On One Hand

May 20, 2009

Uh… that was predictable.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:41 pm

I just watched American Idol for the first time since I was in high school. It was the season finale of the program, and the first time an openly gay person has been in the top two so I figured an interesting social moment to watch.

The competition was between two very nice guys, both surely better-than-average when it comes to talent. They seem to have forged a real friendship and are very gracious, and for the first time I’m looking at pop culture without my usual tinge of bitterness that morality has so little bearing on who makes it and who doesn’t.

But this is an analisys of who won and why. And what we had was, essentially, a popular preppy kid beating out the jaded, effeminate alternative kid who hangs out in the smoker’s pit.

Consider it a microcosm of high school America, considering who would win prom king at your school:

One character is Kris, the gut-wrenchingly cute, popular, clean-cut preppy boy who gets straight A’s. He’s humble and friendly and the kind of guy the teachers just love.

Then we have Adam, who is gay and forward, a bit gaunt, sings “change is gonna come” and Queen, hangs out at the smoker’s pit, wears eye makeup and dresses in black.

Remember that American Idol is a major area of interest for kids in high school, especially the kids of kids who get caught up in mainstream pop culture. Who do you really think is gonna win?

Before I saw this episode I rolled my eyes at the suggestion that Adam Lambert was something special; I’d seen him in photos. Is the emo gay guy who wears eye makeup and snaps really original? Compare him to the folksy, earthy guy who actually plays guitar and piano.

I thought the emo hair flip was cliche, and the eye makeup and gawdy clothing are narcisistic and over-the-top. Judging by image alone, Lambert is a supersized-version of every died-hair cigarette-smoking gay kid I’d ever seen with aspirations of being a pop star. I kind of rolled my eyes at people who were excited about him. I’d take the guitar player in plaid over the guy with eye liner any day.

But after watching the final episode, my impression was that Adam Lambert was head-and-shoulders more talented than Kris Allen. You’d hear a clip from Allen’s performances and think he’s not bad, then hear Lambert and think wow. He has a great stage presence and a rockstar quality that no amount of boy-band cuteness can overcome, even if Idol’s viewing audience falls for the boy-band.

Lambert’s superior talent is what made this notable. If Allen was better than Lambert, his victory would not only have been predictable, but unremarkable as well. But we had a mediocre performer beating a superior performer and nobody being too shocked.

Music is usually about being edgy and breaking the rules, not about being neat and perfect. I am sure the program’s producers would have rather gone with Lambert, though I also suspect that he will be glad to be free of them.



  1. “Music is usually about being edgy and breaking the rules”

    You will never find this on AI, so there’s no point in watching.

    Comment by randomcha — May 21, 2009 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  2. I don’t think Adam has officially come out yet, has he? In every interview I’ve seen or read he kind of dodges the question.

    Comment by bradfordneal — May 21, 2009 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

  3. Yeah, you put it just right. It really was high school all over.

    I only watched the last two shows but got interested in who would win. I liked them both and found Kris really cute and appealing, but it seemed obvious that Adam was more talented. In retrospect, it was equally obvious that Kris would win.

    Comment by whitman22 — May 21, 2009 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  4. American Idol

    First, Happy Birthday, Matt.
    Second, on You Tube I found a teen with the name Gregory Gorgeous, who actually shows how to put on makeup.

    Comment by poimen — May 21, 2009 @ 10:38 pm | Reply

  5. I watched the first half-hour, which was the most time I’ve ever spent with AI. I think watching TMZ trail Adam recently while channel flipping was what had me wondering who had the most talent going into the final show.
    But, as expected, he didn’t win the top spot. Although, it doesn’t matter with AI if you do win first place. Like if you’re a big black guy with the most talent.
    Happy Birthday!

    Comment by firemaplesong — May 22, 2009 @ 1:31 am | Reply

  6. American Idol makes my eyes bleed in horror

    Comment by timberwolves — May 22, 2009 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

  7. I think both of them had to sing that “change is gonna come” song, actually.

    Comment by arazel — May 23, 2009 @ 3:44 am | Reply

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