I have a confession to make: I love “American Idol.” There. I said it. Now, there’s no turning back.
Oh, I am not a big fan of so-called “reality” shows. I know that a lot of them are scripted, and the people on them ham it up for the cameras. They create a false sense of worth, distorting what is valuable and good in the world. But this show – up to a point – is different.
The 2014 edition of the show made its debut this week. For me and my family, this is a big event. We have family dinners together and afterwards watch the show. We keep in touch long-distance and talk about the judges and our favorite contestants. We are moved by the personal stories and we root for the underdogs. And we vote and wait to see who wins. All of this is fun. All of this is positive.
But There’s More
What sets American Idol apart from its competition is that you can learn things if you pay close attention. Just this week the judges were talking about the pentatonic scale and explaining what it is. They offer advice about pitch, breathing control, and how to take care of your voice. We also learn the cold facts about the music business, how many truly talented people are out there, and how difficult it is to make it.
There is a down side. There is one thing that bothers me. Right now, we are in the audition phase, the point where they decide who goes to Hollywood to take place in the competition. I like this phase because it brings out the “freaks.” These are the free spirits who dress and act differently. These are the guys who march to the beat of their own drum. Most of these people are sent packing, but they don’t care. They just follow their passion and it does not phase them one bit: I love it. (See Right: William Hung.)
The problem comes when there is a talentless contestant whom others have given a false sense of a dream. These are the people who have been lied to all their lives: either that or else they are delusional. They get rejected for the first time in their lives and they have a meltdown right before our eyes. This is the one element of the show that bothers me: the people who are ridiculed or who face emotional trauma just to win the “Golden Ticket” to Hollywood, and it is shown to us, supposedly for our enjoyment.
What’s the Verdict?
American Idol saw its rating drop in 2013. There are rumors that this will be its last season. Most of last year’s judges left, including Randy Jackson, who had been there from the start. Producers retooled the panel.
Back again is Keith Urban (above left), popular Australian county singer and guitar virtuoso. He joins a returning Jennifer Lopez (above middle), dancer and pop legend, and newcomer Harry Connick, Jr. (above right), jazz pianist, actor and singer with a smooth-as-Sinatra voice, who appeared on the show last year as a coach.
The trio works together well. Gone is the drama and bickering that annoyed fans last year in favor of upbeat humor and good feelings. It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief. The show is enjoyable again.
Led by “Mr. Everything,” the super-smooth and ultra-professional Ryan Seacrest (right), American Idol again hits the mark. Some 75,000 fans have auditioned for a chance to make it as a pop idol. And the show still manages to turn out stars (see Phillip Phillips for an example), and after all, isn’t that the name of the game?
So, what should viewers expect to see this year? I have already noticed some patterns. Of all the Judges, Jennifer Lopez tends to be the most lenient. She has a hard time saying “no” to contestants, and not much of a talent for humor, especially compared to her male counterparts on the panel. Harry Connick, Jr. has the most critical eye and a refreshing new perspective about what does and does not constitute talent. Keith Urban falls somewhere in the middle; although he suffers the unfortunate consequence of being slower than the others to voice his opinion. As a result, he is the one most likely to have to break a 1 to 1 tie and judge the contestant’s fate.
Some viewers may claim to long for the “good old days” where Simon Cowell was cutting contestants to shreds with his acid tongue, and Paula Abdul was busy punching him on the arm and trying to shut him up. I don’t. I don’t like any talent show where the egos of the judges overshadow the purpose of the show.
If people want an injection of nasty in the show – and producers want to give the public what it aches for – I have a suggestion: why not hire the Soup Nazi (right) as the head judge? I hear that he is currently looking for employment.
Although I would warn them that he might pass anyone through to the next level.
It’s time to have some fun again. Let’s all settle in and support the show. And let’s pass the word, so that it doesn’t die. American Idol is still worthy of its spot on our TV agendas. Open a bag of Fritos and give it another shot!