Only in America.

It was bigger than any convention for either party. It was bigger than a Super Bowl. It reached out to more television sets than any program in history. In the end, a scruffy, 25 year-old bartender with facial stubble and messy hair stood weeping in mid-stage as American Idol, 2008, amid screams, confetti, cheers and record contracts falling at his feet. David Cook’s rise to stardom, fete accompli.

Over 95 million viewers participated in the voting process. That doesn’t say much for the poor turnouts we see for political elections.

I’m not a big fan of today’s pop music culture, but I have to give credit where credit is due.

This show does it well.

It all begins with three judges — Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson — scouring the nation for signs of talent, selecting a very few from thousands of auditions from amateur singers who — if they get the thumb’s up — move on to the next phases. Contestants must be between ages 16 and 29. Once the final dozen is assembled, the voting is all left to the fans. Judges critique each performance, but have no more weight in the scoring process.

I don’t take well to all of it. Teeny-bopper girls waving hands and screaming at the foot of the stage during and after each performance is more of a distraction than an asset to the show, and it’s sooo scripted. Some of the finalist kids are voted upward based more on popularity, and less about their musical talent. Such was the case, in my humble opinion, of dreadlock-laden Jason Castro, who had little stage presence to accompany his voice, yet millions of young fans thought he was “cool.”

Nevertheless, the majority of talent that did emerge via the voting process was worthy of stardom. Syesha Mercado, who finished in third place, was my pick for the top spot. This young woman not only sung beautifully, her range and versatility of music far exceeded most of the competitors, and she displayed stage presence equal to anyone on Broadway, past and present.

Brooke White, pianist, guitarist and vocalist also exhibited a vast range of styles. I had thought that Michael Johns, the eldest of the group, would have won it all. His Rock & Roll was dynamic as any. Seventeen year-old David Archuleto, who looks more like he’s thirteen, was the favorite of the judges. I didn’t agree. The boy has a good singing voice, but that’s where it stops. His lack of maturity seeps through. When the songs are over, he reminded me of a little kid opening toys under the Christmas tree.

The final ten weeks are grueling for all the kids who are still in the mix. They must learn an array of new songs and rehearse constantly, plus participate in more choreography with past finalists who are still part of the American Idol summer programs.

What I would change: Much like the premise of “Dancing With The Stars,” reduce the weight of fan voters to fifty-percent with judges (maybe five instead of three) weighing the other half. And dump the screamers.

Nevertheless, I’m hooked. I’ll look forward to the next season as American Idol starts fishing once more for the best hidden singing talent in the nation. Never can tell. It could be someone you know. Maybe even — you.


  1. Jack & Helene Stevens May 22, 2008 at 10:45 am #


  2. Doris Stiles May 22, 2008 at 11:02 am #

    good fun for our whole family to watch together. The humiliating people at times is not so good but it has educational value between the adults and kids. That is probably the most amazing thing about it: there is adult and child appeal. We are hooked too…

  3. Jack A. Milavic May 22, 2008 at 11:15 am #


    You are stronger than I for enduring this series. I admire you for your ability to sit through it.


  4. Jo May 22, 2008 at 11:16 am #

    Dancing With The Stars anyday….don’t care at all for American Idol!!

  5. Nick Sorak May 22, 2008 at 11:23 am #

    How about electing the leading politicians the same way as American Idol?

    I bet it could be good for the country.
    Fire the Electoral college!


  6. Sal Richards May 22, 2008 at 11:24 am #

    I agree, however my chioce was David Arculetta. This kid was smooth. But he’ll have a career anyway. Where were these shows when I started out?

  7. Lisa Ballantyne May 22, 2008 at 1:58 pm #

    I’m a total addict, and in total agreement with the majority of the voters that the big prize went right where it needed to go. David Cook posesses the single quality underlying the whole premise of achieving stardom: he’s an original. Not afraid to take something written and recorded by someone else and make it truly his own rather than a carbon copy of the original. I voted my fingers off for the scruffy-looking Missouri bartender who stole my heart with his rendition of Billie Jean when I had originally claimed a fanship of Kristi Lee Cook who shares my Gospel roots. Once David performed the Chris Cornell verison of the song popularized by Michael Jackson, that was “it” for me…I had in a sense, found a new “Cook” for my “kitchen,” and I never, ever looked back! Yeah, he’s different…he’s original…unlike any contestant I’ve followed during any of the seasons past. And it’s the fact that he stood out and set himself apart from the crowd that blew me away. Yes, I’m all of 46 years old, but his “mugshot” as it were, has graced my desktop background along with my MySpace page ever since I woke up and realized that he was truly the “only” choice! And the results from this season speak for themselves: this show is “not” a game of “Simon Says!” And thank God above that “Simon Cruel” had enough manly balls to apologize last night for his uncalled for comments on Tuesday’s show! America has spoken! Rock on, David Cook!

