You guys. I’m so sad. I can’t even begin to fathom why Skylar Laine went home in fifth place when she really should have won the whole damn thing. Last year’s top 2 were so utterly dull compared to their competitors, but we all sighed and shrugged “ah well, it’s hard to beat an adorable, all-American country-singin teenager…” And yet. So, ya know, color me retrospectively pissed, and also just plain pissed in general.

It’s frustrating because I know that this is just one of those things I’ll never understand. I’m a simple midwestern girl. I say what I mean, I don’t like things ironically, I own exactly three pairs of shoes, I have no patience for makeup. Music is sacred to me, and I have a wide-reaching appreciation for all different kinds of music, but as with everything else in my life, I’m definitely from the school of Less is More. This is why I tend to enjoy Idol more than its competitors, because X Factor and The Voice tend to go a little overboard with the elaborate stagings and the faux-rivalries between the celebrity mentors when all I really want to see is the music. (For the record, this is also why my favorite show in this genre is in fact not Idol but The Sing-Off.) I am so in awe of both Jessica and Hollie, they are a couple of incredibly talented kids, but I was never going to enjoy them as much as I enjoyed Skylar because they’re all about the spectacle, while Skylar is all about the music.

This week both Jessica and Hollie put on some really beautiful, emotional performances, but I couldn’t help feeling that the studied, deliberate drama in their vocals was a poor substitute for the kind of true emotion and raw passion that their age makes it frankly impossible for them to convey with such adult material. Consider the time Elise sang One and Only:

THIS is what it looks like when an artist truly connects with the song they’re singing. No, it’s not pitch-perfect, but the moments when it’s not perfect are perfect in their imperfection. When she goes sharp on the line “God only knows why it’s taken me so long to let my doubts go,” when she looks right into the crowd and chokes up on “I promise I’m worthy,” when she pleads at the audience to “come on give me that chance…” It’s heartbreaking. You can feel the pain in the song because it’s her actual, real life pain. It takes a grown-ass woman to pull that off. Hollie and Jessica have such incredible natural instruments that they keep tackling these huge songs, but to me they often come off like a couple of little girls playing in their mommies’ pumps.

Skylar Laine, in contrast, is the real deal. She is not trying to be anything other than the fiesty, bubbly teenage girl she is. When allowed to choose her own material, she always chose age-appropriate songs that allowed her to have fun, rock out, and let her natural personality and charisma shine. More than any other contestant all season I felt like I actually got to know Skylar, because she put it all out there every time she took the stage. So for someone like me who appreciates realness, Skylar was a breath of fresh air. Also, there’s a marked difference between musicians who make music because they like to and musicians who make music because they have to, and I believe Skylar Laine is the later. She sings with urgency, like the music has been living inside of her, crawling just below the surface of her skin, and if she doesn’t get it out it’s going to eat her alive. That’s my favorite kind of singer.

It’s baffling to me why the voting public failed to rally for Skylar Laine, but we all know by now that in the world of Idol, the competition is only the first battle of a much larger war. As sad as I am to see Skylar go, it’s hard to feel sorry for a young woman with such extraordinary promise and such a bright future ahead of her. SO, rather than saying goodbye to Skylar, I’ll say “see ya soon.” See ya in 2013 at the top of the charts, selling out stadiums and rocking the world of country music.

XX

Until next time, in honor of Skylar’s 5th place finish I present for you the top 5 reasons Skylar Laine is my 2012 American Idol:

and last but most importantly: (Let the record show that 1:37 into her first live performance was the exact moment Skylar stole me heart forever. I could play those 5 seconds over and over ad infinitum. It never gets less amazing.)

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