Wednesday, January 27, 2016

American Idol Rant

Do you watch American Idol? I've been a regular viewer for the run of the show and I'm definitely sad to see it end. It's boring sometimes, predictable sometimes, and just dumb sometimes, but it also can be very entertaining and I enjoy the crash course in popular music I get every season.

Last week American Idol concluded its audition rounds and as everyone constantly reminds us, this is the last season of Idol and thus the last audition rounds. Like the past couple of years the producers have reduced the number of "bad" auditions they show, taking the time to build up characters and audience recognition of the singers who will go to Hollywood and presumably also those who will make it to the live show. Because in real time, those decisions have already been made and thus the makers of Idol know whom they want to showcase and promote.  So you know for example when they have footage of a contestant's home town that that contestant is going to make it to Hollywood, and if they don't, if they only have convention-center footage, or no footage, it's less likely he or she will make it through.

There's a lot you can complain about about American Idol, but the thing that bothers me about this season is the number of what used to be called "plants." In 2004 during Idol's third season a great American Idol blog launched, called Vote for the Worst, VFTW for short.  Its writers encouraged the public to vote for the "worst" singers, to call out the show as a mockery of a talent competition. The site ran for almost ten years, closing in 2013.

Over time VFTW expanded to cover other talent shows and became a forum for reporting on them alongside the snark. Its writers exposed a number of competitors who had had prior professional relationships with judges or others associated with the show, and whose presence on the show were therefore thought to be contrived or planned as opposed to having been based on talent. This year we have seen a few contestants, miraculously all making it through initial auditions, who were either related to former contestants, related to celebrities, or former contestants themselves. And these weren't people who had only appeared on the early phase of auditions. I really wonder why Idol needs to insult us by not just acknowledging that they decided to bring someone back, or decided to feature the child of an 80s one-hit-wonder, or what have you. I mean, these people all walk into the room knowing they're going through. The drama of "will he or she make it" becomes so boring and pointless. But they need to maintain the illusion that there is something democratic about the show. Because anyone can be an American Idol, right?

So we'll see what this season holds. I've watched at least some of every season, and I'll watch some of this season too. I don't know yet how much! But there are some really great singers in this year's competition, so I'll stay tuned for now.