Season 10 of American Idol is done. Another big win for country. (Ann Althouse, via the ever-clucking Matt Drudge, tells us that we should have known all along.) Those keeping score will note two country winners now, and four beltholders from the pop/R&B weight class. The average age of the winners at coronation time is 22. Only one American Idol champ could even remotely be considered indie or alternative, so I can now say with a straight face that I am done. With this show. Completely. The train-wreck-from-which-we-cannot-look-away of the auditions is not a sufficient counterbalance to the aesthetic seasickness that follows.
Expect no ivory tower admonitions, here. Yes, Jacob Lusk deserved the prize and yes, Casey Abrams deserved the runner-up slot. Sure, Stefano Lagone lasted longer than he deserved, and granted, Pia Toscano rode high on the exact same note for four episodes too many. But this is a show by America, for America, named America, and far be it from a music columnist who traffics in modern compositions, post-rock and industrial noise to bemoan the rise of Jordan Sparks at the expense of Melinda Doolittle. Or vice-versa. Or whatever.
This might all be a bit easier to take if the over-29 crowd had a show, too. And for two brief, fascinating seasons, we nearly did. Rockstar INXS and Rockstar Supernova featured harder-edged, more established musicians, a bunch of tattoos and body piercings and innuendos, to say nothing of the delicious, apparently alt-chick Brooke Burke (who knew!). But CBS believed less in season three of Rockstar and more in season one of Pirate Master, a blindingly awful program for which Mark Burnett seemed to rip off his own flagship idea. If this reads like sour grapes, it most certainly is. After ten years of American Idol, I’ve become used to the blueprint, and been repeatedly heartbroken by the execution. So no matter your orientation, you win. Detractors of the American Idol juggernaut won’t see the brand polluting our front page anymore. And fans of the show won’t hear about how it keeps jumping the shark. “Don’t go away mad, just go away.” I get it.
After all, yes, pop, R&B and country are more representative of our collective tastes and yes, one call, one vote is a perfectly fair selection system. But Radiohead, Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons move impressive quantities of (cough, cough) product as well, and an expensive, polished, prime-time production with lots of soft drink ads and splashy graphics would have been a nice hour-per-week way of introducing the kids to that one art form meant for the rest of us. Instead, it’s back to the torrent sites and still-image YouTube videos. Psh.