Lee DeWyze beats Crystal Bowersox on 'American Idol' in Simon Cowell's farewell

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, May 27, 2010; C01

Texting tweener chicks and perimenopausal women, having not yet slaked their thirst for Super-Safe Rocker Boys, added Lee DeWyze to the list of "American Idol" winners Wednesday night, beating early front-runner Crystal Bowersox of the dreadlocks and comb microphone-stand/bong.

In a surprise to absolutely no one -- except Lee, who was apparently the only person who had not expected a DeWyze walkover -- the part-time paint salesman from Mount Prospect, Ill., became the franchise's third consecutive Super-Safe Kinda Beige Rocker Boy winner. DeWyze follows the super-safe Kris Allen who, similarly, in 2009 beat the spectacularly talented but ultra-polarizing guy-linered Adam Lambert, and 2008's super-safe David Cook, who beat out the spectacularly talented but creepily dad-dominated David Archuleta.

Weirdly, tweener girls and middle-aged women seem to love to vote for these super-safe guys -- they just don't buy their albums or download their tunes much.

These days, Allen is probably best known as the star of the Ford Fusion commercials that ran during "Idol" broadcasts:

In my old car, I had CDs all over the place.

In this car, if I want to play a CD, I push it in and I record it.

The music is IN THE CAR, you know, forever now.

And Cook? So far as we can tell, he, too, is pretty buzz-free.

That's in marked contrast to most of the "Idol"-winning chicks who have become bona fide stars, such as Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson and Season 4 victor Carrie Underwood. The most successful male Idolette to date, Chris Daughtry, was booted out with three rounds to go the same year that viewers picked Taylor Hicks to be that year's "Idol" winner.

For the first time on an "Idol" season finale, host Ryan Seacrest did not say how many votes were cast by viewers Wednesday night. Last year, he boasted of nearly 100 million votes.

That is in keeping with the slow fade that is generally conceded to have been "Idol's" most lackluster season ever -- including the smallest audience since the show's first (summer) season for this past Tuesday's performance show.

Blame has been spewed in many directions since the show's ninth season debuted in January -- one day after Simon Cowell, the face of the franchise, announced that he was leaving to free himself up to launch his "Idol" knockoff show, "The X Factor," in fall 2011. "Idol" immediately began to falter.

Some people point to this season's loss of judge Paula Abdul -- who for the first eight seasons, as a judge, was the show's resident weirdsmobile den mother. Paula took a powder after the show's producers and Fox network would not give her a big raise for this season, as they gave to judge Cowell and Seacrest. She made a return visit Wednesday night to strut her stuff, just two days after CBS announced it would tailor a new dance-competition series to her.

"Hi, Ellen," Paula, up on stage in a hot-pink minidress and yards of leg, said to comic Ellen DeGeneres. who was hired to replace her and did nothing to move the ratings needle.

"Hi," Ellen said uncomfortably. "How are you?"

"Want to dance?" taunted Paula.

Others blame the ratings decline on the decision to pull all of Simon's teeth this season as part of the show's "aspirational" makeover. Simon's scathing critique of Idolettes had been one of the show's big draws.

Christian Newswire has blamed the addition of DeGeneres, explaining: "What successful television producer could have a clue what wholesomeness is as long as they see promoting homosexuality as a virtue."

But many more subscribe to the notion that the trouble is in the guitars. Ever since the show decided to allow Idolettes to use instruments, it has led to a glut of guitar-wielding, slightly scruffy guys with soulful faces -- like DeWyze, Cook and Allen. Chicks dig guys with guitars.

On that aspirational front, a concerted effort this season to seek out fresh faces and super-raw talent resulted in a lineup of particularly uninteresting competitors. While Lady Gaga dominates the pop music scene, more colorful characters such as last season's Lambert and this season's Siobhan Magnus -- she of the wild outfits and smiley-faced backtalk -- and busker Bowersox don't seem able to bubble up to the top of the voting.

So Bowersox escapes the whole "American Idol" beauty pageant syndrome -- shilling for Ford, etc. -- and instead becomes the latest front-runner to be fawned over by the show's judges for most of the season, only to lose in the final viewer vote.

In an eerie replay of last season, Bowersox walked off with Tuesday's final performance night -- as did Lambert last year and Archuleta two years back.

Once again, the final results show had a Singing in the Waxworks theme to it, in which this season's Idolettes performed with aged pop stars including Alice Cooper, Barry and Robin Gibb, Michael McDonald, Darryl Hall and John Oates, Joe Cocker and Chicago.

Despite DeWyze's totally predictable win, the night was not lacking in drama:

Poison frontman Bret Michaels came out on the "Idol" stage Wednesday to perform his band's tune "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with Casey James, while everyone held their breath. Michaels, who suffered a brain hemorrhage in late April, was rushed back to the hospital a week ago after suffering a "warning stroke," then showed up on a live "Celebrity Apprentice" episode to win that competition.

After Idolette Michael Lynche performed a duet with McDonald, America's least-funny comic -- seriously -- Dane Cook sang a tune about Simon's best insults as part of a night-long so-long to Cowell:

"Simon Says 'No' so often the only time he says 'yes' is when someone asks him if he just said 'No,' " quipped Cook. I told you -- least-funny comic ever.

"You, sir, have the honesty of Abe Lincoln and the charm of the guy who shot him," Cook told Simon.

Cook had plenty more where that came from. Fortunately, not on this show. During his number, a bunch of former Idol competitors, including Ian Benardo and Renaldo Lapuz, came out on stage. Benardo grabbed the microphone and began to filibuster until the cameraman swung the camera out to the audience and they cut to commercial.

"If you missed it, I got Kanye'd on American Idol," Cook tweeted minutes later.

"That was not staged. Weirdo hijacked the song. Just glad he didn't hit me in the face w/the mic or 'American Idol' would b 'American Beatdown.' "

© 2010 The Washington Post Company