American Idol: Judging the Judges
And I'm not just using my TiVo-ed Idol episodes to skip commercials. More and more, I can't stand the judges.
I'm no Idol neophyte. I know Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul are mostly space-saving distractions, and Simon Cowell modulates his mostly-spot on criticism to favor the artists he wants to sign to his record label when the dust clears.
Still, watching recent editions of Idol has never felt more like watching an abusive parent take on an unlucky child. Some of these singers, looking to these fortysomething eyes like they just got out of preschool, face a black belt-level of showbiz machinations they can't possibly be ready to confront.
(According to a recent SEC filing, Idol is one of the biggest moneymaking machines in television, earning $63-million in profit last year for 19 Entertainment, the production company owned by low-key Idol producer Simon Fuller. That's not counting the money Fox-Tv makes off the show, which regularly attracts 30 percent of the people watching TV)
Was Amanda Overmyer really that impressive channeling Joan Jett singing I Hate Myself for Loving You? As a longtime musician I've always thought she has trouble making that distinctive voice fill the big songs she's always choosing, and Wednesday night she looked as if she'd rather be anywhere but on the Idol stage. Yet, all the judges patted her on the back, because they really, really seem to want a female Chris Daughtry in the running.
Was Chikezie's take on Whitney Houston's All the Man I Need really horrible? I thought he did a great job with a song originally made a hit by one of pop music's most talented singers. But he got no love from the judges because, after Ruben Studdard's stillborn career, the last thing Idol wants is another R&B singer getting anywhere near the show's top tier.
I also know from covering the kiddie version of Idol -- the travesty that was American Juniors -- that vocals inside the Idol studio sound very different than what viewers hear during the broadcast. Still, I've never wanted more to be sitting on that judges panel, just to counter some of their bone-headed observations. Here's my Idol-style take on the judges.
Randy Jackson: Dawg, those observations, like, yo, you be bringing it sometimes. But then, you know, you drown some potentially useful criticisms in, you know, mad awful ripped-from-hip hop lingo. I mean, like, dude, you don't have to remind us you played with Journey every time someone sings a Steve Perry tune. And, like, dawg, you really need to remember, yo, that nobody believes someone who once played with Journey really talks like that naturally.
Paula Abdul: Paula, everybody remembers that crazy chick from college who was a total pain because she really wasn't that smart and was kind of odd, but you tolerated her because she was cute. That's you, baby. And the problem with girls like that, is that they always eventually get kicked to the curb. So either, really bring the crazy train to make Idol memorable, or modulate the prescriptions so you make a little more sense, week to week.
Simon Cowell: I'll be honest Simon; brutal comments which once felt like a bracing bolt of honesty in a sea of showbiz silliness now mostly come off as petulant, self-centered careerism. I would have thought you'd learned your lesson from the kinder face you showed during this year's auditions; kicking someone when they're already down isn't usually considered a virtue.