  8. HOPE May 22, 2008 at 3:14 pm #



  9. Ed Hensley May 22, 2008 at 7:22 pm #

    Wow Marshall! Ninty-Five Million Viewers
    voting for an American Idol and I did not
    watch a single session. Well, my wife is
    hooked on Dancing with the Stars and one
    silly viewer vote TV show is enough for me.
    As for a hook in me, it’s music videos on
    youtube, from country western & gospel on
    through classical and even a little opera.
    To each his own. Have a good Memorial Day.

  10. Leslie May 22, 2008 at 9:34 pm #

    Well, Marshall…again I concur with most of your blog. I have been watching for ALL 7 SEASONS!!! I can tell you this…American Idol has come a LONG WAY since Kelly Clarkson. As far as I am concerned, this was the best one by far!Especially the finale…a night of the 80’s consisting of legends within the music industry performing for us all. From what I could get out of the performances, the celebrities seemed to be more HONORED to be performing with the idols, when it was actually the idols that were starstruck!!
    Here is my pespective. I am ecstatic over the results this year. I favored no one David over the other. I loved them both equally, but for their individual assets. I agree Syesha was a rightful contender, but think Michael Johns should have placed in spot #3. Not sure what America was thinking that week. My thoughts were remiscent of the “Taylor Hicks” Season….What the????? I also agree that Jason Castro should NOT have been voted off as late as he was. what a cocky little “tongue-in-cheek” attitude he displayed…especially the way he laughed his way through his “final song” that night. Whatever! Let’s just say that it came as no surprise that this kid chose “Bob Marley” songs, although don’t get me wrong..I am a MUSIC fan of Bob Marley..but that is as far as my fanaticism extends!!
    I am pleased as to what American Idol has produced this year, but I feel David Archuleta would have benefitted more from the win. Do you remember 2 season’s ago when America gasped in unison over Chris Daughtry getting voted off? Look at him now!!!!! His albums(yes, that is how old I am) went multi-platinum. It was a blessing in disguise. David Cook is a more seasoned performer with more experiences under his belt. He is already groomed as far as talent goes and would succeed immediately after the AI summer tour! Little David Archuleta is younger, and has less experience. The American Idol Posse can prepare him for the excitement and challenges he is about to face. Aside from that, while a certain number of AI contestants are tied, the winner not only is linked ball and chain style to American Idol AND Fox (and producers) for a YEAR…the Fox network remains privity in contract for 5 years thereafter!!! Bottom line…David cook does deserve his crown but I feel that his talents will be inhibited as a result.
    By the way…This year will be the 3rd time that my daughter and I will be attending the American Idol summer tour!!! I can’t wait!!! Take care!!!

  11. Tom Ault May 23, 2008 at 8:04 am #

    For a change, I have no comment. Maybe I should spend less time fishing.

  12. Larry your old vagabond May 23, 2008 at 6:08 pm #

    You have way too much free time, old pal of mine. From now on, whatever questions I receive about FEMA detention camps, mosques in Detroit and general nastiness from business chums in Texas, etc., I’m referring to you. In fact, a “girl” that I graduated with from ole NMHS was my first referral. Maybe she’ll send her question to you. Enjoy.

    Seriously, I don’t watch either show, but Laurie loves “Dancing With The Stars”. But then, she taught for Arthur Murray. Poor thing married me. You’ve been present, also, when I “danced”. Poor Laurie, right?

    By the way, many of the Obama primary voters opted for him because he’s “cool”, too. Cool is important for those like David Cook and Barack Obama.

    Keep writing. I’ll keep reading.


  13. Monique May 24, 2008 at 7:10 am #

    So now what do we do on Tuesday & Wednesday night. Lucky for us Canadian Idol will be starting next week, oh yah and the hockey finals. Well maybe it will be nice enough to sit outside without a winter parka.

  14. Jack MacLean May 24, 2008 at 7:51 pm #

    I grew up with singers like Doris Day and Frank Sinatra – no screaming, smoke or fireworks just great vocals and fabulous orchestrations.
    Ole timer!!!

  15. Pat Wilson May 27, 2008 at 3:29 pm #

    I couldn’t get into it when I watched a few times in the beginning years, so have no comment.

    Pat W