Ok, I’ve wiped the tears (of joy) from my eyes.
First, let me say American Idol redeemed itself after Tuesday night’s horrible show. I enjoyed Wednesday's finale more than any awards show or special in the past year or two. I will review the broadcast in another post. Now it’s time to reflect on Cook's landslide win.
Well, whadda ya know. American Idol really is a popularity contest. No shocker there. The big surprise (to some) is that David Cook turns out to be the one who's more popular! Cook shined Tuesday night but the judges and many in the media thought the A-game David Archuleta brought with him delivered a knockout. Turns out, one shining night does not make an American Idol. David Cook got the public’s votes (the ones that count) and the reason is simple: he’s just that good. No, great. Even Simon apologized to Cook just before the big win.
Let’s examine what happened. First, I’m not so sure David Archuleta even had the lock on teen and tween votes anymore. Cook is really popular among teenage girls and their boyfriends… and their parents… and even some grandparents.
Another factor is the type popularity that Cook enjoys. It’s based on his enormous and wide-ranging talent. Cook’s popularity is, however, heavily fortified by his charm and sex appeal. He earned the votes by coming on strong half way through the season, and then building to a crescendo. He turned in at least five performances that are among the best in American Idol history: “Hello” on the last night of the semi-finals, then “Eleanor Rigby,” “Billy Jean,” “Always Be My Baby,” and “Music of the Night” in the finals. An additional five performances were rock solid. Every single studio version of his performances are stellar. Few contestants in any season have had that kind of consistency.
I do want to make it clear that I think Archuleta’s voice is spectacular, and that Tuesday night he was at his best. I might even argue that his rendition of “Imagine” might be the single best performance of the season (I’ll even concede that both “Imagine” performances were tops). Beyond that, I can’t "imagine" his CDs and downloads having broader appeal than, say, Josh Grobin’s music. A definite market exists out there for Archie, but not in the world of pop or country, the music which dominates US charts and Americans’ tastes.
One final observation. I think Clive Davis made a mistake with his song choices Tuesday night. He got the songs right, but the Davids wrong! No one would have handed the Tuesdaay win to Archuleta if Cook got to sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and Archuleta had to sing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Cook would have nailed it a la “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Music of the Night.” Archuleta would be forced from his “zone,” as Randy calls it. Maybe he would have pulled it off – the Archuleta we haven’t seen – but likely he would have fizzled. It’s a scenario that supports the reasons why David Cook won the whole enchilada. He is the whole enchilada.