'American Idol' Upset: Why No One's Surprised

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After Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze's final American Idol performances on Tuesday night, the question of who should win seemed pretty obvious—in fact, almost boring in that it didn't even seem close. Our American Idol expert Meghan Brown saw no way around it: "If there's any justice in the world, Crystal will tonight by a landslide. If there's no justice, she'll win by a few hundred votes. Basically: there is no way she doesn't walk away with this thing."

So after homey, nice-guy paint salesman Lee took the top prize, you would expect his camp would be hunched over, awaiting the inevitable swinging blows and biting words of fans and critics. Instead, the general reaction to the news was a moment of initial shock, followed by a shrug and an, "Oh, well. That's life." Despite being convinced Bowersox has more talent, most seem unsurprised by last night's results. Even Mamasox herself seemed to see the loss coming:

"I knew Lee was going to win," she said backstage, minutes after the finale ended. "People seem to be surprised by that. But I had a feeling. I couldn't be happier for him. He deserves every minute of this. There wasn't really a reason why [I thought I wouldn't win]. It was just something that I felt and I knew, and I'm fine with that. Before the show ... I had this strange sense of peace and calm. I've been that way through the whole season. If you haven't noticed, I'm just mellow. I was ready and willing ... for the outcome. We both win. It's not win or lose; it's winner and non-winner. Both of us are going to have very successful careers, and we're going to be friends for a long time."

EW's Michael Slezak echoed Bowersox, calling her second-place finish "not-totally-unsurprising":

So, yeah, I could feed my outrage by remembering that Lee's Tuesday-night performance finale was not the work of someone who's ready to carry on the tradition of vocal spotlessness forged by Kelly Clarkson all the way through to Kris Allen. But what would be the point? America has spoken—and it spoke on behalf of a guy who, when he wasn't hindered by strict themes, chose Hinder and Owl City and U2 and Snow Patrol and Seal, who got lauded by the judges as ''commercial'' and ''current,'' and who is certainly better than the abysmal ''Beautiful Day'' that ended his run of mostly solid performances over the last 14 weeks. He's a guy who botched a few notes along the way, but who sounds like Pavarotti when you line him up against Travis Garland or Ke$ha or a half-dozen of the other woeful chart-toppers who graced the Idol stage this season.

PopWatch's John Young avoids even recounting the endless reasons why Lee shouldn't have won, beginning his commentary with "Well, at least he's a nice guy." Young goes on to point out that, in the end, maybe it's better that it goes to the person who will be most appreciative of the win:

Say what you want about Lee DeWyze winning American Idol (to my ears, Crystal Bowersox outperformed him the entire season), but at least the guy sincerely appreciated the love America showered upon him.

Of course, there are a few bitter voices chiming in, though they're not so much angry over feeling short-changed as they are just seething with quiet disgust:

Jim Catiello of MTV summed up the end, writing, ""American Idol" wrapped up "The Season of the Girl" by handing the "Idol" crown to a boy. Season nine really was as inept as we all thought."

Movieline's Louis Virtel offers harsher words:

That conclusion was a billy club to the knee. You could say the show's ninth season was its worst yet (I know I did.), but a Crystal Bowersox win would've rectified some of the angst. Instead, Idol served a lukewarm DeWyze victory at the end of what was an otherwise tremendous finale, and now the whole 120 minutes reeks of an abandoned paint store. I said it.

So why so much resignation and so little rage? Maybe because the best singer rarely wins Idol. NPR's Linda Holmes, in a post from Wednesday in which she accurately predicts a DeWyze victory, says talent is beside the point in determining the winner:

Lee doesn't inspire anti-Lee voting, but he does inspire enthusiastic superfans, far more than Crystal does. She was better than he was on Tuesday, just as she has been all season, but that's unlikely to make her the winner, when it comes right down to it.
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Aylin Zafar is a freelance writer based in New York.

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