Perhaps I should hate myself for it, but I do indeed watch the audition stages of American Idol. Last year, they were in my old hometown, so I had to see it as a matter of regional interest. But I’m addicted to it, I’ll admit.
I don’t watch it after that. I can’t suspend disbelief long enough to see Simon and company turn against the 12 people they plucked out of 100,000 hapless auditioners, the product placement is ridiculous, etc.
Sure, the auditions are ridiculous, too. They’ll show someone go through a horrible audition and stalk off, but he/she will show up in a montage a few minutes later. So they either recorded that bit ahead of time or somehow enticed back the person to quit cussing out Simon and bemoaning the gaping hole in American pop music that their failure will leave. I realize people really are that desperate for their 15 minutes of TV fame, but …
And yeah, they’re absolutely cruel at times. I was stunned that they opened last night with a sweet girl who does impressive makeovers, giving us her whole back story and making her seem likable, only to crush her like a bug after a mediocre audition. If this was your first time watching American Idol, you’d conclude that these people are assholes, and you’d flip over to Food Network.
Which would be a shame, because then you’d miss the real reason we watch: Delusional wackos with a perverse sense of entitlement getting a righteous smackdown from Simon and occasionally Randy.
(I’ll never find the link, but some writer once suggested a spinoff in which Simon visits corporate boardrooms, listens to about 10 minutes of a meeting, then proceeds to tell the executives that they should quit their jobs, get refunds on their MBAs and take up taxidermy.)
I wonder, though, how much longer they can keep this up. The people we see now usually fall into one of these classes:
1. The Enabled. The show is kind enough to show us this group along with their enablers — usually a vocal parent but sometimes a quiet boyfriend — who has convinced them they’re destined for stardom. The parents speak about their kids’ school recitals like they’re freaking Debbie Gibson concerts circa 1988. The boyfriends are often a little less emphatic, nodding and saying vague things that will ensure some consolation snuggling after the audition.
2. The Would-Be Clones. “Hey, I’m prematurely gray, just like Taylor Hicks!” “Hey, I’m geeky, just like Clay Aiken!” “Hey, I like Fuel, just like Chris Daughtry!” “Hey, I’m cute and perky, just like Kelly Clarkson!”
3. The Drama Geeks. I liked Gene Simmons’ stint as guest judge because he spelled out for people the difference between being a good singer and a good performer. He was the only judge capable of reaching the Goth-cabaret dude who auditioned last year. “You’re eccentric. That’s not a bad thing. I’m eccentric, and I’ve made a pretty good living at it.” Most kids don’t get it.
4. The Hollywood Underside. “Oh, you WILL see Deena Smith one day on TV!” Yeah. Today, when they show your crap-ass audition on American Idol. And maybe 10 years from now on Cops (suspect) or Behind the Music (groupie).
5. The Music Majors. I can shed some light here. I majored in music. (Philosophy, too, but that’s not relevant here.) I had to sight-read and sing various parts in four-part fugal harmony under the watchful ears of demanding faculty members. But if I auditioned for American Idol, Simon would tell me to get my tuition back. You can learn technique and become a competent chorus member, but you won’t necessarily get the right style and tone to be a pop singer. The tete-a-tete between Randy and the uppity vocal teacher this year was worth the wait.
6. The Excuse Makers. I’m nervous. I’m sick. I need water. The last contestant punched me in the throat on his way out. I’m normally Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Hicks put together.
7. The Jokesters. You know some of these people are kidding. Even Chris Wylde got into the act.
8. The Psychos. No explanation needed.
Just one more thing to point out from Opening Week: If I see two doors leading out and neither one is obstructed, I’m going to assume I can proceed through either one. That doesn’t mean I’m an idiot. If one door doesn’t open, it really means you’re an idiot. You, the one who locked one of the doors. Or it means you’re going out of your way to make other people look like idiots. And these people don’t need the help.
(Oh, and is Jewel a Stephen Colbert fan? “Pitchiness”? I don’t think that’s a word, but she looked fabulous.)