At the beginning of this season, Idol used his humor and "fish out of water" act to "sell" him. His audition featured him blowing his nose and gently teasing Ryan and the judges, acting like he wasn't sure exactly what all this "American Idol" stuff was all about. During Hollywood week, he could be counted on to make dry, witty comments about what was happening all around him. Throughout the process, he's the guy who's been a step above it all, observing the crazy and shaking his head. And, until recently, the show seemed to turn to him for a break in the action or a bit of humor. But the show counted on Heejun eventually playing by their rules and it didn't really happen.
The past couple of weeks, things have started to turn which has more to do with Idol taking itself too seriously rather than Heejun not taking it seriously. Heejun was never going to be a traditional, pretty boy pop star. He clearly has no interest in playing that game. He's a guy who likes to sing and, if it turns into anything, that's a bonus. He doesn't need the judges or Jimmy Iovine to give him his sense of self-worth. He is singing to the kids he works with and to the people he loves. If he grabs other fans, it's a bonus.
The thing is Heejun is an adult. He's got a real job that makes him happy and has a family who clearly supports him. Heejun is happy with his life, no matter what happens. He's not one of those starry-eyed 16-year-olds who think that a singing career is about fancy clothes and cheering audiences. If this ends tomorrow, he'll go home and back to his life and look back on all of this and smile. I can't imagine he'll have a second of regret or "gosh, if only..." thoughts.
Heejun got a lot of heat about last week’s performance. If you didn't see it, he started out all serious, but switch to singing "My Life". He was dancing around and, while not the strongest vocal performance of the evening, it at least kept me awake. There was a lot of chatter about Heejun being disrespectful, but I disagree. He was sending a message, but it wasn't a negative message. He sang it: "I don't need you to worry for me 'cause I'm alright..." Unfortunately for Heejun, the Idol Powers That Be don't like a kid who isn't going to kiss up to them, so there was a lot of frowning and tut-tutting.
I hope this doesn't change him, but I'm afraid it might. What Idol doesn't need is a(nother) boring kid who's just so excited to be here, but that's what Idol is demanding. Idol would rather having Tommy Hilfiger "style" the contestants into his idea of a "star" (by the way: good call taking Erika, who was already one of the least-recognizable singers, and making her completely unrecognizable.) Heejun pokes the Idol machine and they don't like it. Unfortunately, Idol will make sure Heejun toes the line, and then they will wonder why they are losing viewers.