Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Where to begin with this trainwreck known as American Idol? So many comments, so little time. Let me try to pull together my thoughts....

The people were freaks and the singing stunk.

There, I said it. But I wish I didn't have to. I wish this concept of "talent show" worked. I wish it would lure unknown, deserving talent out of the woodwork, and give it the recognition it deserved. Instead, we were given a gaggle of goons that acted as if they were on a group outing from the home for the mentally and vocally unstable. Scat girl -- Scooter girl -- Chinese Rappers -- Military crackpots. You name it, they were there.

And yet, weren't they supposed to be? After all, the producers have to choose so few from so many to get their chance with Randy, Paula and Simon. If you have Average Joe Singer up against Scooter Girl who does back flips up and down the aisles, who would you pick? Who would viewers rather watch? That's right. Miss November Trainwreck.

So in parade the nutballs. Many of them have no discernable skill in music whatsoever. They have no sense of rhythm, pitch or any working knowledge of their instrument. This slays me. I might as well go be a designer on Trading Spaces. Have I studied interior design? No. Do I have any home improvement skills? No. Do I have any artistic/creative talent in regards to flooring, wall coverings or furniture? No. But I live IN a house, and the house has paint and furniture and other stuff. Good enough.

That's the logic of the American Idol contestant. No training or skills required. As long as their car, shower and/or pet doesn't complain, they must be destined for greatness. So they enter the audition room and wail away, caterwauling their doo-wah-ditty in the hopes that their dumb ditty-doo makes the cut.

After an appropriate length of agony has passed, the contestant generally fizzles out like a spent Fourth of July sparkler. All that's missing is the fwoooooshhhhhh! when you drown it in water. The judges look at each other, and whoever isn't laughing the hardest has to come up with something to say.

Here's the next problem. The judges hurl insults at the contestants. The contestants turn around and hurl insults at the judges. The judges complain that the contestants are rude, and they are only being truthful. The contestants complain that the judges don't know what they're talking about and ooooh won't they be sorry when they find out how WRONG they were.

Ahem. Although the judges are harsh, at least part of it is done strictly for the ratings. Who didn't laugh when he told the poor guy that he would have a hard time making the cut in "Kosovo Idol"? The judgest are paid big bucks to fling invectives because that's what sells. The audience loves to hear them. The same goes for the spew the contestants hurl back. I'm sure there is nothing in the application form about charm, etiquette, poise or politeness. Heck, washed out wannabees even have a separate room to speak their minds after the fact, no matter how blue. Not only does it allow the contestant a few final moments to reign as Cleopatra, Queen of de-nial, it gives the show additional opportunities to flash its logo while it bleeps each curse clean away.

But let me tell you about life in the real world. The real world of singers and teachers. The world of competitions and judges. It's hard. It's tough, and sometimes it's downright cruel. Singers study for years and years and hear criticism week in, week out. That is a teacher's job. It's what they are paid to do. The singer's job is to be quiet, listen and learn, or quite frankly they will be shown the door, and let me assure you, politeness is not required. Fairness doesn't matter. Singers get criticized from head to toe: Hair, clothing, shoes, foundation garments -- nothing is off limits. Singers are used to hearing words like "unacceptable", "bad", "poor", "do it again, do it again, do it again, do it again" on a weekly basis. It doesn't matter if you like the comments or not. You learn to keep your opinions to yourself, and do what you're told. Again, and again, and again, and again, and again, if necessary. If you're lucky, you'll eventually get paid to sing. Talent has a lot to do with it, but so does knowing when to shut up, buckle down and work. There are a million singers out there, and being rude, unprofessional, unprepared or just plain old unqualified, can get you replaced faster than you can say Prima Donna. Ask Kathleen Battle. The Metropolitan Opera didn't care much for her antics and she was shown the door. Forever. It may have been harsh, but it was necessary.

What I'd really like to see from American Idol is more constructive criticism from the judges and more respect from the contestants. Maybe people might even learn something.
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