by Jim David / The Huffington Post / May 21, 2009
The best singer didn’t win a freaking singing contest.
When Kris Allen defeated Adam Lambert as the Season 8 “American Idol,” it was, as predicted, a seismic upset. The Chicago Sun-Times said, “David slayed Goliath.” Endless bloggers posted reactions like “The biggest robbery since Bush stole the election” and “The end of American Idol’s last hope at relevance.”
Everyone, from the judges to Google to Yahoo to the Vegas odds makers, predicted a Lambert victory. They were right, and everyone knows it. In the end homophobia won, and everyone knows it.
Yes, homophobia is alive and well, which is why Lambert lost the ultimate title. Go ahead — give me another reason. Yes, Lambert is over the top and screams a lot and is campier than Liberace at Radio City. Sure, Kris Allen is a cutie, and has pleasant enough vocals, and he’s nice. But a better singer, or performer, than Lambert? Please.
By anyone’s estimation, Lambert was the best vocalist of the entire Idol season and one of the best, if not the best, in the history of the program. He towered over every contestant, exposing them as the amateurs they are. Every Lambert performance was an event. If this competition were only about singing, he crushed everyone else the second he walked onstage.
Kris Allen is a very affable and attractive young man. He is a decent vocalist with a very limited range and marginal talents. He should have made it to 3rd place at best. Time will tell if he reaches the level of John Mayer or Jack Johnson.
The final round, if vocals were the actual standard, should have been Lambert and Allison Iraheta, the precocious 17 year old with the whisky crusted Janis Joplin voice. But vocals, as evidenced by this and other Idol seasons, are not the final standard. In the end, a ‘likeability’ factor intrudes, turning ‘Idol’ into the Miss America Pageant or, more realistically, the high school Homecoming coronation.
Melinda Doolittle lost to Jordin Sparks. Chris Daughtry lost to Taylor Hicks. Jennifer Hudson lost to … anyone. It’s a real shame that Idol is decided by the public and not just music professionals, because let’s face it, the voting public is not that bright. The public voted George W. Bush twice as president. The public thinks Halliburton is Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s daughter. The public votes on who they want to ‘hang out’ with.
In that event, Allen won by a landslide. Lambert hangs out with kinky L.A. theatre folk who dress wierd, stay out all night, and possibly do drugs and get into compromising positions. Allen hangs out at a local Arkansas bar, has a beer or two, strums a song, and then goes home to wedded Christian bliss. (Of course, I’d rather hang with Lambert’s crowd. How much fun do you think they are? Are you kidding?)
If the contestants had zero backstory, Lambert would have decimated the competition. Instead, Allen’s Christianity, church roots and corn-fed wife were exploited, as were Lambert’s musical theatre roots (i.e. his ‘theatre fag’ history). He didn’t say a word about his sexuality, but didn’t need to. For that we had the Internet, zapping anyone’s private photo library to the world, so photos of Lambert swapping saliva with a guy went viral, as well as a lot of his very strange yet riveting LA cabaret performances, turning off the homophobic majority.
Yes, a majority of the country is homophobic. If it weren’t, gays would have had their rights back in the 90s when the Europeans got them. We wouldn’t have a majority of states with a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. We wouldn’t be fighting for even rudimentary domestic partnership laws in some cities and states. We wouldn’t have anti-gay imbeciles like Maggie Gallagher, Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber or the “God Hates Fags” morons getting publicity. Yep, if American weren’t homophobic, Lambert would be waving to the crowds from a convertible.
Bill O’Reilly, a homophobe who knows what plays to his old white guy audience, did at least two features on Lambert’s sexuality, creating an issue where none needed exist. He first brought up the Internet photos of Lambert kissing a guy and asked if this would be a “problem” for America, an America who might not have even thought about it until O’Reilly brought it up. And right before the Idol finale he brought on Newsweek’s Ramin Setoodeh, author of an article about the “Christian vote” going to Allen, again planting a seed in a public who might not previously have thought of it. O’Reilly is a skilled propagandist, warning us against the evils of the secular world before they even entered our minds. And Steoodeh wrote, post ‘Idol,” about reasons why Lambert may have lost, neglecting to mention how he himself may have contributed.
I’m sorry a simple musical theatre actor from California and a simple guitar strummer from Arkansas have to bear this cultural burden, but there it is. Despite Allen’s pleading that “It’s about music, it’s not about religion and all that kind of stuff,” it is indeed about religion and all that kind of stuff. Danny Gokey’s pastor Twittered, “We need a believer to represent.” Even Rev. Ted Haggard, the most frightened homosexual in America, Twittered that he wanted Allen to win. A Lambert win would have scared the bejeezus out of him.
Conservatives are all still stinging from their defeat at the polls in November. They wanted something to take home. They couldn’t possibly let a guy who wears eyeliner and nail polish win, no matter how astoundingly talented he is.
It is to Lambert’s credit and astounding talent that he got this far, and the media sensation he has created ensures him a very exciting post-Idol career. He’s a phenomenon who has earned every bit of ink he has created. He made ‘Idol” relevant again. His outrageous performances woke up a sleeping audience.
And he made, without really trying, a great leap for gays in America. The American public learned his sexuality early on and still voted for him into the finals, even if they were too scared to give him the ultimate prize. But they obviously had their limits. Perhaps if he hadn’t sung his finale “Mad World” performance in that ‘Basketball Diaries’ cloak, which made us fear he was a misunderstood youth about to pull out a semiautomatic and open fire on the tweens in the mosh pit, he would have won.
Even Kris Allen, at the end, said, “Adam deserves this. I’m sorry.” It’s Allen who will have to endure the publicity of how it really should have been Lambert up there. He’s a nice guy and doesn’t deserve it. He should enjoy his victory. But he was competing against Goliath, and these things happen. David himself would have had to deal with the fallout.
Originally posted May 21, 2009.