Considering past finales have featured Rihanna, Beyonce and Lady Gaga, American Idol was a bit shy on star power Thursday night.
And some of the stars who did take part in the festivities — 79-year-old Frankie Valli and 71-year-old Aretha Franklin — are a wee bit past their prime.
But it helped that the show brought back two of its best singers ever in Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert.
And it helped mightily that the show discovered a sense of humor.
It all added up to a two-plus-hour season finale that breezed along and begged the question: Why can’t Idol be this entertaining all the time.
The highlights and lowlights:
Best performance: I absolutely loved Angie Miller’s performance of “Titanium” with Adam Lambert. She started off on piano, as she so often does, then joined Adam center stage and held her own with one of the best male singers the show has ever featured. It gave me yet another reason to wish Angie had made the finale. I still think she would have put up a more impassioned fight for the title than Kree Harrison.
Runner-up best performance: The Band Perry showed up and performed its latest single, “Done,” which one might say is a wee bit more upbeat than its mega hit “If I Die Young.” It’s a flat-out rocker, and Janelle Arthur showed up on stage and rocked out with Kimberly Perry in brilliant head-banging fashion.
Worst performance: You think I’m going to let up on Mariah Carey now that the season is over. Oh, no. Rather than sing a single song, she decided to bless us with tiny snippets of her greatest hits — perhaps to remind Nicki Minaj of how many she has had. The performance was pre-taped, not live. Yet Mariah still apparently felt the need to lip synch the entire thing. At least it seemed lip-synched to me. I thought it was obvious when she wrapped up the medley with her auto tuned new ditty called “Beautiful” and when Miguel’s voice was suddenly being broadcast, though he was nowhere around. The sooner Idol boots Mariah the better.
Runner-up for worst performance: Aretha doesn’t like to fly, we’re told, so she sang a medley of her hits from New York while the Idol gals stood on the stage and tried to harmonize with a singer on the other side of the country. It wasn’t quite the same as performing live with Beyonce. And it showed. There’s a performance that never should have left the drawing board if Aretha wasn’t going to leave New York.
Best comedy segment: The Idol guys theorizing that the gals had launched a conspiracy to ensure a female winner in Season 12. They searched and searched for who was beyond the plot. And who did they find conspiring with the Idol ladies, none other than Jordin Sparks, the show’s last female winner. “It was easy,” she said, “none of you play guitar. The good news: Idol leftovers are doing really well on The Voice.” Ouch.
Runner-up for best comedy segment: It was time to razz the judges. First, the Idols made fun of Randy’s favorite expression: He/She “is in it to win it.” “It feels special when he says it to you,” Candice deadpanned. “But when he says it to everyone after you, you feel kinda stupid.” It got better when it was Nicki’s turn. All the Idols donned outlandish wigs. Someone handed Candice a multi-colored clown’s wig. “Nicki would never wear this,” she said, before reconsidering. “Well, you never know.” The segment ended with Devin Velez wearing a bright blue wig. He stood and turned, showing off leopard print pants stuffed with lots of padding in the backside.
Night’s nicest touch: Jessie J. apparently has no qualms about flying. So she flew in from the U.K. to do a duet with Angie Miller, one of her biggest fans. What’s more, she offered to perform Angie’s original “Set Me Free” at a concert with her in the U.K. at some point in the future. And, apparently, we’ll soon be able to download that song.
Another nice touch: And Kree Harrison got to take the stage with Randy Jackson and Keith Urban to perform “Where the Blacktop Ends.” I’ve always liked watching the singers perform with the coaches on The Voice; it was nice to see it happen on Idol, too. It’s just a shame neither of the divas could leave their judges’ seats to perform with one or more of the contestants.
And a farewell: And Idol, of course, said farewell to Randy Jackson, the only remaining judge from way, way back in Season 1. In keeping with the evening’s light-hearted theme, a montage of The Dawg’s greatest and funniest moments was introduced by a group of dogs sitting at a conference room table, bemoaning his departure.
Want more from the season finale:
Head here for a blog on Candice’s win.
Head here for a photo gallery of Candice’s win.
Head here for a photo gallery of Thursday’s performances.
Head here for a photo gallery of Thursday’s arrivals for the season finale.
And check back Friday for interviews with Kree Harrison and Candice Glover, plus a blog with 10 tips for improving Idol in Season 13.