30 April 2008

Judging Judges

In past years, I never watched American Idol. I took a small taste of the show way back in Season One (the year Kelly Clarkson won America's heart), just to see what it was all about. In general, I wasn't impressed by what I saw, and so I never watched it again. I wouldn't even stop for 5 seconds when I was flipping through the channels, that's how disagreeable I was to the entire endeavor. And of course, when it comes to television, I typically believe that "shit floats", and the rampant, nearly unprecedented popularity of American Idol suggested to me that the show was/is as pointlessly craptastic as I had thought when I took that first small taste.

But here we are in Season 7, and I must admit, that I've been watching American Idol this year, even though it is still as pointless as crappy to me as it ever was. And I've been trying to figure out WHY I've been watching this season, and the best answer I can come up with is that the show is sooooo outrageously incapable of recognizing actual talent that I feel compelled to tune in, just to see how wrong America, and those three judges, can get it.

Of course, my first mistake is actually believing that this is a pure talent competition, rather than the popularity contest that it is. Oh sure, the eventual winners of each season have decent voices, but I would argue (based upon what I've heard) that the first winner, Kelly Clarkson, had the best voice of them all, and each season has seen a slight decline in vocal abilities.
But, this isn't quite what this post is about.
This is about the judges on the show, prompted by Paula Abdul's behavior on last night's episode, which you've probably read about all over the internet already.
Essentially, Paula offered criticism for a non-existent performance. She gave her "notes" to Jason Castro, saying that while she like his performance of the first of two Neil Diamond songs, the second performance lacked charm, and didn't impress her. The problem is - up to that midpoint of the show, Jason Castro had only performed one song.
There was alot of awkwardness all around, which is to be expected, and her ultimate "excuse" was that she got her notecards mixed up, and that her criticism of Castro's second performance was meant for David Cook.
Jump ahead a few seconds, and the judges are then asked who they felt were the strongest performers thus far that night...Paula's response was "David Cook", except if we are to believe her excuse for the Castro snafu, it was Cook who lacked charm and didn't impress her.
This all kinda gets to my trite and tepid thoughts on this show and it's judges.
Randy Jackson is useless. His criticisms are nothing more than empty platitudes, such as "I feel ya, dawg" and "you're in your zone, baby". He talks alot about pitch and "pitchiness", but that just seems like a polite way of saying "you're not a very good singer". Useless. The problem here is - he's a noted bass player who has played for a ton of artists over the years, and has built an impressive resume. He's also a decent record producer, and has ample experience as a record label exec. However, he's not very good at articulating his thoughts on American Idol, and thus his meager criticisms hold almost no weight. It's a shame that his impressive background doesn't translate at all to this show. In other words - get rid of him in favor of somebody who can offer more than "feel ya, dawg".
Paula Abdul is even more useless, but at least she's half-insane. Again, she's full of little more than meaningless platitudes, and seems to favor those who are somehow adorable. Her meltdown last night was proof positive that she contributes absolutely nothing to the show because she can't even discern between two singers, and apparently her notes to herself are meaningless. David Cook was charmless and unimpressive in her eyes one minute, and the next he was her favorite performer of the night. I suppose we shouldn't expect more from a woman who's only meaningful accomplishments are of the dancing/choreography variety, because when she herself had a singing career, it wasn't because she could sing. In fact, she was a pretty horrible singer who definitely relied on whatever pitch-correction gear and audio sweeteners were available to her 15-20 years ago. If Randy were judging her, he'd definitely be calling her "pitchy". So, why the fuck is a dancer critiquing a bunch of singers? Especially a dancer who is either a drug addict or a complete headcase...
And then there's Simon Cowell. I actually like Simon because he doesn't really pull any punches in his criticisms. The problem is - his criticisms are often enough sooo divorced from reality that it makes me wonder and believe that this entire show (well, this season anyways) is completely rigged. Simon loves David Archuleta. Loves him despite the fact that David Archuleta isn't even among the best dozen singers who competed this year, and yet, here he is, in the final five, and I'd be willing to bet that when the smoke clears on this season, David Archuleta will be the winner. Simon praises Archuleta 95% of the time, but I find it hard to believe that Simon, who seemingly has good ears and good taste, actually believes the kid can sing. The kid ain't bad, but he certainly isn't good enough to be a finalist. I just don't get it.
Well, actually I do. This is a popularity contest, not a singing contest, and Archuleta is insanely popular with the tween/teen crowd. You know - those same kids who are currently turning Miley Cyrus into a billionaire.
Which naturally, makes this entire post trite and useless. I understand that it's all about which contestant can eventually push the most units for SONY (all or most AI winners have recording contracts with Sony-BMG), but I'd still like to believe this show is about actual talent.
In that respect, I'm the most useless moron of them all.
Hotcha, dawgs! Hank

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