American Idol & David Cook

We had a small American Idol party here last night for the season finale. My initial reaction to the upcoming show was “how’re they going to drag this out for two hours?”, but in the end it wasn’t so bad. Especially given that we got to watch it with a room full of friends.
I’ve never been a fan of American Idol. Not that I have anything against the show, the contestants or the process. It’s just not my thing. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen anyone come from that media machine that has interested me in the least. Carrie Underwood? Product. Kelly Clarkson? I like her voice … but she’s product.
In short, I grew up listening to a lot of great music. Led Zeppelin. The Beatles. Aerosmith. Many, many other great, influential artists. None of whom could have won on American Idol. In short, my impression has always been that American Idol was about anointing the latest pop product to be heavily marketed to the consumer masses. I’ve never bothered to watch the show, in most part due to the end product.
Given what my expectations have been of what American Idol is, I figured it would be David Archuleta who won last night. He’s a likable kid, but he’s just the sort of product that always wins American Idol; a pleasant but largely bland individual whom the industry can turn into whatever marketable product they want. I think it says a lot that when they announced David Cook as the winner last night, the entire room erupted with surprised. No one in the room expected that. We all just knew that David Archuleta winning it was a foregone conclusion. Especially after they said that the winner had won by 12 million votes. Egads. I could imagine 14 year old girls dialing for Archuleta until their fingers bled.
I think everyone knows what I mean about the flaws in the franchise. Come on. A lot of very talented people went home before Jason Castro was voted off. The only people who weren’t surprised that he wasn’t voted off every week were young girls. And by the time he left, even a lot of them were beginning to admit that it was time to go. So come on. It came down to a contest between a rocker and a Disney poster child?
Who would have ever thought that David Cook would actually win it? Even David Cook thought he was going home. You could see it in his face the entire night. He just wanted to get it over with. And with good reason. Even if he hadn’t won it, he was already made. The exposure he got from American Idol would open a hell of a lot of doors for him, and he has the talent to make good use of those opportunities.
I’m glad that David Cook won. He just seemed more genuine to me. And who doesn’t love the story of a guy who went to the auditions to accompany his brother, but never intended to audition himself? The accidental participant? He’s always struck me as a genuinely nice guy who had accepted that whatever musical ambitions he might have, he’d most likely be bartending for the foreseeable future. It’s no wonder that he was so overwhelmed when they announced he was the winner. I honestly don’t think he saw it coming. I applaud the guy for his humility.
I can’t say that this redeemed the American Idol franchise in my eyes. I still think it’s a gristmill for banal celebrities. Sure, some genuine talent has come from the process through the years, but for the most part the final product is cotton candy. But I’ve enjoyed the communal aspect of sitting down with family every week and watching the pageant. I’ve also enjoyed having, for once in my life, pop culture references that I can talk to other people about. It was kinda fun to get to pretend to be a normal American on occasion.
Maybe this is a one time occurrence, but I think the American Idol viewers got it right this season. Thus far I haven’t given a damn about whoever has won American Idol through the years. None of them have put out music that I could relate to. Lemme see … I like Black Sabbath, they give me Clay Aiken. I like Bif Naked, they give me Kelly Clarkson. I like Willie Nelson, they give me Carrie Underwood. See the problem here?
Well, I think I finally have to admit that the American Idol pop celebrity machine has finally generated someone I’m interested in. It’s quite possible that David Cook will prove to be a Daughtry clone, putting out agreeable but bland pop rock that I’ll never give a shit about. But who knows? He might try to get pass the celebrity aspect of being a pop star and make some great music. Just this once, I’m looking forward to seeing what an American Idol alumnus will do from here on out.
In closing, a personal message to David Cook: You have my attention, brother. In the position you find yourself in, I don’t imagine this would weigh heavily on your mind. But it’s an honor no other American Idol participant has ever been afforded. I’m looking forward to seeing you kick some ass. Don’t let them turn you into just another product. Once you’re free of the American Idol bullshit and the tour is done and you can stop dancing with that determined but vaguely horrified look on your face, I’d like see a genuine talent left standing there. Maybe in the end that’s all I’d like to see come from American Idol. Just once I’d like to see someone genuine.

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