Like Lilly Scott, I Don't Know What America Wants to Hear
Like Lilly Scott, I Don't Know What America Wants to Hear
Most of us, me included, would call it the lowest point of American Idol this season, if not of the past nine seasons.

Sure, by the time the Top 16 wrapped up their performances, it was hard guessing who will go home. Some contestants showed potential but didn't live up to them during the live shows. Some contestants didn't initially impress but turned out to have something in there. And some contestants were just so good, we were absolutely certain we'd see them next week.

Instead, arguably some of the best singers this season were eliminated. What we got instead was, well, something much worse.

The whole situation was perhaps best summed up by Lilly Scott, she who made me smile silly with every performance, she who was unjustly eliminated last night: "I thought I was appealing to a lot of people," she said. "It's surprising a lot of incredible talent is going home tonight. I don't know what America wants to hear."

I was devastated when Ryan announced that Lilly was disqualified. And for good reason: I always had this penchant for unique, if not quirky, contestants, and I thought she was the show's best chance ever to bring that certain charming quality to a bigger stage. Sure, we've had contestants who skirted convention and made it big on the show--we had Adam Lambert last year, and of course there was Taylor Hicks a few years back--but for the most part, we've seen the usual people make it big on the Idol stage.

Not to belittle the greats that have come out of the show--Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood--but these contestants often fit some sort of mold. Some really tight mold. An American Idol reality, perhaps.

Okay, so Lilly's elimination doesn't hurt that bad when put in that context. But what about Alex Lambert? Sure, having a bad case of the nerves (or, to spin it positively, wearing your heart in your sleeve) doesn't help your chances in any way, but most of us saw potential in him. Underneath the boogeyman shivers was a very "recordable" voice, as Kara put it. You can easily imagine him on the radio--I mean, explain John Mayer and James Morrison, how successful they were with both the pop audience and the housewife demographic.

His first performance may have been a disaster, but the following weeks saw him get used to the stage and gain confidence little by little. Last week I swear he was 75% less awkward than he was before. Never mind his vocals--that struggle was something the common viewer can hang on to. And from where I am, many of you wanted him to make it to the Top 12. So why was he eliminated?

It seems that most of you--no, not you, but you, yes, you--are not really down with hearing something unique, something interesting. Sure, some of the Top 12 have those qualities, but some of them clearly don't deserve to be here. No, not at the expense of Lilly and Alex or, heck, even Katelyn and Todrick.

No, it's clear that you want to listen to someone who is affected by her song so hard she can't go on. You want someone who doesn't know where to go, leaving us hanging, and uninterested, and bored, and asleep. You want someone who's trying to replicate the one thing that made him big, rather than move on and do something else. Heck, you want to hear the sound of ab drums and bang guitar. They're not musical instruments. They're just freaking eye candy.

Some say that American Idol is a pointless endeavor. It's more a popularity contest than a singing contest, a search for the most popular personality rather than the best musical talent. Sure, I see the merit in that, but recent seasons have reminded us that some of the best musicians today came from the Idol stage. We thank the show for the Kelly Clarksons and the David Cooks and the Chris Daughtrys, and we look forward to the next bunch of talent. Most importantly, we look forward to what Lilly and Alex would do next. They were, to spin it positively, too good for Idol.

This year the show had a chance to push the envelope further. Instead, it took two, three, four, nine, ten steps back. Okay, fine, this is the worst Top 24 ever? Well, you took away half of what makes it good and made it an even worse Top 12. The mainstream music industry is in bigger danger.

(Image courtesy of Fox)