Thursday, May 22, 2008

Faith Restored in American Idol!

I didn't watch American Idol for the first several seasons...I'm not sure why I wasn't interested, but it was probably connected to the fact that it was SO popular. I don't think I even realized what channel it was on...because we don't have cable and I miss out on a lot of the shows with major buzz, I often don't pay attention to what's hot on TV.

But a few seasons ago I finally got sucked in when a friend told me that she watched it with her kids. Christopher was also hooked. So I began watching and I too got hooked. When I was in grade school, I had those unrealistic fantasies about someday becoming a singer. My fantasy did not translate into ambition, however, because I never practiced my guitar or other instruments as steadfastly as I should have. I'm lucky to have a good ear and moderate musical talent, but I've never been driven to be competitive about it. During my first year at PLU, I tried out for the choir, but the competition was intense among the women, whereas the men had an easy shot. I ended up singing in an all-women's choir, and I enjoyed it, but I quit after the first year because music majors were way too intense for me. I'm much more of a "Brooke White" style of singer (although I hesitate to compare myself to her!).

At any rate, the few seasons I've watched AI, I've been disappointed to see my favorites get knocked out. Last year I liked Melinda Doolittle and Lakisha Jones...they were FUN to watch and listen to, but they didn't appeal to the majority of AI watchers (many of them teeny boppers, I guess). Melinda was the most talented performer last year, but she didn't have the look or the style of the others.

I am disgusted by the crass commercialism in AI--constant endorsements for Coke and Ford--not to mention the fact they call the women "girls." Then this season, one of my least-favorite contestants (Kristy Lee Cook, who happens to be from Oregon!) was getting trounced by the judges every week and came out the following week with "God Bless the USA," which of course bought her another week!!! Then to cap it off, the opening of "Idol Gives Back" had all of the idol contestants singing a "praise" song to Jesus!!! Please. Don't mix religion with mass media, please. So those are the bad parts. But I put up with them because I've gotten caught up in the spirit of regular Joe or Jane making it to the big time with their musical talents.

To get to my point, I was absolutely shocked last night when I FINALLY got to the end of the AI finale, to hear Ryan Seacrest say David Cook's name! From the very beginning, he has been my favorite. I've loved the original arrangements he's used of old favorites (like Billie Jean and Hello), and he has soul. He's accompanied himself on the guitar much of the time. I've always enjoyed watching him perform. Archuleta has a beautiful voice and a cute face, but that's about it. He's a baby and has his one comfort genre, in which he excels. (And he doesn't appear to play any instruments.) David Cook is versatile and creative. Go, David Cook!

He broke down in tears when he learnt that he'd won--he, along with the rest of the world, thought the crown would go to David Archuleta. Very sweet!

Both finalists were very classy and professional about their rivals. Neither said an unkind or competitive word about the other. They genuinely seem to like each other.

Ryan Seacrest described Cook as a former "bartender," but he actually did musical theater in high school and went to university on a theater scholarship. He dropped out of theater and got a degree in graphic design. At that point, he said he'd give himself until 26 to make it in music (he's 25).

The other thing I like about him is his clear love for his family. He only went along to the first audition to offer support to his younger brother, Andrew, who was going to try out. During the season, his other brother, Adam, was undergoing treatment for brain cancer. Here is a photo of him in the audience:

When I learned that he was one of three boys, I liked him even more!

You might say that American Idol has become one of my guilty pleasures. Now that America has finally gotten it right, I can't give it up now.

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