Brutal Honesty, or Just Plain Brutal?

Top 24 Week.  That was the week David performed “Shop Around.”  He did not yet wow us with “Imagine” (that would be Top 20 Week), but he definitely showed his potential at this point.

Having watched the Top 24 on AI Season 9 this week (and almost missed Mirai Nagasu skating in the short program as a result – thank God I’m not interested in tonight’s results show so I can focus on Women’s Figure Skating Finals competition), I must say: this is a fairly weak bunch of contestants.  No one has shown their potential yet.  But, since Top 20 week is when the frontrunners start peeking – think David’s “Imagine,” think Melinda Doolittle’s “My Funny Valentine” – I’m not yet ready to write anyone off.

But, dammit, Simon!  DIAL IT DOWN!! Actually, if the show’s producer has not yet taken you aside, after this week’s judging, then I’ll do it for you:  Unless you want one of these contestant’s family to sue your ass for causing their child’s nervous breakdown or attempted suicide, SHUT IT!

I’m telling you.  If Simon Cowell really doesn’t want to be on the show anymore (could he look more bored?), then he should just leave now. Why drag it out for another season (and rip apart some young aspiring artist’s soul in the process)?

I know, I know.  Some folks will say that 1) Simon is just being Simon and 2) after eight previous seasons, these new crop of contestants should know what they’re in for.  

I don’t think so because here’s the thing.  In the previous seasons, when Simon is “just being Simon,” he was PERFORMING meanness.  It was expected of him to have a razor-sharp tongue, and when he opened up his mouth, his cruelty was always delivered in over-the-top sound bites, so you didn’t always take his meanness literally.

So, for instance, when Simon rips David up for singing Chris Brown’s “With You” by telling him that he “was a chihuahua trying to be a tiger” (something similar to what he told Carrie Underwood about being “a kitten trying to be a tiger”), it’s not the kind of insult that would crush your spirit because, quite frankly, the insult is neither here nor there and has absolutely nothing to do with whether you sang well or not.  

But, when Simon tells someone (like poor Alex Lambert last night) that he just needs to get off the stage if he’s not ready to project stage presence or (as he told Todrick after rearranging Kelly Clarkson’s Since You Been Gone in an R&B style) that he’s just “stupid” for doing such a thing, I have to recoil and say: HOLD UP! 

See, there’s a difference between performing meanness and being downright mean, and this week on this season, Simon is being down right mean.  And, I want to know why he thinks he’s entitled to quash young people’s self esteem like that.  You can be honest without being nasty.  And the contestants he was being mean to were already nervous appearing on the AI stage before a live audience for the first time.  Imagine how soul-crushing it is to then be told on national TV that you are stupid and don’t belong in the competition.  Imagine, worse, if after such a tongue-lashing, that you then get voted off the following night by “America”!  

I have a newfound respect for David for having gone through that fire and come out gold.  But it also explains why he froze up and had PTSD when he returned to the AI stage last season (I do hope these Idol alumni have health coverage for therapy).

If I don’t embrace this new season of contestants, partly it will be the level of talent, but the other part would be Simon being “brutal” rather than “brutally honest.” And there is a difference.

Now I understand why Ellen is in the line-up: these contestants absolutely need a compassionate judge to soothe their souls. Boot Camp indeed!

Posted on February 25, 2010, in American Idol. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Great post HG!

    I never followed AI that closely until David. Last night, some of Simon’s comments did seem a little personal. Ryan acts as if he’s just going thru the motions with the show; it seems like he has other things on his mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves at the end of this season. And that version of “Apologize” I heard was pitiful; the poor guy singing it looked like he was about to cry after the judges comments.

    • To quote Peter from about a month ago “Die beast die”. My feelings have been that AI existed to bring us David Archuleta. ( which is not to say there were not other good artists as a by product) but David was hugely impacted by AI as a boy, an avid fan of the show, felt compelled to try out the first year ge was eligible, and the rest is history.
      I believe things happen for a reason and I cannot being to know many things unseen, but that is my humble opinion. David was put through fire and survied stronger and for all the world to see his amazing talent.
      So it is time for AI to end, I lost interest after David anyway ( and had pretty much lost interest before)

  2. Tim Urban’s “Apologize” was unbelievably bad, Desertrat, but instead of Simon just saying his usual – “that was hideous!” or “that was painful!” – he actually said: “There’s a reason why we didn’t initially pick you for the Top 24 because you really don’t belong here.”


    See what I mean?

  3. HG,

    Looks like Patti LaBelle agrees with you.

    Many past Idol participants have shared how traumatized they were by being on the show.

    Ironically, there are some people who criticize and say that the Idol alumni haven’t ‘paid their dues”. Oh they have, and paid dearly!

    • That was a good article. I wonder who Patti was talking about because she seemed to think that more than one judge isn’t qualified. I thought Ellen and Randy gave the the most useful feedback last night. I didn’t care for Kara’s flirting w/the guy who sang “Heaven” and Simon’s attacks were too personal.

    • Glad I’m not the only one who was suddenly fearful for the contestants’ mental health! 🙂

      I so agree with Patti (and I think she was specifically calling out Simon for being an ass and completely unhelpful in mentoring the young talent).

    • BTW, Bright Light, do you remember which Idol alum shared their traumatic experience?

      • Phil Stacey did last year. It was on MJ’s blog. I’ll see if I can find it.

      • PStacey … he also mentioned in a newspaper article how terrified he was returning to idol to perform; and he’s a military man.

        “I had some good times on American Idol, but it wasn’t all positive. There were some difficult and emotionally draining aspects as well. And while I am extremely grateful for the exposure it offered me, you have to admit that American Idol is not the most flattering stage – no matter who you are. Think about it… You’re singing songs you barely know with basically no monitors so you can be scrutinized by millions of people. You are terrified and everyone knows it.”

      • I know I won’t be able to find the link, but I’m pretty sure Jordan Sparks used the word ‘traumatized’ when discussing her Idol experience. It might have been during that phone interview in which she joined David and some of the other past Idol participants.

        I believe I also read where Carrie Underwood talked about how she still gets very nervous when returning to the Idol stage.

        I can’t remember which of the 2 said something along the lines of ‘the show is set up in such a way as to induce the greatest amount of stress’. My heart really went out to all of those young men and women.

      • Are you referring to this interview?

      • Yes, HG, that’s the interview, and here’s the quote from Jordin,
        “Sparks: I remember when I went back for the finale, and I had to perform my song. Idol does something to you. It was exciting, but it was slightly traumatic. I think I’m scarred from that. Every time I walk back to Idol, it brings me back to standing there and getting judged, and thinking that people have to vote for me still.”

      • In the same interview, this is what David had to say:

        “I hadn’t been nervous in so long. The second I saw Simon and Kara and their faces, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re going to critique me.’ I wasn’t expecting to feel that way. It really freaked me out.”

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