Breaking It Down: Who won Season 14 of American Idol came down to one thing and Nick Fradiani had “It”

Hunk City reigned supreme

Hunk City reigned supreme

The one reason Nick Fradiani deserved to beat Clark Beckham for the American Idol Season 14 title happened in the opening number.

With Fradiani and Beckham singing with Fall Out Boy, the appearance started to look like the old Sesame Street bit of “One of These Things Is Not Like The Other.”

In the center, Patrick Stump, the formerly-fat-now-skinny front man of the band whose song tattooed itself to the brain of every male sports fan during the college football season.

On stage right, Fradiani, looking every bit the star, singing and directing the crowd to have as much fun as he was.

Stage left, Clark Beckham, looking out of place, like the dude sitting in the corner of room at a party waiting for someone he knows to arrive.

There it was. We had the rock star, an Idol who looked like a rock star and another who looked like he couldn’t wait to get off stage as fast as possible.

Who would you have picked to win?

Fradiani looked the part of the rock star the second he stepped on the American Idol stage and last night was just a giant exclamation point on what everyone already knew.

Did he have the best voice? Nope. Was his stage performances better than everyone’s? Nope. But you know what he had that nobody else could match? That ‘It’ Factor that turns American Idol contestants into bona fide rock stars (BOOM LATIN IN YOUR FACE).

Without interviewing the guy I can’t really confirm, but my guess is Nick went into American Idol with a plan and he stuck to the plan. I’m sure all the Idols have a plan, but like Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. One thing or another went wrong – a critique, a missed noted, whatever – and some of the competitors tried to make up for it instead of staying true.

Nick never strayed too far from his plan. His song selections were never perfect, but they were always good. His on-stage energy and charisma made up for his vocals – dude’s got a good voice, but if this was the Idol of old where vocal ability mattered the most, Nick’s not getting past Rayvon Owen, Quentin Alexander or Clark – and turned what should have been ordinary performances into something you remembered.

His final night on the Idol stage was the most impressive and showed everyone he really deserved to win. He looked like he could have replaced Stamp as the lead singer of Fall Out Boy and in his last performance, a duet with Andy Grammer, you couldn’t tell who was the rock star and who was the guy trying to win American Idol (part of that could have been the fact that they both looked like they were made at the same Hot WGWG Factory).

So will it translate into future fame? My guess is yes. While music snobs across the interwebs bemoan the WGWG, the fact is those are the guys who make the best music and those are the guys people pay to see. Is anyone applauding the musicianship of some of last night’s performers like Pitbull, Chris Brown, Prince whatever or even J-Lo, who simply played a backing track, pretended to sing and danced? No.

Nick is in a good spot and will probably end up the star of the 2015 Idol Tour. His single, “Beautiful Life,” is going to be a monster hit. It’s the best original song Idol’s had since Phillip Phillips’ “Home” and while I think many people will initially discount Nick because of the Idol stigma, those same people are going to find themselves singing his song on the radio because he’s more than just an American Idol winner.

He’s a rock star.

Now with all this said about Nick’s on-stage charisma being the difference, don’t mistake this for a takedown piece on Clark Beckham. He had the best voice of the male performers – you could argue Quentin, but then it comes down to musical preference – and Nick’s was rather karaoke by comparison.

What Clark didn’t have was the chameleon ability that Nick had. Whether it be his age, experience or upbringing – in my experience, those with strong religious ties struggle to adapt out of their comfort zone – Clark’s downfall (if you can call making the finals that) was struggling when he ventured outside of his comfort zone. Applaud the man for trying to be different, but it didn’t work.

I point this out because it’s not going to get mentioned by most Idol reviewers. I’ve only been doing this for two years, but I’ve noticed there are two distinct styles – those who go out of their way to be nice and those who go out of their way to be mean.

I’ve made no secret my love for Clark. His performance earlier this season of “Takin’ It To The Streets” was the No. 2 moment of the season for me behind his duet of the same song with Michael McDonald last night, which was the No. 1 moment of the season for me and was the most excitement I’ve had watching TV since ever (sorry Malcom Butler, Tom Brady, etc. IT’S MICHAEL MCDONALD).

Just because I have a man-crush doesn’t mean I’m not going to point out why he didn’t win. The good news is, it’s ultimately fixable because the things that didn’t need fixing – his voice, his musicianship and his hunk city good looks – are what are going to give him a nice little career. This minor issue will be fixed by performing more, getting older and realizing people want to see him succeed.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for Clark because, if we’re being 100 percent honest, I’m more likely to see a guy like Clark live at a small outdoor venue in some ritzy city playing smooth music than Nick at a 10,000 seat arena because I’m old, or at least grown tired of going to concerts with drunk college kids (unless I’m in the mood).

Idol isn’t going to define Nick or Clark. It was a heck of a stepping stone and a chance for them to really get a career going. The best part is what happens next isn’t up to a tricky theme, a fan vote, a Twitter save or a judges’ critique.

It’s up to them and based on what they showed this season, they both know what they want.

(It’s clearly to meet me at the Providence show August 3. OBV)

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