Still gonna keep trotting out that tired old trope about how it's a singing
competition and not a popularity contest? For the second year in a row—and possibly the third, but, in truth, the Davids were a toss-up in most ways—the contestant with the better voice lost to the contestant that was more likable. First it was the sweet, tween- and mom-friendly Kris Allen
using a $2.50 voice and a million dollar smile to take down the far more talented but ostensibly dangerous and challenging (gay) Adam Lambert
. And now we get Lee Dewyze, the impossibly unassuming midwesterner (who the producers loved to remind us was working at a paint shop before coming on Idol, as if all the other contestants were high-powered lawyers or something) whose vocal capacities are solid but limited and whose genre of choice has remained vague—something between David Cook-style alt-rock and dorm-room troubadour stuff—taking down the most fully developed performer that show's ever seen, in Crystal Bowersox. Her voice is superior and her style is more carefully honed, but as I said yesterday
, it worked against her, making it seem like she didn't really need the show. Eventually this, (along with some dialed-in performances toward the end of the season, rubbed people the wrong way.
And I'm perfectly fine with the idea of American Idol as a popularity contest. That's what it's always been, really, and that's what all pop music has always been—there's a reason technical virtuosity doesn't always equal success: we like a good story, we like obvious shortcomings, we like over-the-top humility and a generally pleasant demeanor. Lee had all those things, Crystal only the first two. It wasn't enough, and it never should have been.