Thoughts and Drinks On “American Idol”

American Idol: The search for one-hit wonders
Sean C. Hayes, Satirist, The Arbiter
April 28, 2003


American Idol, like MTV’s The Real World invites the same criticisms from everybody. With The Real World it’s, “If they were in the real world, they’d have to have jobs to pay for that high-rent apartment.”

I always defended that. I mean if you had seven roommates, two or three to a room, I bet you could afford to upgrade your living situation too.

With American Idol, it’s blah, blah, blah “manufactured pop acts,” “can’t play instruments,” etc.

But pop music was manufactured from its inception. Some of its greatest never picked up an instrument or sat down to write a song. Manufactured pop acts, for Top 40 listeners, provide the soundtrack for our lives.

What I have against American Idol is that its British pop music impresario, the notorious Simon Cowell, doesn’t know the first thing about selling a pop act, except a one-shot gimmick like a reality TV show.

To watch his criticism of Vanessa Olivarez, the first booted contestant, a couple months ago, you’d think he’d stepped into another dimension. He told Vanessa she’s more of a “road performer” like Bette Midler, and less of a singing star. Huh? And the irony is, he said this sitting right next to Paula Abdul. That woman couldn’t sing a note. She made a brief career of creative music videos, her famous choreography, a songwriting team and a fantastic marketing division (not to mention her infamous slimming lens camera).

Can Britney Spears sing a note? Without a vocal machine, a synthesizer, skimpy outfits, a friendly snake and slick dance moves, where would she be?

Here’s why Kelly Clarkson’ll never have another hit, after her beauty pageant theme song “A Moment Like This,” or why the next winning contestant is going nowhere; they’ve got no star quality.

Singing talent is incidental. Christina Aguilera has a great voice, but it wouldn’t mean a thing if nobody wanted to see her mount a motorcycle in her underpants.

And if the producers cared so much about a voice, why’d they kick off Frenchie, one of their most talented vocalists, just because she had a porno past?

R. Kelly starred in his own XXX feature recently and his new album’s selling truckloads.

That leaves us with their current crop of talents, a completely lackluster bunch, its frontrunners, tellingly, look like Fat Albert and the banjo kid from Deliverance. Can you honestly see Clay Aiken Ricky Martin-ing across a stage? There’s a reason the boy never dances. If he’s not strapped behind a guitar in an Emo rock band, he’s got no chance in hell of becoming a pop crooner. Ruben Studdard? Joshua “I’m a little bit country, little bit rock n’ roll” Gracin? Would anybody buy an album with those jokers on the cover?

Lately, there’s talk of the American Idol 2 contestants putting out a God Bless America tribute album. This is straight out of the ‘70s variety show era. Next episode, they may as well tumble in on an inflatable slide singing the Brady Bunch’s “Keep on Groovin’.”

Last season, just because I like some edge with my pop stars, I was rooting for ex-stripper, single mom Nikki McKibbin. When she finally got voted off, boggling everybody’s mind as second runner up, I bought purple hooters – as a tribute – for everybody in the bar. It was early Wednesday evening, only a few people there, but still I can’t see myself buying shots for anybody if Carmen Rasmusen’s voted off.

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