Country ‘Idol’?

The Season 20 finale of American Idol aired on Sunday, with the top three contestants vying for the crown. In the top three were HunterGirl, Noah Thompson, and Leah Marlene. The latter of which being the sole non-country representative.

Many believed this would be a year a woman won the show and with good reason, as the group of women competitors were better than the men overall. But, alas, another dude got the crown which continues to prove the longstanding “white guy with guitar” theory that has often plagued Idol since its beginning. The theory argues the voting public consistently chooses a “white guy with guitar” to advance far into the competition or even win it. Not saying that this happens all the time nor said person does not deserve to win, but it has been a common topic brought up by viewers for many years.

Thompson fits this bill, but my main qualm was the apparent pushing of the country music genre. Particularly since Idol made the move to ABC. Maybe it’s a coincidence and, of course, there have been plenty of country artists on the show prior to its days on ABC. It just feels different, however, especially this season. If it was not the show ramming former (country) contestant Gabby Barrett down our throats, it was the way in which video packages were constructed for Thompson and HunterGirl compared to other contestants. Heck, even the judge panel consists of a full blown country singer in Luke Bryan and another artist in Lionel Richie who has tested those waters (see Tuskegee).

A quarter of the way into Idol’s ridiculously long, three hour finale, Ryan Seacrest said the third place finisher would be revealed after a commercial break. Said commercial break occurred but, instead of the results being revealed right away, the show delved into a couple of performances and a video package looking back at the season that was. After all of that, they finally got to the results, in which, Marlene finished in third place.

Now, I’m not one to entertain conspiracy theories, but I could not help but go “hmm” when this happened. Usually when Seacrest says results revealed “after the break” it occurs immediately after the break – except for this time. Say what you will, but something just did not add up. Live voting coast-to-coast began at the beginning of the show and I could only wonder if one of the country contestants did not quite have the votes at the time to cross the threshold into second place. Thus promoting a quick change in the order of events to provide a little more time. The performances and video package seemed out of place, too, after Seacrest said what was to happen after the commercial break.

I have watched each and every finale in the 20-year history of Idol – even during horrid Season 13 – but this was the first I turned off mid-show. After Marlene was announced as the third place finisher, there was just no point to continue watching. It’s truly a sad commentary on what has been one of my all time favorite shows. Look, I’m not saying that country artists do not deserve to compete on the show and/or win it. However, it’s undeniable, to me, that the show has been steered into promoting the country genre at the sake of the other genres. Even if it had to be a country singer winning, there were better ones this season than Thompson and HunterGirl. Both of whom, in my opinion, were karaoke at best.

As another season ends and Season 21 commences in a few months, I hope this trend will change. If it does not, Idol may lose this loyal viewer.

Photo Courtesy: Matt Botsford via Unsplash

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