Idol Loves Idol

Is It the End of Idol As We Know It?
Obsessive analysis of American Idol.
May 22 2007 12:21 PM

Idol Loves Idol

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Blake Lewis. Click image to expand.
American Idol's Blake Lewis

Dear Kathy,

Jody Rosen Jody Rosen

Jody Rosen is a Slate contributor.

What a pleasure to spend these final days of American Idol Season 6 discussing the show with—I say this without reservation and without irony—the world's foremost Idol scholar. You're defending your doctoral diss at the end of this month—soon you'll be a full-fledged Doctor of Idology. Do you happen to know: Have there been other Ph.D. dissertations on Idol? More importantly: Does my 19-week-long (and I do mean long) stint as an Idol blogger qualify as course work? May I now move straight to the research and writing phase of my dissertation, "The Signifying Honky: Race, Intertextuality, and Fugly Sweater Vests in the American Idol Semifinal Performances of Blake Lewis"?

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After almost five months of meditating on the question, I am moving, as you academics like to say, toward a theory of this season's wholesale suckiness. It goes like this: I blame Simon. The judges really didn't do a very good job of winnowing the field to the final 24, did they? I mean, could Phil Stacey and Haley Scarnato possibly have been among the very best of the tens of thousands who auditioned? And what about ensuring some stylistic range among the competitors? Nearly all of the finalists were pop or R&B (or pop-R&B) singers. We were told that Gina Glocksen was a "rocker"—and presented with little evidence to support the claim, other than a tongue stud and some black leather miniskirts. Chris Sligh was a rocker, of sorts: the Christian rock sort, which doesn't quite count in my book. Phil Stacey tried to transform himself into a country singer many excruciating weeks into his Idol run. It didn't work. Which brings me to Blake. He's a big cheeseball, yes, and not terribly talented, but I remain grateful to him for bringing a certain category-jumbling X-factor to the proceedings. I'm not sure popular music needs his emo-balladeering-cum-beatboxing-cum-Jamiroquai stylee, but Idol season six sure did.

Of course, I'm especially grateful to Blake for confirming my long-cherished belief that I am a seer and a visionary, since—as I reminded readers last week, and will continue to remind them ad nauseum in these e-mail exchanges—I picked the little Washingtonian wigger to win the Idol crown months ago.

But enough about me. Kathy, what's your prediction? Who will "set it on blast" in tonight's showdown? Does Jordin, as I surmised last week, have an edge because of the inevitable Believe in Your Dreams-themed ballads they'll be required to sing? How are you reading the tea leaves?

More to the point: Does it matter who wins? It could not have escaped anyone's notice that only one real star emerged from Idol's fifth seasonthe third runner-up. (Talk about "loser chic"!) Chris Daughtry has sold millions more records than Elliot Yamin (who looked like he'd lost the plot in his Idol homecoming last week), Katharine McPhee, and last year's Idol champ Taylor Hicks (remember him?) combined. And deservedly so: Daughtry's a ninja, with a humongous voice and true star power. (I used to be a Daughtry naysayer, but I saw him play a small club last winter and was converted. I can't wait for him belt out "Home" on the results show Wednesday night.) This year's Idol crop may well be the weakest yet. Can you imagine anyone—Blake, Jordin, even Melinda—putting out a record as good as "Since U Been Gone," "Before He Cheats," or "It's Not Over"? Idol's Nielsen ratings are down this season by as much as 10 percent. Is this the beginning of the end, Kathy? Are you—am I—getting out of the Idol-exegesis game in the nick of time?

School me,
Jody