As bored and fatigued as I am by American Idol (as my previous post indicated), you can pretty much guarantee that I still am and still will watch this ridiculously contrived show. Bad habits die hard, I guess.
Besides, I might as well chronicle to my readers what I’ve been up to and what I’m tuning in to (or, I could really let loose and tell y’all why I am sooooooo not feeling current “cool” artists like Justin Timberlake – Hmmmm, on the other hand, maybe I should do a whole post on why his vanilla-style version of R&B is so not my cup of tea as an R&B fan who was conceived by and raised on the music and why, in all seriousness, David Archuleta’s vocalized hints of R&B will always, always, always be superior to my ears).
Gee, readers, do you all want me to go in on why I think Justin needs to have several seats while I plead with David’s team to let him show folks how real blue-eyed (or hazel-eyed in his case) soul-singing should be done? That post is coming!
But back to American Idol…
I’ve been watching Idol since its inception. And remember those days when it dominated television. It came on the heels of some real dramatic moments. First, when CBS’s “Survivor” introduced viewers to a whole new way of getting invested in “real” people going through interesting competition. Then, in the wake of the Elections 2000 debacle and the September 11 disaster, it gave us a light-hearted way to tune out of “wars on terror,” to vote in a way that our votes mattered (and couldn’t be taken away from us by the Supreme Court), and introduced us to some new talent – and a diverse array of talent at that.
I tuned in and out during the first season, got sucked in by Ruben Studdard’s promise of bringing back the Luther Vandross-style of R&B during Season 2, got extremely excited when other contestants like Kimberly Locke and Clay Aiken gave him a run for his money, and cried my eyes out when Fantasia overcame the shock boot of Jennifer Hudson to sing the cheesy coronation song like it was meant for gospel during Season 3.
Season 4 was all about Carrie Underwood, and while I didn’t care for country music, couldn’t deny her obvious beauty and talent and thought she was a nice contrast as the next Idol winner after Fantasia. And Season 5 gave us such an eclectic group of personas: Taylor Hicks, Elliott Yamin, Chris Daughtry, Kelly Pickler, and Paris Bennett. And who would’ve seen a Taylor Hicks winning just from pretending he had anything to do with “soul,” as his “soul patrol” fans would have us believe?
But no matter, because Melinda Doolittle came on Season 6 and just shut everyone down in terms of how you do and demonstrate vocal masterclass. And other black “divas” – Jordin Sparks, Lakisha Jones – held their own that season, with the young Jordan winning. And while I was totally invested in a Melinda Doolittle win and promised to shut out Idol forever!, David Archuleta happened the following season.
And the rest, as they say, is history!
And again, my favorite Idol didn’t win, and again, I tune in to see what new contestants have to offer us. And again, there is promise, some manipulation, some drama. But mediocrity really came into play.
The after-David era of American Idol, which produced generic “white guy with guitar” winners and forgettable also-rans, really demonstrated how lightning really doesn’t strike twice. Once you’ve found your idol, that’s it! So, I know better than to think there will be another David Archuleta or another Melinda Doolittle or another Fantasia.
But at least give us a good show!
The judges have really lost the spark of entertaining criticism (Simon Cowell was always great at that), and the producers were foolish not to let the diva showdown between Mariah and Nicki play out in the competition. It’s clear they have their favorite contestants. Why didn’t they think to let them mentor their favorites (the way The Voice and X-Factor does) so that their catfight could be felt in the competition itself? A Mariah-endorsed Candice Glover versus a Nicki-Minaj-endorsed Amber Holcomb showdown would’ve been epic, IMO. But the producers know nothing of parlaying behind-the-scenes beef into on-screen entertainment.
Beyond that, pick some new songs! After 12 seasons, you mean to tell me Idol hasn’t broadened their song selections? What is their problem? And no, I’m not one of those folks who believe in singing “current songs” (which mostly suck!).
With all the ’60s music they’ve done, they never do a whole range of music. Just Beatles and Motown. Why has no one ever sung “Moon River” or a Bob Dylan song? Why, when they sing Broadway, have they never featured songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook?
And, here’s a concept! Why have we never heard any patriotic or traditional songs? What would a contestant sound like singing “America the Beautiful” or “Amazing Grace”?
And, here’s another concept! Why can’t we get an a capella theme, where all contestants sing without the band? If this is a “singing competition,” prove it!
And if we must have accompanying music, what about real “current” music, like electronica and – gasp! – hip hop? You mean to tell me you’ve got Nicki Minaj on your judges’ panel and not one hip-hop mentor to do a hip-hop theme night? (You know, in which the contestants have to sing along with a rapper’s collaboration.) That would be epic!
If the producers can’t keep the show from being anything but a show, then yes, it’s time to wrap up. Because, let’s face it: No one needs to find the “next American Idol,” when we’ve already got 12 of them running around, not to mention all the other runner-ups and finalists doing their thing.
I watch out of habit, but for god’s sake, I want a show that doesn’t bore me to tears. Is that so hard to do?