Remember when it was 7:59 on Tuesday night and everything stopped as you settled in to bear witness to the birth of the nation’s next pop star? It’s not too hard if your try. Last year at this time, when Kris and Adam battled “he’s only still there because he’s milking the dead wife card Danny,” I voted until my fingers bled. And now? Ladies and Gentleman, last night was the first time since Season Two that I did not watch one second of an American Idol live performance episode. Of course I read the recaps online, I know what the Top Three sang, and the majority seems to think that Casey is about to bow out. Next week we’ll have our newly minted Idol. And I couldn’t care less.
What went wrong? Too many judges? An increasingly ineffective Seacrest? The fact that a television show consistently runs over in 2010? All these factors played a part. And yet, at the core, the problem lies with the contestants. Too cool for school on a good day, amateurish on a bad, no one ever seemed to really want to win. Even Crystal, who’s probably going to get the crown, has basically trotted out the same shtick week after week. Say what you will about Adam Lambert, and I was definitely more of a Kris/Allison fan last season, but at least you could count on him for a memorable performance. In a subtler way, the same can be said for Season Eight champ Kris who stayed true to his artistry but managed to twist every genre to spotlight his capabilities. Can the same be said for Lee or Casey or any of the Top 12 who fell before them? I keep thinking back to semi-finalists like Lilly Scott and Todrick Hall. Would either have won? Maybe not, but at least we’d have witnessed a few weeks of bold performances instead of “all she does is screech Siobhan” and the horror that was Tim. It’s the contestants who ultimately make or break an Idol season. Yes, we put them there and arguably share in the failure that is Season Nine. Still, would it have killed one of them to take some chances, mix things up, make me want to purchase their music? When Idol burst onto the scene, the contestants worked for our votes. Now they figure they’ve made it to the finals and are owed a career. You can’t blame them entirely. Some of Idol’s greatest successes are those who came up short. The contestants figure if they’re on the show that’s enough. Perhaps, to an extent, that’s true. But based on dipping ratings, viewers are starting to weary of this trend, and when it’s all said and done, will Season Nine mark the beginning of the end for the once indestructible franchise?