Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Confess - I Watch "Idol" - And I Have a Question

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I watch American Idol. It's a stupid show, a show that admits that presence, personality and marketability can trump talent. It makes me so angry sometimes as I watch someone with remarkable, raw talent get pushed to the side as some bland, potential pop flavor of the week is praised and wins America's votes. I want to scream when I hear, "You were a little pitchy but it doesn't matter." It should matter!

I don't vote so I don't have a leg to stand on here. I know that if I called even once, my vote would be drowned in a flood of texts and calls from 12 year old girls with unlimited texting and calling on their pink iPhones. So what's the point?

But in the years I've been watching (can it be four? I guess so - I got sucked in by KB) there's been a phenomenon that fascinates me. It's the creation of a "moment", as they put it...a performance that pulls me out of myself, makes me forget that I'm watching a cheesy reality show with a bunch of aspiring pop stars, and makes me just enjoy a great performance.

The show's most famous runner-up, Adam Lambert, had a couple of them. I still remember both his "Mad World" and "Ring of Fire" performances. I'd love to link to "Mad World" but Idol's turned it into a pay-only view. But remember that ice-blue lighting and that restrained, heartbreaking version without any of Lambert's trademark scream? "Fire" wasn't as beloved but it was a moment for me.

Adam Lambert - Ring Of Fire from norma molina on Vimeo.

It wasn't just lighting, or arrangement, or even his singing. It was a combination of all of them, a perfect synthesis of song, delivery and passion.

Strangely, I saw it this week from a very unlikely person: Lee DeWyse. Nothing against Lee; he's got a good voice. But he hiked his pants up as he was singing, he was probably nervous as hell...and yet he created a moment with "Lips of an Angel". I forgot it was Idol, I forgot he was a young guy trying like hell to become a recording star. It was just a terrific performance with no glitz, no glam, just a lot of heart.

Crystal Bowersox I love. She's a bundle of raw, no excuses talent. She IS a moment, every time she performs.

I'm also a big Lilly Scott fan. She's another no-nonsense, I'm an artist and this is how I do it kinda performer, but from a totally different school.

Then there's Siobhan Magnus, the girl with the guts to take on an Aretha song and actually make it work.

She's a tough one for me...she's clearly good and she's unpredictable and I like that.

So I think that I'm watching this season to see who's the performer who learns how to make the most memorable moments. And I'm wondering just how you do that?
I suspect it has something to do with forgetting the world and just immersing yourself in the song you're singing - making it so real that the audience joins you there. But I'm not sure. All I know is I feel it when it happens.


mk said...

i was actually about to write a long, bitter post railing against american idol as a symbol of commercialism's triumph over art - i caught about ten seconds of it last night and was quite literally offended in absolutely every sense of the word. those aren't real moments, to me. those are prepackaged moments. they might as well be wrapped in cellophane with a price tag stuck on them. they're like plastic fruit, and everyone's eating it anyway because it looks like shiny, yummy fruit, but it contains no nutrients, isn't real sustenance, doesn't even taste as good as the real thing but nobody cares enough to spend the extra time and effort handpicking the organic stuff. it's the mcdonald's of music, and it's a disease.

i mean, hopefully its audience is made up at least in large part of folks like yourself, who take it as a guilty pleasure and watch it with an awareness of its sleazy consumerist motives. but i'm afraid the vast majority just sit there glassy-eyed, convinced that what they're seeing is genuine. and then they go out and buy sarah palin's book and order off the under-550-calorie menu at applebee's.


Susan said...

No argument with anything you said except one thing: you watched ten seconds.
I can't blame you a bit, but there ARE moments...and they are rare. But that's what sucks me in. Once in a while, someone who's been trying to get people to take them seriously as an artist for years takes that stage and *boom*...magic.
And that's why I watch. For those rare, incredible moments when I know someone's just achieved expressing exactly what they've been trying to express for years.