Wednesday, May 23, 2007

American Idol: A Singing Competition? Please...

Simon Cowell needs to give up trying to convince us that American Idol is a singing competition, much less a serious one at that. Please, Simon - you know exactly what this competition is, and you are its puppet master (and a very good one at that)

If AI were really about singing, then tonight's finale would be Melinda Doolittle versus some other fabulous singer with real experience and chops. If AI were really about vocal excellence, Frenchie Davis would have gotten to the final weeks of her season, rather than getting the boot. If AI were really about being the best singer, rather than the Lowest Common Denominator, then it would be a completely different show. And probably cancelled three weeks into its first season...

And THAT is why AI is what it is. Melinda, Frenchie, and the few truly talented individuals who have graced the big blue stage are the exceptions to the rule; they legitimize what is, for all intents and purposes, a high school prom queen contest. (Clay Aiken was SO robbed...)

AI is about the dumbing down of the American Listener, the relentless push of musical mediocrity upon a public all too willing to settle... Not to say that some of the contestants aren't actually talented singers, some of them are, but so very few of them are truly talented, dare I say, gifted, musicians.

Of course, the truly gifted are already out there making their own music - whether anyone is hearing it or even buying it is another story altogether in this day and age of corporately programmed radio stations, "music" television, and ProTools gee-whiz fakery. Sure, a lot of the stuff we hear these days is fun and entertaining, but its really hard point at the record and radio charts as an indicator of any talent. Pop and rock radio have long been populated with popular, yet vapid music but for many years, you could find solid acts throughout the charts, people you could be proud to listen to rather than today's cringe-inducing crap that ClearChannel/Viacom/American Idol claims is "music"

And so, we talk endlessly about Haley Scarnato and Sanjaya Malakar instead of Melinda Doolittle and Chris Sligh (a guy who I feel is much more talented that some are giving him credit for) - did you see Haley's dress? Did you see Sanjaya's hair? For all his musically inclined bluster, Simon can't help but pimp these comments himself, leering at Haley and ridiculing Sanjaya for their looks - if he really wanted the best singers in this competition, then he certainly missed a lot of opportunities in the last day of Hollywood week this year (and in all other past seasons).

If AI were really a singing competition, Melinda would be going home a winner tonight. Instead, she lucks out and goes home in third place, a good place to be if you want a real music career that merely gets a boost from the AI phenomenon.

If there is any justice in this world, Melinda will go on to become a true legend of blues and gospel - she has the voice, she has the experience to pull it off, and now she has the exposure to boost sales of her first recording.

Jordin will win tonight, and she may have a bright future ahead of her; she's young enough to make something of her time in the spotlight. Blake will have a career for a while, but he'd better keep something on the back burner for when the girls give up on him.

Which will probably be right around the time the next season of American Idol gets underway...


GG said...

I really like some of your comments, but the thing to me is that I don't think anyone tries to sell it as the world's greatest singing competition. They've never strayed away from the fact that they are looking for a pop star. Using the word "Idol" in the title of the program versus calling it "America's Greatest Singer" shows me that while they do want good singers, they also want people with charisma, good looks, and someone who can promote the brand.

Also, putting it in the hands of the public is all about popularity. How can it not be? Is the US President ever the best candidate for the job? How would we know? While I don't think you said anything I could necessarily disagree with, I guess I just look at it in a very different way. I don't really care if Chris Sligh can play an instrument. I really only care that he can project something on TV that makes me think he's good at what he's doing. And he never did that.

Mike said...

I actually agree wholeheartedly with GG here. In the history of popular music, the most popular has only rarely been the most's a competition geared as much towards marketing as it is towards skills.

Andrew said...

I get what both of you are saying, and I do understand how "popular" music works and has worked all along - I'm just a grump about the whole thing, I guess.


maybe the band competition will appeal to me more...(tries not to get hopes set too high)

GG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GG said...

Hey, this is your blog. You can say what you want. Even if you are grumpy!

maybe the band competition will appeal to me more...(tries not to get hopes set too high)

I'm wondering about this and am not sure I'm going to give it a chance.

By the way, I think the sentiment from people who can sing is that Chris Sligh and Gina Glocksen are probably better singers than their ranking. So there you go. Your boy Chris Sligh is still getting love.


Anonymous said...

Mediocrity prevails at epinions too--especially in the music section. YAAAAAAWWWWWWWN!!!!

Your article tells us nothing definitive regarding the differences between the singers you praise and those you slam. Just platitudes piled high and deep. Don't quit your day job, pal!