“The Problem is with American Idol”
That was the conclusion made by one of my Thanksgiving dinner guests during a conversation we had about the Adam Lambert AMA controversy. Not surprising, since I’m one of the few people who will admit to religiously watching American Idol, and my friends tolerate my ODD as some kind of benign chocolate addiction – heh.
But I must admit that I was surprised that one of my guests saw the problem as less an artistic issue and more a “handlers” issue. The full comment was as follows:
“The problem is not Adam Lambert but that godforsaken enterprise that is American Idol! I mean, who else had the means, the clout, and the irresponsibility to put out an untried and untested performer to close out an established awards show? Just so they can promote their brand? But no one wants to talk about that!”
My other guests concurred. They don’t just not watch the show, they loathe American Idol, even though I’m always trying to convince them that there is genuine talent that emerges from the show – not just our David but Melinda Doolittle, Jennifer Hudson, Ruben Studdard, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia, Daughtry, Jordin Sparks, and a host of others. But the talent isn’t what bothers them; it’s that these contestants are seen as not having “paid their dues,” and so, there was an overall rejection that any of these artists are worthy of their “hype.”
Obviously, their view of Adam Lambert is that he’s “derivative.” Another guest was appalled, not by the gay kiss or the simulated BJ but by how he completely ripped off Madonna – “down to the same damn mirror on stage! And I’m sorry, but who the hell is Adam Lambert to think he even measures up to a legend like Madonna, or even a Britney, to be complaining about ‘double standards’!”
With such anti-Idol sentiments expressed, I’m rather relieved that David isn’t fully embraced by the 19 Machine, given there is this perception out there. If the distance increases between him and the show, then the negative backlash against the show won’t necessarily affect him, not to mention his talent will stand the test of time. David is young enough to recover from the Idol stigma and will be able to flourish even more so once it’s off the air. Still, I do think it’s unfortunate that, rather than be known as a legitimate discoverer of rising stars, they are now only known for hyping up “untried” talent, shoving said talent down audiences’ throats, and bullying the music scene with a preponderance of Idol contestants (the AMA featured a total of five out of the roster of performers and presenters) – not all of whom are respected, simply because they are seen first as reality-TV personalities and second as music artists (if even that). I mean, on the Kaleidoscope show, David was still being introduced as an Idol alum (but then, the show was aired on FOX, so I’m going to let that slide).
What I took away from this conversation was an aspect of the Glambert controversy not often discussed, which does reflect a mix of homophobia and general outrage at what is often perceived to be “too much sex” in the current pop music scene, but one that is combined with American Idol fatigue. After all the build-up of AL’s “shocking” debut, only for people to be really “shocked,” just goes to show that the American Idol machine will do anything it can to pimp out their artists so it can remain in the public conscious. Meanwhile, its continued focus on sales, cheap publicity, cheap gimmicks on the show, high ratings, and yet another season of hype, hype, hype will ensure that the show will go on – whether or not we want it it to.
In all this hoopla, I’m just grateful that David came off the show with his unassuming humility, integrity, and incredulous Voice still in tact.