American Idol Season 12 Finale Recap: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Finalists [Updated]
With six simple words, Kree Harrison summed up what most American Idol fans have been feeling for the last fortnight. I mean, seriously, once we got down to what Loleatta Holloway once referred to as “the reeeeeallll nitty gritty” of the competition — by which I mean a righteous Top 3 of Candice Glover, Kree and third-place finisher Angie Miller — how could you really be too upset about where the chips ended up falling?
Oh sure, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe stacked the Top 20 deck with powerhouse ladies and guys with questionable voter appeal in his effort to get a female winner. But as the kind of lunatic who’s watched every single episode of Idol since Kelly Clarkson was just a Texas waitress in a dress she made out of an old pair of jeans, I’d go so far as to say any single member of the Season 12 Top 5 would’ve been a worthy addition to the undeniably awesome list of the franchise’s champions: Kelly, Ruben, Fantasia, Carrie, Taylor, Jordin, David, Kris, Lee, Scotty and Phillip. From where I sit, that’s a pretty darn good season.
Sure, that’s easy for me to say in retrospect since my No. 1 and No. 2 favorite contestants made it all the way to the final round. Candice had a hold on my heart from her Season 11 Vegas Round trio with Deandre Brackensick and Jessica Sanchez, then confirmed my obsession with her torrid “Syrup & Honey” Season 12 audition, her Group Round “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!),” and an incredible string of live performances that stacks up pretty well against any singer who’s ever taken the Idol stage: “Ordinary People,” “I’m Goin’ Down,” “I (Who Have Nothing),” “Come Together,” “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Lovesong,” “Straight Up” “When I Was Your Man,” “You’ve Changed,” “Next to Me,” “Somewhere,” “I Am Beautiful,” and ”I (Who Have Nothing)” a capella reprisal. #POW (That was for you, Mariah.)
Kree Harrison’s Greatest Season 12 Hits was a damn fine compliation, too, starting with her Hollywood solo on “Stars,” and continuing with “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song),” “Stronger,” “Evidence,” “Crying,” “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “See You Again,” “Here Comes Goodbye,” “All Cried Out,” and her “Up to the Mountain” reprisal.
Of course, just because we wound up with two incredible finalists isn’t to say Season 12 didn’t have its deep, deep valleys. Too much focus on the judges and the kind of petty slapfights that — at least in Casa Slezak — would result in a two-minute time out in the Naughty Chair. Too little innovation and not enough creativity in choosing fresh, exciting themes to challenge (but still bring out the best) in the contestants. Too many songs we’ve heard a dozen times before, too much micromanagement of the outcome, not enough “Contestant’s Choice,” and…oh LET ME QUIT RANTING AND GET TO THE RECAP.
Much like Season 12 itself, tonight’s two-plus-hour finale had its own highs (Janelle, Angie and Candice’s respective duets) and its baffling low points (a Mariah “hologram” performance; J.Lo squeaking the same song she’s released for six straight years; Aretha performing via…FaceTime? Skype? Wha?; Lazaro snapping his gum and trying to steal focus from the winner’s celebratory moment). So let’s break it all the way down (in chronological order)…
* After 12 seasons of Idol, I’m aware that it’s a tough task to sound-mix a big group number, but the way the backing track steamrolled the Top 10 singing “Glad You Came” made the performance feel as organic as a gallon of melted Velveeta (in a Styrofoam container). Why not just give the dancers the night off, have the finalists sit on stools and deliver a stripped-down version where we could hear their individual voices? Then again, witnessing Curtis Finch “shoot the peacock” while absolutely no sound came out of his mic, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise?
* It was nice how Mariah and Nicki’s season-long rivalry ended tonight with a game of “Whose Dress/Shoes Combo Will Make for a More Treacherous Walk From Backstage and to the Judges’ Table?” Somewhere, Gloria Steinem is shaking her head, dahhhling.