In its first season, American Idol garnered the attention of 22.77 million viewers on the finale night. The last seasonthe show's fifth36.38 million people tuned in to witness Taylor Hicks take home the ultimate title of American Idol (Wikepedia.com). Hicks, a stocky, gray-haired thirty-year old from Birmingham, Alabama could not have possibly foreseen the astronomical result of his performances. In his first audition, Simon Cowell, the judge with a notoriously stern British accent and attitude, voted against Taylor's advancement in the competition because he saw an overall lack of talent and commerciality. So how did a struggling Vegas lounge act win the votes and hearts of America?
[...] it is the American voters that narrow the group down to the top twelve contestants. In The Salon of 1859, Boudelaire insists, “This generation, in fact, both artists and public, has so little faith in painting that it spends its time in seeking to disguise it, to wrap it up in sugar pills like an unpleasant medicine; and what sugar” (Boudelaire 150). In this manner, the American public chooses contestants that the production team can mold into sugary-sweet versions of successful artists in the real world—the first sign of imitation. [...]
[...] In stark contrast on American Idol, the performers are not singing to change the world, but instead contestants like Carrie Underwood from a red-neck upbringing, sing to change their status in a world obsessed with fame. No matter how talented the singer, selfish motivations always lurk beneath the surface of the song. So, if Boudelaire's theory of the public and artist's stupidity comprising a cause and effect relationship, then the what prevents the audience, in return, from being equally selfish in the viewing experience? [...]
[...] American Idol upholds the Hollywood/Broadway standard by manufacturing its excitement through constant debate between judges Simon and Paula Abdul and between Simon and quintessentially bleached-blonde metro-sexual host, Ryan Seacrest. After all, it is not just the contestants who are molded through the advice of judges and producers, but the host and the judges themselves who carry the most responsibility: feeding the audience with the correct emotions and reactions to take away from each performance. Through the past five seasons, Simon Cowell's opinion, the very epitome of the corporate machine, has almost flawlessly been reflected in the audience's vote. [...]
[...] American Idol does have redeeming qualities in that it encourages the audience to assert responsibility in defining true talent and artistry. The problem is that we, as a whole, have misused that power, perhaps affected by the likes of Simon Cowell and the whole industry. If we, as the audience, cannot discern authentic from manufactured, revolutionary from a karaoke rendition of Marvin Gaye's “Let's Get it then only we are liable for the next generation's banal perception of art and social passivity. [...]
[...] The first point Brecht makes involves the “audience's habits.” In the realm of American Idol, this means the viewers propensity towards the big, bellowing notes. It seems the higher an artist's voice reaches (thank you Clay Aiken and your relentless vibrato), the louder it penetrates the room, and the longer it quivers in the back of his/her mouth, the louder the audience claps and whistles. Simon can deem the rest of the song as and but that last grand, bellowing note acts as the performer's saving grace. [...]
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