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Bye bye miss American I...dol
January 25, 2006 10:46 AM   Subscribe

American Idol 5 on Popmatters. "There are two pre-audition selection rounds before contestants are allowed to meet the judges. Clearly then, the show's army of "talent" spotters deliberately sent Derek, Crystal and the others crashing and burning onto national television, in the sure and certain knowledge that humiliation means ratings." Some insights into the corporate machinery behind American Idol, as well as thoughts on the current season.
posted by ludwig_van (146 comments total)

 
I've never watched an episode of American Idol. I find it distasteful, and this review articulates my own feelings pretty well. And yet it's fascinating to learn about the media corporations behind this behemoth, and the methods they use to maximize their profits. Also interesting is the social phenomenon, the satisfaction of laughing at the poor contenders and basking in the success of the winners. Paints sort of a dismal picture of contemporary culture, I think.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:51 AM on January 25, 2006


I've watched, I think, parts of two episodes of American Idol. That was more than enough to convince me this show is absolutely not for smart people.
posted by wakko at 10:55 AM on January 25, 2006


I had no idea contestants were pre-screened. Has it always been that way? Someone sent William Hung up to be humiliated for our pleasure (and his enrichment, I take it).

Hmm.
posted by delmoi at 10:58 AM on January 25, 2006


Yeah, I meant to say that I've caught parts, but that I refuse to sit down and actually watch a whole episode. You know, so I don't sound like the type to knock it before I've tried it.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:59 AM on January 25, 2006


American Idol is basically a film of the autopsy on rock and roll's corpse. And as such, I can't watch.
posted by jonmc at 11:00 AM on January 25, 2006


I also kind of wish the young Wild Man Fischer could be a contestant. or maybe even GG Allin.
posted by jonmc at 11:01 AM on January 25, 2006


I always suspected as much. I'm giving this article to my girlfriend with a set of headphones so I don't ever have to hear that noise again.
posted by furtive at 11:01 AM on January 25, 2006


What's rock and roll about Idol? It's pop -- and bad, bad, bad pop at that
posted by docgonzo at 11:02 AM on January 25, 2006


Doesn't anyone remember the Gong Show? It was pretty much the same thing, with less hype.
posted by Malor at 11:03 AM on January 25, 2006


lol
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:05 AM on January 25, 2006


What's rock and roll about Idol? It's pop -- and bad, bad, bad pop at that

Yeah, but rock and roll is really just a form of pop music, isn't it? A big part of rock and roll was its populist bent - not as much as punk, and the whole DIY philosophy, but rock and roll wasn't about being formally trained and technically proficient, it was something that anyone could do. American Idol sort of plays on the same populist appeal, that these are just regular people, and that anyone can make it. Of course, the way it's designed, that isn't really the case. Plus the fact that the audience votes, so the winners are an expression of popular will.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2006


Wow, that's a pretty amazing MS Paint job on Crystal's photos.
posted by NoMich at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2006


You mean there was someone that hadn't figured all this out after they watched the first show? I deduced this before it ever aired.

This show ranks right in there with other "reality" shows as entertainment for idiots.
posted by HuronBob at 11:07 AM on January 25, 2006


All together now...

"No shit!"
posted by SweetJesus at 11:09 AM on January 25, 2006


opiate for the masses and all that...
posted by wakko at 11:09 AM on January 25, 2006


"so the winners are an expression of popular will"
About as much as the election of George Bush..

Let me make this a bit more clear..

If you've figured out the whole thing is about profit and ratings and manipulated to maximize that and you still watch it, you're an idiot.

