Love it or hate it, American Idol has become a seemingly immortal fixture in American culture. Pouring into our homes through high definition television on at least two nights a week, the show is more present in family life than your average workaholic, deadbeat dad. Of course the success of the show increases every season, maintaining a focus that is three-fold: the production, the artists and the audience. The producers bear the responsibility of finding talent that America will form a strong opinion for or against, the artists then must prove the production right; the level of entertainment reached will be determined by the audience as reflected in the ratings and the votes. Somewhere between the musical talent competition and ratings-guzzling galore, American Idol should be viewed as a brilliantly-crafted social experiment on which to measure the passivity of the American public
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? Perhaps the most important underlying question remains: what kind of program does it take to transform the nature of the popular music industry and alter the standard by which we judge and enjoy its music? If Charles Baudelaire and Bertolt Brecht were sitting at the judges table perhaps they would deliver us wisdom in the form of insult (something Cowell does very wellminus the deep philosophy). However, if Baudelaire and Brecht are the crusaders for artistic revolution, then Simon Cowell is the voice of the corporate machine, hell-bent on financial success, but stifling both the authenticity and the revolution in the process. Though long deceased, the opinions of Boudelaire and Brecht, along with more contemporary music writers become the aesthetic standards which we must use to judge the quality and impact of the show because of their influence on mass culture.
[...] By evaluating the show with these standards, it becomes clear that American Idol hooks people in under the pretense of authenticity, relying on monotonous patterns of repetition to ingrain the music in viewers' minds. My potential for finding an authentic performer is crushed because the production team at American Idol is responsible for selecting the singing candidates—ones that will fulfill their mission of marketability by successfully keeping our attention spans for one minute and thirty second intervals. However, it is the American voters that narrow the group down to the top twelve contestants. [...]
[...] Either way, the lyrics evoke the sense of passivity—of some people waiting for something to finally happen to them—so characteristic of American Idol contestants. The last couple lines of the chorus change in pronoun to The shift indicates a movement back to singularity—an intimate note for Kelly Clarkson herself. Whether the listener has chosen to attach themselves to the words or not, they can easily understand the spoon-fed message here. This song isn't just about falling in love or a special kiss as the first lines would have the listener believe. [...]
[...] Like the contestants, the hosts and judges of American Idol, though paid obscene amounts, are completely expendable. This is the factor that separates entertainment from real empathy. Brian Dunkelman has not made a public appearance in years—he may as well be a ghost and my father spits on his grave. Though my father was only kidding, people do exist who take pride from bashing American Idol whenever they can. These people are not quiet; their remarks litter the world wide web, t-shirts, and all the same forms of paraphernalia Idol lovers use. [...]
[...] 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 Baudelaire's theory of the public and artist's stupidity comprising a cause and effect relationship, then what prevents the audience, in return, from being equally selfish in the viewing experience? [...]
[...] An interesting twist: Abby Korol, a freshman in college and avid American Idol viewer, recounted her run-in with Cowell in California just two years ago, saying, was as nice as can be. He seemed like a normal, sweet guy. He signed an autograph and even remembered to say goodbye to my family and I before he left the restaurant. And he remembered my name.” (Abby Korol, May 10, 2007). Just as my father assumes the persona of the critic when he watches the show, without the cameras rolling, Cowell becomes someone polite and conversational—much like my father. [...]
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