Friday, May 20, 2011

American Idol Top 3 Results

Who should have been eliminated: Haley Reinhart
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Lauren Alaina
Who was eliminated: Haley Reinhart

Yee-haw country fans! This made me happy. Even more after the result was announced, then before, I will get into that later. I have so many thoughts, but was too busy to post right after I watched the episode, so I am just going to do all this in a rambling fashion and probably just leave a whole bunch out.

For years, I talked about the power of the "Red States" and how all the winners represented states that usually have gone Republican in Presidential elections (at least the times Republicans have won the White House.) That streak was finally broken last year with Lee DeWyze, who grew up very close to where I live. Now this year, the Red State thing is back on, as Haley, who also grew up in our area, is out, and two southerners, both teenage country singers, who are reported to be Evangelical Christians are "in it to win it."

On Wednesday night, I said that it was most likely that Haley would advance to face Scotty, because a cultural, religious, and maybe even secular divide was in play, and that Lauren would not have enough votes to share with Scotty and get in. I said that if more conservative minded people dominated the audience, then it would be a Lauren vs. Scotty match-up. By the power of the 2010 GOP Tsunami, that is exactly what happened! While not everyone who is invested in Idol is political, I know that leftists are quite upset by all this. I am happy though, for this apparent victory for pop culture conservatism, even though I am most certainly not a country music fan. In fact, if I had my druthers, I would have picked a couple of Blue State coast people; Pia Toscano and James Durbin, as the best overall contestants of the season.

Let's talk about about the now eliminated Haley, a favorite of the regular blogger types, and mainstream entertainment media pundits. I think she is very talented, and while I was very surprised when she even made the Finals, and thought she would be a quick out in that portion of the competition, she did improve as it went on, and gave some really good performances. I did not get her at all at first, but she was able to grow on me musically. To think, it was just last season, where she was told no and did not even get a ticket to Hollywood. She should be glad she tried again and made the most out of this opportunity, and survived all those previous trips to the Bottom Three.

For the second year in a row, it was pretty surreal to watch the Idol Homecoming footage for a visit that took place in so many locales that I know reasonably well. I liked seeing Haley and her family on stage at Arlington Park rocking out to "Sweet Home Chicago." While perhaps not as Idol obsessed as some southern states, the people here did probably do their best to represent her during her run. The entire Village of Wheeling had "Vote for Haley" signs almost everywhere you looked. Yesterday, while I was at the store, I saw a woman wearing an "I Love Haley" button, as she was doing her shopping. I will assume she was not obsessing over some other Haley.

Something that I did not consider on Wednesday night, is if perhaps she lost out on votes, because Chicago area people, were like myself, fixated on the Chicago Bulls playing at the same time in the Eastern Conference Finals. The ratings for the game in Chicagoland on cable were said to easily have surpassed Idol.

Despite all these connections, and the local pride I have in Chicago, and the coincidence of her being from my neighboring town, I just have not been able to root for Haley. It's hard to truly analyze anyone on television, but there has just been something about her that has come across poorly to me. I suppose I am just used to everyone on American Idol at least pretending to look humble and supportive of each other. Besides for the self-entitled and negative way she took criticism on the show (whether deserved or not), she seemed a little bit too much into herself. Many people have talked about how she seemed to look pleased when there were surprise eliminations and that they got the vibe that she was not really as close to her competitors as some mega-fans would like to believe. Simon Cowell would have probably loved the cattiness.

Being eliminated has to be disappointing to anyone, but I was really sort of taken aback at Haley's reaction to being eliminated last night. I am sure she believed she would get through to the Finale, but she seemed legitimately shell-shocked at first. She definitely had enough weeks to prepare for this outcome. So, when Lauren was announced as going through, Haley did not even turn to look at her, and seemed to almost brush off a hug from the 16 year old girl who had just made it through. Yes, Haley looked quite pissed. She is still young, but I cannot help but shake the "mean girl" vibe she gives off. One of the reasons that Lee DeWyze won last year, despite having some vocal issues at times, is that he at least pretended to give off the humble, hard-working, Midwestern thing. Haley seems a little bit too caught up in her own hype, as evidenced by her sing-off last night (which I do not have a huge problem with, but it came across as a bit too defiant considering how well she did this season.) I said before that Seacrest should not refer to her as the "Pride of Chicago." Instead, that title belongs to (definitely not Barack Obama), but NBA MVP Derrick Rose, who not only excels in his field, but demonstrates genuine Midwestern humility.

