Which is the best American Idol finale?
Anyway, last night's epic battle got me thinking about past American Idol finales and whether any of them were this much of a contest. It seems like we've gone into most of the American Idol finales with obvious winners. Here's a breakdown of the past American Idol finales, and whether they stack up to last night's performances:
Kelly Clarkson vs. Justin Guarini (2002)- No contest. While Justin was cute and had those curly locks that made pre-teen girls melt into puddles, his vocal "talent" couldn't hold a candle to Kelly. She belted out the American Idol anthem, 'A Moment Like This', and I knew she had won. She sang that (cheesy) song as if it was written for her. She teared up as she sang it because the words, corny as they were, felt true to her at that moment. It was even obvious to Justin that he had not won American Idol. Now... if it had been Kelly Clarkson and Tamyra Gray in the finale, then we'd have had a real contest on our hands. (Doesn't Kelly look so much better now than in that photo?)
Ruben Studdard vs. Clay Aiken (2003) - This was a real showdown. Just like last night's finale with the Davids, Ruben and Clay couldn't have been more different from each other. Ruben had a gospel background and the man never, ever missed a note. Never! But Clay was the comeback kid. He started out as a super-nerdy contestant with a shockingly spectacular voice and ended up as only a slightly-nerdy/Barry Manilow-style contestant. It was hard to watch Clay sing because of his corny facial expressions, and perhaps that was what caused him to lose (that, or the fact that the state of Indiana didn't get to vote). This was one of the best showdowns because it was not obvious who would win. Either man would have made a fine American Idol. It came down to 130,000 votes between the two, with Ruben barely on top. There's still controversy over this finale because of alleged technical problems with voting that night. In summary, this was and probably still is the best American Idol finale (unless David Cook pulls out the upset tonight).
Fantasia Barrino vs. Diana DeGarmo (2004) - Again, no contest. Diana's young energy was no match for Fantasia's unique voice. Fantasia was a young woman who had lived hard: she had been raped, was a high school drop out, and a single mother. And all of that hardship came through in her voice. Diana? She was a cutie. She had a great voice, for sure. But she was a pop princess, and American voters wanted an Idol with a little soul. That finale was worth watching only because Fantasia performed her beautiful version of 'Summertime' again. But the crowning of the winner was no shocker.
Carrie Underwood vs. Bo Bice (2005) - Much like last night, it became obvious during the Season 4 finale which singer was going to be crowned the American Idol. Bo and Carrie were given the usual cheesy/motivational songs that would be their first single. Carrie pulled it off. She can deliver corny lyrics. But, Bo? He was too real, man. He was a dude who battled drug addiction and performed barefoot, and motivational songs were not his cup of tea. Going into the final performance, it seemed the two were on an even playing field, but Carrie was the obvious winner when the night was over.
Taylor Hicks vs. Katherine McPhee (2006) - This was when American Idol started to go downhill. Taylor was a weird dude with an original sound. Katherine was a pretty girl with a typical mainstream sound. They both did alright in the finale, each forced to sing terrible original songs that were to be their first singles. This finale came down to personality more than performance. And Katherine McPhee was weaker in the personality category than her jazz-lovin' competition. This finale felt uninspired and the crowning of Taylor seemed empty and predictable.
Jordin Sparks vs. Blake Lewis (2007) - One word: Boring!