Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, and John Klima. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


American Idol Resources

As an update to my previous AI post, I stopped watching until they whittled the competition down to the Top 24, and am now watching Wednesday night shows, which means I'm missing the guys (though apparently I'm not missing much, according to Randy & Simon). To fill in the blanks, I've discovered the following nifty tools, which you may also find useful, especially if you don't watch the show but want to stay informed about all the goings-on:

  • Idolatry, a weekly webcast with Entertainment Weekly's AI obsessives;
  • The Whole Note's summary of the show's Final 12;
  • Of course, Television Without Pity's recaps.

Happy viewing. Or, you know, not.

And, a public retraction: in my previous post, I rooted for Alaina, but I must have jinxed her because she absolutely stank like several tons of very cute garbage after that accolade. I was relieved when America did not vote for her, and have subsequently thrown my support (like everyone else) behind Melinda. She had me at "My Funny Valentine".



Confessions of an American Idol Virgin

Friendly readers of Pop, I have a confession: until last week, I had never watched an episode of American Idol. I can see you all clutching your pearls right now. I know, I know, it's shameful that I, know-it-all Pop Maven and Pop Culture Evangelist, have not been a devoted viewer since the days of Kelly & Justin, but there you have it. At first, I was too snobby ("Reality TV? Puh-leeze. It won't last!" -- Clearly, I was about 12 kinds of wrong, there). Then, I had a real excuse: AI judges & viewers were going ga-ga over the kind of vocalist who makes my toes curl: singers of the Diane Warren-worshipping, Celine Dion-imitating, 12-octave-range-cultivating, melisima-overusing school. With one notable exception (Classic Whitney Houston, and possibly, oh, let us all pray for it, the sans Bobby Brown Whitney Houston Of The Future) I cannot abide singing like that -- there's an overabundance of "emotion" in it, but no real soul. Give me some Aretha Franklin or Ronnie Spector any day over the cold vocal gymnastics of your average AI contestant.

Then, I got over my snobbishness, right around the time Kelly Clarkson's kickin' single "Since You Been Gone" hit the charts, but by that time, it was too late. I am married to an even bigger musical snob than I, and even if I'd been able to overcome his objections ("I'll TiVo it! I'll wear headphones while I watch it so you don't have to endure Simon, Paula, and Randy's fatuousness!"), there were competing TV interests in the same time slot. Gilmore Girls and Lost wins, AI loses. Except Lost has been on hiatus for a while, so I was able to surreptitiously record one episode -- the Hollywood auditions, and watch it. Herewith is my review:

My lord, this show is mean. I've always heard that Simon is famously mean, but I don't think so: he's just blunt. He clearly relishes being blunt, but seriously, the Parade Of The Deluded (TM David Cross) strutting across the screen -- that guy Eccentric, who referred to himself, without a trace of irony, as a panther? The engaged couple, one of whom openly propositioned Simon? -- what kind of response do they think they're going to get from him? (Ok, clearly they think they're going to get a "wonderful! You're in!" but this just shows how out of touch with reality they are, and that's pitiable.) I know that the bizarre behavior and obvious should-know-better behavior is supposed to be part of AI's charm, but I just found it cringe-inducing. I was embarrassed and sad for those people -- deluded & talentless singers they may be, but they are still people. I know that more than two or three of the 121 contestants made the cut in LA, but that's all we saw -- two or three good performances (the girl who sang "Feelin' Good" was particularly great, I thought -- go, Alaina!) and the rest of the hour was padded out with sad dreck.

Now, we have both a VCR and a TiVo, so I could record AI on the VCR and watch it, but should I bother? Pop readers, you have your assignment: convince me to carry on watching American Idol. Give me some good reasons -- not just "it's what all of America is watching, so you should, too." I can keep up to date with the show without watching by reading about it in Entertainment Weekly. Why should I watch, though? Convince me in the comments!

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The Current Democracy of Pop Culture

Fascinating NY Times article on pop culture's dependency on user involvement. It's not just about voting for a singer on American Idol, though. It's about voting to continue the fascinating, potentially soap-operatic storyline of your favorite character/singer on American Idol:

“Voting is actually incredibly easy and therefore not that meaningful,” said Michael Hirschorn, executive vice president for original programming and production at VH-1, which plans a voting-based show of its own, “Acceptable.tv,” this spring. “I don’t think there’s a desperate hunger in the public to grab the reins of artist development.” He added: “But I do think there’s a desire for a deeper emotional connection to artists.” [emphasis mine.]

I'd go even farther than that -- there's a desire for deeper emotional connections, period. I think that's a major part of what drives the success of sites like MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr -- people are trying to connect with other people. The internet is a much warmer place than it was even 2 years ago. What are libraries doing to participate in that trend? How are we using these tools to help our users fulfill their desire for deeper connections with the world around them?

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