It is also worth nothing that the one week that Haley got what I take as some reasonably serious pimping by the judges, is the week she goes out. Her fans were always talking about how she was a "victim", but she was given every opportunity to be seen as a potential "winner" this week. Maybe there was some complacency. Maybe that was their stealth way of "throwing her under the bus." In fact, maybe the fact that her father played guitar and was literally the first "stage parent" in Idol history rubbed people the wrong way.

For Haley's sake, I hope all the industry people who came to champion her in the last few weeks, will not forget about her. There is no guarantee that she will even be given a record deal at this point, but she will certainly have a chance to make her name in the music industry. Will those bloggers and writers and past Idol contestants still feel the same way about her, or will there be someone on Idol or another singing show in the near future, whose cause they will take up? Haley is quite a varied artist, and might have different opportunities. Perhaps she can make sort of an independent label jazz album, which is a genre I can see her fitting in easier than her trying to compete with the Gagas and Rihannas and Katy Perrys on the Billboard charts. In a couple years, it might also be the case that Haley is just signing at local Chicago festivals. I do think she will get even better as she gains experience. While it will probably not have any bearing on her overall career, I hope she might possibly mature a bit as well outside of the Idol bubble. Again, I cannot prove these personality suspicions I have about her, it's just a vibe I get.

So, next Tuesday, the "battle" will be between two teenagers, whose combined age makes them as old I am. Wow. I will be watching other stuff live that evening, but will watch the episode and blog about it as soon as possible. For the first time in at least several years, and probably really the first time ever, I do not care who wins. I hope it goes to whomever sings best that evening, but I will be happy for either of them. The truth is that its all about which fanbase gets the vote out more. I think no matter how the performances go, people already have their minds made up. The vote total could also be significantly lower than the 95 million produced this round, because it's going to be an all country singer duel, which will not appeal to as wide of an audience.

I will talk more about their overall Idol journeys next week, but I have positive feelings towards both Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. I think they are good kids, despite the fact that Lauren seemed a bit bratty at the beginning of the season, and Scotty sometimes has done some creepy things on stage. Based on demographics, I think either one of them would have easily beaten Haley in a Finale, but now, I am not sure who will win. Conventional wisdom says that Scotty is still the heavy favorite, and he is definitely at a built in advantage by being male, but the perceived "underdog" in the Finale, has went on to win the last three seasons.

As mentioned earlier in the week, Scotty has never once gotten to perform last. Based on what I have read, he did win the coin flip last night, but in a very gentlemanly act, deferred the choice to Lauren, who of course wisely decided to sing last. If the last round contains a sappy coronation or inspirational anthem, that could work to her benefit.

I think Scotty is more ready to make a record in his genre than Lauren is now, but that she is probably the singer with more overall potential for growth. For the sake of their future careers, I think she needs to win the number one crown more than he does, but might in fact benefit by coming in second and having less pressure off the bat. Lauren, who would not have even been able to audition this season, if not for the eligibility age being lowered, still seems to be a bit emotionally fragile, while Scotty seems to be about as emotionally confident than any other teenager in Idol history.

So, as we have reached this point, I will say that Scotty is the frontrunner, but I think Nigel Lithgoe and the Idol Machine have wanted Lauren to be the eventual winner from the day she auditioned, and that has not changed.

As far as the Homecoming Visit packages, which I consider akin to a political candidate infomercial, Scotty's was by far the best of the three shown. He broke down in tears about three times, (a la David Cook, Kris Allen, and Lee DeWyze) and I could imagine the votes getting ready to pour in for him. He is going to be a very popular young man with his fanbase. I think a rain out prevented him from throwing out the first pitch for a North Carolina State Wolfpack game. That would have an even better photo opportunity for him.

Haley had a nice trip home too of course, but she barely cried, and seemed a bit sarcastic and flippant (a la Adam Lambert) about the whole thing. Lauren's trip home to the Georgia/Tennessee border region was emotional as well, but the time devoted to having her view tornado damage, and meeting a heroic young boy, was kind of disjointed and took the focus off of her and her journey.

My head tells me that Scotty will probably be the one who wins, but going back a few weeks now, I have been very open to the possibility of a surprise Lauren win after all.

This could be a close one.