I don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s entirely possible that our next American Idol could be a fierce drag queen or a happily married lesbian.
Idol‘s rebirth on ABC hasn’t been a flawless experience — those two-hour audition episodes, especially towards the end, tested my patience like no other — but there is one area in which it has truly excelled: reflecting the myriad ideals of today’s young Americans. As revealed last night, this season’s Top 14 features a healthy mix of singers of different ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and artistic styles.
But for the first time in recent memory, Idol is also proudly championing the LGBT community, giving opportunities to incredible talents like 24-year-old San Antonio native Ada Vox, a drag queen who initially appeared in Season 12 as Adam Sanders. Even more inspiring than Ada’s message of self-acceptance are her soaring vocals and incredible range as a performer:
For so many viewers watching from home on Monday night, Ada and Lea Michele’s duet of Wicked‘s “Defying Gravity” was a once-in-a-gay-moon moment:
And then there’s Jurnee, 18, who draws inspiration for her powerful performances from her wife Ashley, a soldier in the U.S. Army. Never was that more evident than during Jurnee’s rendition of The Greatest Showman‘s “Never Enough,” which Ashley was able to experience in person:
Beyond showcasing LGBT contestants, ABC’s Idol maintains a refreshing air of inclusion, encouraging contestants to celebrate their differences, rather than trying to fit them into pre-made boxes.
Moving forward, my concern can be boiled down to a single word: America. The road to the Top 14 — which literally spanned 24 hours, just in case you’re wondering where your life went — has been controlled entirely by the judges. No amount of audience reaction (and there’s been a lot!) could affect the pre-recorded results. But that all changes on Sunday when the remaining singers go live, vying for the public’s fickle affections.
I’ve already seen an unhealthy helping of negative sentiments about these singers in TVLine’s own comments. Readers have used words like “annoying” and “over-the-top” to describe them, and have regularly whipped out my personal favorite complaint that the show is “shoving them down our throats.” (For the record, Idol has devoted equal time to everyone. Don’t blame these singers for being more interesting than the others.)
But the comment that really set me off was someone’s assertion that one of the aforementioned contestants is “not American Idol material.” Can we unpack that for a second? Perhaps this person’s interpretation of the show’s mission differs from my own, but aren’t we looking for someone to inspire us with killer vocals and a strong sense of self? If that’s not already the goal, maybe it should be; the mixed (to put it nicely) success of the show’s more recent winners — all of whom were presumably “Idol material” — suggests that a change of perspective is in order.
I’m not suggesting that you should blindly support any of these contestants; there’s plenty of talent to be found in this season’s Top 14. I’m merely calling upon America to approach these live episodes with an open ear and an open mind.
Your thoughts on Idol‘s 16th season thus far? Drop ’em in a comment below.