Thursday, February 19, 2009

American Idol Season 8

First of all, let's get the yearly apology back on the table, and then out of the way. I hate the show: it's transparently manipulative, it highlights an awfully narrow (and frequently awful) spectrum of musical taste, and the only judge that's not a simpering retard is the production genius that brought us Il Divo. Since, however, 3/4 of my household is comprised of young girls and moms--the precision demographic of the show--there's no escaping the chugging dawgs and the paint-peeling glory notes, not at that volume, and really, talking about it is my minor act of subversion. I've tried to follow Vote for the Worst, but it doesn't strike quite the right groove for me… I think I'm still a little itchy from last year's marathon Idol conversation with the excellent company on quiblit.

I watched this year's buildup of young talents, and the most remarkable thing about the pre-singing episodes is that they're really letting the talented clowns shine this year, going all the way to the feature stage, while downplaying the truly pitiable. As a captive audience, I support this both for it's entertainment value, and it's reduced malice (people really delude themselves, and AI scores ratings on humiliating them--someday I'll post a heartfelt lament for all of us untalented dreamers). From the show's perspective, I suspect that they want to send the message that yes, they need freaks and drama queens of ambiguous sexuality to show up and be exploited, but no, they're not what "America" wants. (Unless, of course, it is. After meddling in "country," "rock," and "soul," maybe they're now fishing for the next Fallout Boy or something).

Anyway, even with a few quality nutbars in the wings, Tatiana Del Toro with her starry-eyed neediness and her infectious SpongeBob-like giggle is already missed. But the thing is, Tatiana actually has singing talent, and she was a lot less painful to watch on the stage than that stumbling tuneless troll Michael Sarver, whose only talent appears to be the fact that he's really white. And a roughneck. On a real Texas oil rig. They have some kind of wildcard round this year, so maybe the judges will allow Tati to re-emerge in her scary, hungry glory. Anoop ("Noopsy") Desai also lost to Mikey Roughneck because he doesn't fall into a ready American ethnic stereotype. Also because the song he sang was boring as shit. He has a good voice though, and he seems nice, and he's been pimped madly by the judges, and I take this to mean he is sure to get wildcarded, even if they have to cheat.

A couple of teenagers were disposed of last night too, deservedly. One of them sang "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" because it's so fun and uplifting, not that childish disconnection from the material is always a deal-breaker on this show. The thing about Sting (who now joins Whitney Houston on the AI verboten vocal list) is that he can't really sing, but in spite of this, he's able to communicate the emotion of the music, which is at least sometimes interesting. Our young tart got it wrong from both angles.

I've already forgotten the name of the girl who sang "Natural Woman," but I think she got a bad deal from the judges. I don't pretend to have a good ear, but her singing really felt like it clicked into the music, which I identify as a sign of good pitch and good time, and while it may not have been a star performance by any means, given the flailing of the other eleven, I felt that singing pleasantly in key should have counted for something in the judges' comments. In the car I was thinking how "Natural Woman" is to soul what "Whipping Post" is to rock or country. Would you ever want to hear anyone to a simple, straight take (smiling smugly, fingers snapping jauntily) on that one?

Finally, at what point did Danny Gokay turn into one of a pair of undertalented not-gay nerds (he looks like the creepy progeny of Robert Downey Jr. and Bud Bundy) to the next sure thing? (And why does my wife love the guy?) I know he's got a sob story, but his style is mediocre, and even though he sang better on Tuesday than I'd heard him before, I still don't want to hear him again. And . I thought the producers where playing him up so that he could face his best friend in a sing-off, but it looks like he's an anointed contender. Judging from the people who passed through, it's going to be a long dull season of this terrible show.


an oldie. said...

Even thinking about that show makes my teeth hurt.

I tried to watch. My father and his wife love that show. I found myself cringing through the whole hour...the sour notes, the loosely-scripted banter between the judges, the predictable remarks to contestants...

and whatsizface - i'm soooo over-the-top...

In the olden days, people used to think professional wrestling competitions were real.

Keifus said...

I think rasslin' is a good analogy: it's "real," but it's, like, choreographed. (I think the kids do more or less compete, however, with the rigging more toward influencing opinion. After all, if the viewers get behind an artist they don't promote, they'll presumably buy records. It's win-win for the producers.)

Every now and then the show communicates a little bit of the joy of singing too, in spite of everything, but not terribly often.

I also enjoyed talking about it.


twif said...

this is why i had a son. [grin]

Keifus said...

Yeah man, I don't really remember that line on the form, but if it makes you feel any better, by the time Twif Jr. is old enough to enjoy things like this, they'll have discovered something even worse to market.

(In ten years, probably an American Idol comback tour.)