'American Idol' Season 18 Roundup: Here's our top 5 takeaways from the recently concluded singing competition
The latest season of American Idol just aired its grand finale on the ABC network, finishing off in spectacular fashion by crowning Samantha Diaz aka Just Sam as the eventual champion. Louis Knight and Julia Gargano were the first two singers to get eliminated at the start of the final episode, leaving a Top 5 of Arthur Gunn, Just Sam, Dillon James, Francisco Martin, and Jonny West.
They then each performed two songs as they vied for the watching American public's votes, with the deserving winner Just Sam crowned as queen of the crop at the end, with Arthur Gunn finishing in second place.
Just Sam, the talented singer who used to perform on the subways of New York City completed a fairytale ride to the top of the heap, in a rags-to-riches story for the ages. Raised in the Frederick Douglass projects by her grandmother, the 20-year-old Harlem native conquered her insecurities and misfortunes by transforming herself into an incredibly self-assured performer, full of grace and femininity, and blessed with a gorgeous voice that conveyed emotion, conviction, and intensity.
She squeaked past the equally-talented Nepali from Kansas, Dibesh Pokharel aka Arthur Gunn in the final. The raspy-voiced singer eventually ended up as the runner-up, but he could've easily won it all himself on the basis of his amazingly consistent performances. Week after week, Arthur Gunn amazed everyone with his incredibly passionate and raw, soulful voice, and quite a number of his fans were shocked that he was not crowned the winner when the grand finale concluded.
However, there can be no complaints after this final, as Just Sam and Arthur Gunn were undoubtedly two of the best voices on the singing contest, so it looks like the fans got what they wanted.
Here are our Top 5 takeaways from the recently concluded Season 18 of 'American Idol'.
Amazing talent on display
This season contained some of the best vocal talent in recent memory. 'American Idol' had been criticized in the past for allowing sub-standard performers and boring, mediocre voices to have a shot at the crown, but you won't be hearing those complaints about Season 18. Right from the auditions round, it was evident that the crop of contestants who made it to Hollywood Week were bonafide talents, and any one of them definitely had a legitimate shot at making it all the way to the Top 20.
It proved to be a tough decision for the judges to keep eliminating people who clearly belonged on stage, but it couldn't be a contest without some tough choices and heartbreaking eliminations.
Original singer-songwriters shone
In recent seasons, we've been witnessing the rise of a rare breed of performers - original singer-songwriters. American Idol has traditionally been a show that has showcased vocal talent, not songwriting talent, but no one told these contestants that. This season, there was a dramatic influx of singers who were capable of writing their own hit songs, from Jonny West and Arthur Gunn to Julia Gargano and Lauren Mascitti.
This is undoubtedly thanks to the incredible success of last season's runner-up Alejandro Aranda, aka Scarypoolparty, who fearlessly incorporated original songs into his weekly performances on Season 17, while many others chose to play safe and perform covers. We hope this trend continues to flourish because we can't wait to witness a line up of original, authentic talents pitting their best songs against each other.
One of the most destabilizing aspects of this season was the unprecedented effects of the coronavirus pandemic that gripped the globe. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, production on 'American Idol' stalled, as the contestants were sent home to wait out the quarantine period with their families. To the producers' credit, they maximized their resources and managed to complete the contest on a great note thanks to satellite links and virtual teleconferences, as the show substituted its famed live shows for the much more subdued remote access home editions.
The cheering live crowds were definitely missed, however, so this season will be remembered mostly as a one-off exception, and we can fully expect to see the show back on track with its live rounds by next year.
Misery loves company
Over the course of the season, one of the issues that most fans seemed to be harping on was the fact that the producers seemed to want to showcase numerous contestants whose sob stories tugged at our heartstrings. While hearing these genuinely sad tales of sorrow and triumphing over the insurmountable odds definitely makes for great television, there's only so much you can sympathize with someone before feeling like your emotions are being manipulated for votes.
From the audition rounds all the way to the final episodes, there was a concerted attempt to portray some contestants as down-on-their-luck underdogs, in order to elicit a pity vote from viewers who empathized with their struggle. Fans made it clear on social media that it was a singing contest at the end of the day, and partiality shouldn't be given to people who were being portrayed as victims, rather than victors.
It felt like an orchestrated set up to maximize the emotional quotient of the show, so it's hoped that the producers keep these sentimental stories to a minimum rather than milking them for all they're worth.
Genuine talent got shortchanged
One of the most infuriating aspects of this season was the fact that the judges and the watching American public didn't seem to recognize great talent when they heard it. Far too many genuinely talented performers simply didn't have enough people who believed in them, and they were unfortunately eliminated far too early for most fans' liking. Again, it happened all the way from the auditions (Saveria) and Hollywood Week (Space Cowboy) to the Hawaii round (Shannon Gibbons) and the final episodes (Makayla Phillips).
But let's keep in mind that it's an elimination competition, and there is always bound to be outrage and disappointment every time a fan-favorite doesn't progress the way that their avid supporters wanted them to. We should actually be grateful that these singers were given the platform to showcase their immense capabilities, and in that aspect, the show definitely came through with flying colors. What a rollercoaster season of emotional intensity it's been! We can't wait for Season 19 to begin already.