If you haven't figured that out, and you watch it believing it is true, you're an idiot...

hmmm.
posted by HuronBob at 11:10 AM on January 25, 2006


How is this exactly a great revelation? This is a television show that is meant to entertain, and bad performances are funny. There is certainly no one forcing these people to stand in line overnight for the mere chance to get into the room with the judges. No one is claiming a moral high ground with American Idol. A friend of mine who went to last year's audition said she had a blast without even making it past the first preliminary audition.
posted by shinynewnick at 11:11 AM on January 25, 2006


There's more to the article than just the bit I quoted. And HuronBob, I was speaking in terms of how the program represents itself, not of how it plays out in reality.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:12 AM on January 25, 2006


Crystal looks non-human.
posted by elquien at 11:12 AM on January 25, 2006


ludwig... I apologize for my rash statement... I thought you were expressing your perception.. my bad!
posted by HuronBob at 11:13 AM on January 25, 2006


Fer chrissake, I don't think it's a "great revelation." I think the phenomenon as a whole is interesting, and the quoted bit is just one facet of that. RTFA. The "revalation" is not presented as such. It's a minor point, I just thought it was a good snippet.

HuronBob, it's cool.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:14 AM on January 25, 2006


Crystal looks like the Moreau's Island offspring of Britney Spears and a raccoon. Maybe Ranger Rick, if we're going anthropomorphic.
posted by willmize at 11:15 AM on January 25, 2006


I look forward to a shocking exposé about how America's Funniest Home Videos biases the show towards you seeing people getting hit in the crotch, when we can be sure that they receive plenty of tapes that don't involve this at all.
posted by Remy at 11:19 AM on January 25, 2006


As I told my girlfriend once after watching about ten minutes of an "audition" episode, "The freak show didn't die out or become banished because it wasn't PC, Corporations just got a hold of it and moved it from Circus tents to American T.V sets."

Essentially that's all American Idol seems to be. They take less fortunate people (in this case ones who can't sing), and put them on display for amusement and profit.
posted by slip81 at 11:19 AM on January 25, 2006


Doesn't anyone remember the Gong Show? It was pretty much the same thing, with less hype.

...and less talent...and less entertaining....and less....
posted by NationalKato at 11:19 AM on January 25, 2006


I, for one, think it's simply appalling that American Idol producers force these otherwise innocent but tone deaf young people to audition for the show.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:26 AM on January 25, 2006


American Idol peaked (badly) with William Hung and bottomed out with Paula Abdul banging the contestants.

Though I will admit to laughing out loud at some of the incredibly bad singers they parade through. Especially the ones that behave like divas even though their voices sound like someone is drowning AND strangling a bag of cats.
posted by fenriq at 11:32 AM on January 25, 2006


Your favorite band television show sucks.

Why must everything be kind, intelligent, cultured and unprofitable?
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:32 AM on January 25, 2006


Personally, I just weep for all the folks who are on there for humiliation. Don't their mamas love them? Don't they have friends? Seriously, I can't carry a tune to save my life and not only has my mother and close friends told me of that fact, but a church choir director advised me that "God has other plans for me other than singing."

Obviously at some point in their lives someone surely had the opportunity to say "Sweetie, singing ain't for you." and didn't. Maybe my world view is askew, but I've always thought that your friends and family are out to save you from making an ass of yourself on national television...not to encourage it.
posted by teleri025 at 11:33 AM on January 25, 2006


Ooo lookit on teevee, dumb people are dumb dummies, hurr hurr.

*drinks sody pop*
posted by fleetmouse at 11:33 AM on January 25, 2006


I figured they had to prescreen in order to avoid deranged or violent people upsetting the celebrity judges. Really not that big of a deal.

I did learn to like American Idol last year, I hate the song selections (blandest of bland pop music). Though I have to admit that Simon has an ear for what will be popular and it's fun to try to figure out what the mainstream looks for and who will win. Try not looking at it from the business perspective and not from a musical perspective -- it becomes much more interesting.
posted by geoff. at 11:33 AM on January 25, 2006


None of this comes as any surprise to me - but I thought both Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken had gotten out of their 19 contracts and were now on their own. I could find articles via Google that said Kelly "fired" Simon Fuller. I'm not sure I understand how that could happen.
posted by pinky at 11:34 AM on January 25, 2006


Color me bad but I like the mix of bad with occasional good. The individuals that participate are looking to get something out of it as much as Studio 19.

There is definitely a reciprocal exploitation relationship...a la William Hung. Also, the investment the studio makes by having you on the show, in terms of marketing, exceeds by many magnitudes your typical fledgling artist.

