol” next year. Count of them to keep things super-current more often than not, mark my words.

Mariah did a medley of her hits after that, and it was pretty solid, if somewhat haphazardly arranged- they chose to start with “Vision of Love”? What? If anything, they should have reversed the order, starting with the new one, and then going into the older ones from there, I thought. That said, Mariah did show that she’s still got it, so there’s that, I suppose. Say what you will about her, the woman’s a bona fide star that commands your attention…onstage, at least.

Amber was up next, dueting with the R&B songstress of the moment, Emeli Sandé, performing “Next to You.” We get it, “Idol,” she’s awesome. If I buy her CD, will you please stop shoving it down my throat, media? After a brief recap of the whole Ford Fiesta mission thing, and the Top Two girls presenting their chosen mentors with one of the cars in question, we had Psy, with “Gangnam Style 2”– er, make that “Gentlemen.” Enjoy those fifteen minutes, my friend, for the bell tolls for thee.

Keith Urban did his thing next, with “I Just Want a Little Bit of Everything.” You don’t want much, do you? Wasn’t Nicole Kidman enough? I swear, these Hollywood types. Or Aussies. Whatever.

The aforementioned Candice and J. Hud-down was next, with “Inseparable,” and then it was Angie’s turn to shine, dueting first with Adam Lambert on “Titanium,” a song I really love (and more importantly, never seem to get sick of, and I’ve heard oh-so-many remixes of it); then with her own personal idol of choice, Jessie J. on “Domino,” who subsequently invited her to either do a YouTube video or sing with her live onstage back in her native UK. Guess which one Angie chose?

After that, we had a supposed judge takedown that was the very definition of soft-pedaling it, wholly avoiding the Mariah/Nicki drama as if their future depended on it. Instead we got such foibles as the fact that Mariah likes to wear tight skirts- so tight she can’t stand up! Oh my word! Or that Nicki wears a lot of wigs? You don’t say! And the fact that Keith occasionally has a beatific look on his face when he’s enjoying a particular performer, like he’s waiting on the Rapture to come? OMG! Or that Randy says the same catchphrases over & over again? Tell me something I haven’t already bitched about. (I did like Burnell’s apt comment, though: “Who’s in it to lose it, if everybody’s in it to win it?”)

Kree tackled Keith’s song “Where the Black Top Ends” with the man himself next, accompanied by Travis Barker (!) on drums and the dawg himself, Randy, who also played with others that evening, including Mariah. Letting Randy play with some of the performers was a nice touch, as was the cute send-off with the meeting at the “Dawg Pound Headquarters” with the subtitled doggies, and fun Randy moments (my fave: the woman saying: “You kind of punched me in the face” to him, as he looked on, horrified- LOL), bookended by the dog directors running the board in the control room.

After that was a bit of a misstep, an odd Aretha Franklin performance that was, like, beamed in from another place altogether. I mean, I get that she’s the Queen of Soul and all, but what, she couldn’t be bothered to show up in person? As a direct result, and perhaps a slightly-off satellite transmission, Aretha and the rest of the performing girls were a good half-step off (or even more, perhaps) of being in sync with one another, and the result felt incredibly disjointed and quite frankly, a bit of a mess.

I like her hits as much as the next person, but next time you want them highlighted…show up, sister. Because this just didn’t cut it, and made her look really bad in the process on several levels. Put another way, if the Queen had been in competition, she’d have been voted off in no time flat, sad to say. Time to get that pink Cadillac tuned up, sweetie.

After another montage, this time of the season as a whole, we got former (and possibly soon-to-be-returning) judge Jennifer Lopez, who showed Mariah a thing or two about putting on a show, with her feverish and frantic performance of “Live it Up” with Pitbull. This kind of stuff isn’t entirely in my wheelhouse to be honest, but for what it’s worth, I was entertained, and it was never boring. Indeed, it might well have been the most exciting performance of the night, for whatever that’s worth. Of course, the competition wasn’t exactly that stiff, so there’s that.

Candice and Kree took the stage next, with yet another medley of old-fogey music, this one a reprise of the Burt Bacharach stuff (speak of the devil…), I do believe. I feel like the old guard is getting their thing out of their system one last time, what with the new guard taking over next time around. Good riddance, and I don’t mean that in reference to the judges, really, though I do think a complete overhaul is fine, all things considered. If I kept anyone, it’d be Nicki, and she seems to have divided most people, so I don’t see that happening.

After that, it was finally time to reveal the big winner, and as aforementioned, it was Candice, and well deserved. She reprised her single, “I am Beautiful” and did her best to get through it like a professional, but who could blame her for being a bit overwhelmed, under the circumstances? Also great to see how thrilled her family was for her- I almost got a bit misty-eyed myself just watching them all. For this is where “Idol” truly excels, in its ability to make someone a star almost overnight. Of course, in this case, Candice already was one- it just took “Idol” a few years to catch on to that fact. Which kind of says it all, you know?

What did you think of this season of “American Idol”? Will you be tuning in next year? Are you looking forward to the new approach? What direction do you think they should head in? Any ideas for possible judges? Would you like to see an old judge return, and if so, who? Let me have it in the comments!