This season's "American Idol" finale was full of surprises, some of which made that moment when Clay Aiken bumrushed the stage with his k.d. lang-like surprise makeover look like nothing. And I'm not even talking about Lee DeWyze's victory, which was shocking to many viewers who thought Crystal Bowersox deserved the Idol title. No, I'm talking about the other
118 minutes of the show. Here were the finale's biggest bombshells, in order of overall shock value:
Simon gets a "We Are the World"-style singalong - Simon Cowell has helped launch the careers of many Idols, and dozens of them joined forces to bid him farewell--including all the winners except David Cook (who had a prior charity commitment) and past finalists like Blake Lewis, Allison Iraheta, Ace Young, David Archuleta, Mikalah Gordon, Justin Guarini, Kimberly Caldwell, Constantine Maroulis, Bo Bice, Diana Degarmo, Michael Johns, Brooke White, Melinda Doolittle, Matt Giraud, and Jason Castro. It was like the "Idol" version of Band Aid, and it was genuinely goosebump-inducing to see so many Idols all in one place. Simon must have felt like a proud papa; in fact, when he joined the mob onstage to give his parting remarks, he was uncharacteristically sweet. "I didn't think I was going to be this emotional, but I genuinely am," he began. "I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support and the fun....When everyone asks who is going to replace me, the truth is you guys [the viewers] are the judges of this show, and you've done a great job." Then he looked over at Ryan Seacrest and added, "Even you, I'm going to honestly miss." Aw. I miss Simon already.
Bret Michaels jams with Casey James - Mere days after suffering a stroke and learning that he has a hole in his heart, then still triumphantly limping onto the "Celebrity Apprentice" finale in victory, the nine-lived Poison frontman joined his doppelganger Casey for "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." It was definitely awesome, but come on, Bret--you just nearly died. Could you maybe take just one day off? We need you to rest up for when you're inevitably offered Simon's job next year!
William Hung's pants hit the ground - It wasn't exactly a surprise that General Larry Platt returned to Idol" to perform his viral audition song, "Pants on the Ground," since that tune was probably more popular and more talked about than any of the actual contestants' performances this season. Sure, it was a little surprising that Larry had picked up some killer dance moves and kept up with his much younger baggy-trousered backup dancers, but it was the sudden appearance of "Idol's" original wacko auditioner, William Hung, rapping alongside Larry, that had jaws as well as pants hitting the ground. William still bangs after all these years.
Paula Abdul returns! - Looking gorgeous in a Barbie-pink minidress, Paula showed up onstage to bid her former costar farewell, and at first it was a total love-fest, and it seemed like she'd never left. Her seemingly unrehearsed speech started off sweet, then went a little sour as she made awkward jokes about her secret Simon lovechild and babbled through her tears. But Simon appeared genuinely thrilled to see his old comrade, and once she walked down to his desk to embrace him, all was forgiven. Paula will obviously be forever Simon's girl.
Janet Jackson gets nasty - Rocking a daringly tight-to-the-scalp crop and an even more daring, even tighter catsuit (Janet's pants sure weren't on the ground!), unannounced guest Miss Jackson turned the "Idol" stage into a Rhythm Nation during her freaky number. Can she be a mentor next year?
Ian Benardo pulls a Kanye - Simon Cowell's sendoff began with Dane Cook's kinda-funny musical number, "Simon Says." Unfortunately, just as that performance started to get good, as Tatiana Del Toro, Renaldo "You Are My Brother" Lapuz, and Norman Gentle hit the stage, loudmouth Ian Benardo--a man more famous for his two failed "So You Think You Can Dance" auditions than his 2007 "Idol" audition of Laura Branigan's "Gloria"--pulled a Kanye and purloined the mic. Ian wasn't supposed to speak (none of the number's participants were), and so the producers decided, "Imma not gonna let you finish!" and they pulled the plug and cut to commercial. It was a rare "Idol" moment when Simon didn't get the last word. (In other news: Look for Ian Benardo, Soy Bomb, and that purple-shirted crazy redheaded woman from the Oscars on the Interruption Tour this summer.)
Alice Cooper schools the top 12 - The show opened, kind of puzzlingly, with a group number featuring the top 12 in "Facts of Life"-style school uniforms, singing "School's Out," a song that sort of implied that it's a relief that this season is over. Siobhan Magnus, a big horror fan, was probably psyched to perform alongside the legendary shock-rocker, but she no doubt would have preferred something more along the lines of "Welcome to My Nightmare." I know I would have.
Crystal Bowersox gets ironic - It was rumored that Crystal would duet on the finale with her own idol, Melissa Etheridge, whose "Come to My Window" was her personal song choice on Top Three Night. But instead she sang with surprise guest Alanis Morissette on an "Ironic"/"You Oughta Know" medley. (They didn't do "Hand in My Pocket," the Alanis song Crystal covered earlier this season.) It was a strong performance by two strong women, but their voices were so similar, it was hard to tell where Morissette ended and Bowersox began. Still, Crystal more than held her own alongside Alanis, and she'll probably be headlining Lilith Fair 2011.
(All photos courtesy of Fox)
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- Simon Cowell
- Crystal Bowersox