I watched an episode of American Idol. Well, most of one. I’ve only seen selected clips before. I thought perhaps I’d find out what all the fuss was about, and, I must admit, I still don’t get it. This was a performance show, not a “results” show, though, so maybe the tension just really wasn’t there. Or something.
I have long admired Simon Cowell, so I was curious to see if his “nastiness” was still evident. It wasn’t. I thought he was one of two judges that actually had something useful to say to people about how to get better, what they did well, what they did poorly. The other, not very much to my surprise, was Ellen DeGeneres, who is exceptionally talented, and was very good as well. Not Simon Cowell, but good. Randy is still useless, if charming, and whoever the other person was, I didn’t bother to learn her name and think I likely won’t. She was, if possible, WORSE than Paula Abdul.
The juggernaut that is American Idol was built, conceived, and run by Simon. He’s the part of the show that makes the rest of it work. I think the man is a genius. And if he tells me that I need to stop singing R&B, I am bloody well going to listen to him.
All this said, I also was curious about the talent level of the contestants. A couple years back, it seems to me that there was hysteria about how good all the finalists were. So I listened to a couple, and the fact is most of them were very, very good, but none of them were great. I am fussy about my music, this I realize, and I know good voices when I hear them. I also know voices that are weak. So when I heard again this round that “this is the best competition ever”, I thought I’d give it a listen, just to see.
Um. People. Please.
Idol has a serious problem this round. The problem is Crystal Bowersox. She is good. She is the best of the singers, by so, so very much that the competition is a complete waste of time and EVERYONE KNOWS IT, at least, everyone associated with the show knows it. You can see it writ large in their faces, hear it in their voices, their mannerisms; everyone on the show knows that Crystal is far and away the best singer and performer in the competition. They have her sing stuff that doesn’t suit her, just so that she doesn’t kill the buzz completely, but honestly, folks, listen to her. I’m buying her first album. I never, ever do this. But unless she puts out an album of bubblegum pop, I’m going to buy it. Her smoky blues voice is full of richness and power and understanding and control, and she can really, really sing.
Everyone else is pretty good. Ok. Not great. Perhaps not going to be great. Okay for a tour, especially because they are all quite good looking and/or musically gifted, but I won’t be buying their stuff. I can’t remember any of their names, because they will all fade into obscurity. Not Crystal. She’s the real deal.
And she probably won’t win. That’s the criminal aspect of the show. She probably won’t win it, because she’s combative, forceful, and good-looking only in a Bonnie Raitt sort of way. The other women are pretty, and some of the boys are, too, and they’ll get heartthrobby votes and win the thing, and Simon, who is no fool, will sign Crystal to a long-term deal and start her working right away. If he has not already done this, it will be because he doesn’t want to kill the golden goose, but if he didn’t know, right from the first time he heard her sing, that he was going to ink her to a deal, then his massive success with Idol is a fluke.
BTW, it’s no fluke.
I’m not going to watch again, but I continue to admire the marketing brains behind the show. And I admire some of the voices it discovers. Crystal’s is definitely one of them.