Monday, April 24, 2006

"Idol" on idle

As promised, let's talk American Idol. Generally, I like it. I find the auditions marginally interesting, and don't learn any contestant names until the finalists start to perform live for an audience. But by then I'm involved, selecting a favorite (always female*) and wondering how lesser singers will handle the tricky theme weeks.

What surprises me, though, is how successful the show manages to be without any changes in its format. Ever since Brian Dunkleman quit as co-host, we've had the same host and judges, the same set, and basically the same camera angles. So, unsurprisingly, there's the same dialogue. The following is what happens every episode. Let's say that recently eliminated Ace Young just performed.

RYAN SEACREST: Now let's hear from the judges. Randy?

RANDY JACKSON: Yo, yo, yo. Man, you were up there, doing your thing, and I was feelin' it. I was feelin' it, man, I was feelin' your thing.

RYAN: You were feeling his thing?

RANDY: Yeah, it was a little pitchy in places, but it was all right.

RYAN: (Frozen momentarily.) Okay. Paula?

PAULA ABDUL: You were magnificent. Wasn't he, ladies? (Women in the audience hoot and holler.) You rose to the occasion, and you delivered! And you have such a great aura around you...

ACE YOUNG: Thanks.

PAULA: You know, I can arrange some personal, one-on-one voice training if you'd like.

RYAN: Moving on. Simon?

SIMON COWELL: I have to disagree with Randy and Paula. I thought it was absolutely dreadful. (Crowd boos.) I mean, I could go to any gay cabaret and hear that exact performance. (Crowd gets angry.) No, really, I could! In fact, Ryan and I were just over in West Hollywood...

(Theme music jump-starts)

RYAN: Okay, then! If you want to vote for Ace, dial 1-866-IDOLS-07, but please wait until after the show. And watch tomorrow's live results show. Stay tuned, House is next. Seacrest, out.

SIMON: He is so out.

Six finalists remain, including Elliott Yamin for some reason. I also think Taylor Hicks is singing on borrowed time, leaving a Final Four of Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Paris Bennett, and Kellie Pickler. (College basketball season is over. Let me have this.)

Finally, I'd like to comment on that last singer. Many wonder about the whole dumb blonde thing, and whether it's an act to get votes. Kellie Pickler is from Albemarle, North Carolina, where I once called home, and still visit every so often. It's a good place to live, but not a lot happens. A young woman who's lived there all her life and goes to Hollywood will exhibit a little culture shock. I don't know if she's dumb, but I think her naïveté is genuine.

* Kelly Clarkson, Kimberley Locke, LaToya London, Katharine McPhee. (I didn't watch Season 4.) I'm biased, plain and simple. Women make better solo artists, and the industry reflects that. Look at any list of Grammy nominees for Male Pop Vocal: you have Seal, some newcomer, and three classic standbys (like Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Sting). I know there's a new wave of earnest male singer-songwriters, but will we remember them in five years? I mean, James Blunt? Kill me now.


Anonymous said...


K-Lyn said...

I was a Bo fan...but it was the hair. If it was cut he'd have had no power.

However, I also only watched when office pools required it. This year it was March Madness. I wonder what new world I will be forced to discover next.

Neel Mehta said...

Anon: The folks here would agree with you. And easy on the caps lock.

K: As long as you're not thrust into some morbid celebrity death pool, I think you'll be okay.

bdure said...

What's funny is how the Idol producers expect us to have short memories. Simon can gush over someone at a first audition and then act as if he never liked them when he's running out of bad singers to skewer. And Kellie Pickler was presented to us as a survivor of a hardscrabble upbringing, only to be ridiculed as a dumb blonde in Hollywood.

That's why I stop watching after the auditions. The amusingly awful singers are long gone, and I have little interest in seeing America whittle through a group of mildly talented people. (I don't mean that as an insult -- I honestly think Kelly Clarkson is terrific, and I was mad as hell that Latoya London was cut as early as she was.)

Bottom line is that I'm just not that impressed with people who sign pop songs. I've always been a singer-songwriter fan. There's something inherently phony about singers who have no connection to a song other than its selection by a producer, and Idol's insistence on theme nights ("Here, Fantasia, sing some country music for us!") only exacerbates the problem.

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