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!