I do realize that it far from high-minded but if that is all you look for you must get tired :-).
posted by dieselid at 11:38 AM on January 25, 2006


If you've figured out the whole thing is about profit and ratings and manipulated to maximize that and you still watch it, you're an idiot.

Hang on, you're saying manipulation for maximum profit and ratings is a bad thing? I'm glad I'm not you.
posted by cillit bang at 11:38 AM on January 25, 2006


It wasn't an attack against you, ludwig_van, just a comment that the first half of the article was about the parade of bad performances, and how it was cruel to put these poor souls on television. While these people didn't get to "live out their dream", that's the point of the show. They've watched people get torn apart by Simon in each of the past seasons.

I don't see the show as misrepresenting anything. The judges see a lot of crap, much of it intentional for good tv. The contestants are berated when they perform poorly, or even when they're quite good. The winner signs a contract in the music industry, which is not known for its goodwill outside of this show, anyway.

It must really suck to go from unknown to having a number one hit, and have other people making money off of you after making you popular.
posted by shinynewnick at 11:39 AM on January 25, 2006


I'm with those saying "yeah, is this news to anyone"?

I wonder sometimes if any of the contestants that are truly bad, and are told that by the judges, are able to figure it out when they see themselves on TV. OR do they really truly believe they sound awesome? And who are all the friends and family members that told them they're good? Where were the talent contests that gave them the prize? Someone should get yelled at.

I had a co-worker who made the big trek to an audition and she was crushed that she didn't even get in front of the judges. The rest of us assured her that it was better than being in front of them for sucking.
posted by raedyn at 11:41 AM on January 25, 2006


I feel exactly the opposite of this article. I hate the positive aspects of the show. I only watch the show for the first half of the season while the people that suck are on. Once all the buffoons are weeded out, it is just an episode of Star Search.

I like it when someone who believes fundamentally in their own greatness gets disabused of that notion in front of millions of people. These people sing in karaoke bars, or for their friends, or wherever people like this sing at, and other people go, "Wow, you're really great". Maybe a guy that wants to sleep with them tells them that. Maybe their mom does. Who cares. The thing is, the singer, who can't carry a tune to save their life, is told that they are talented. This happens dozens of times, and this poor tone deaf bastard actually goes around thinking that they are a great singer. They dream of 'making it'. They really think that they are going to go to L.A. and make an album, and sell more records that J-Lo. They think that their awesome singing ability is their ticket out of their crappy day to day lives.

Then a judge looks them in the eye and laughs at them, and tells them that they have no singing ability whatsoever. They do this in front of everyone this person knows, and millions of strangers. If you watched it in slow motion, you might be able to pinpoint the exact moment where their dream died. Welcome to reality loser, you suck. Anyone who doesn't want to watch that is an idiot (or not an asshole, in which case, where's the fun?)
posted by ND¢ at 11:47 AM on January 25, 2006


I caught the tail end minutes of last night's Greensboro auditions, which was fortunate, else I would never have had the opportunity to feast my eyes on Rhonetta. Wow, but she was hot. She couldn't sing worth a damn, but who cares? I would happily fork over $29.95/month to watch her try to sing, provided she did so naked. ;-) Rhonetta was definitely one of the sexiest women I've seen on TV in a long time.

(Sorry, no link to a picture. I'm not about to sort through the 600+ photos on their web site just to find Rhonetta.)
posted by nlindstrom at 11:48 AM on January 25, 2006


Wow. Talk about a victimized society. You stand in line for hours, to be on tv singing. You suck. You suck so bad that they put you on tv - to sing, on a show that has made a practice of humiliating sucky singers. For years.

And it's the SHOW'S fault? Give me a fucking break.
posted by glenwood at 11:48 AM on January 25, 2006


American Idol is basically a film of the autopsy on rock and roll's corpse. And as such, I can't watch.
posted by jonmc at 11:00 AM PST on January 25


Typical elitist crap. Let me guess: you only watch Arrested Development and only listen to experimental math-rock, only write in your Moleskine and only read Proust. Excuse us for liking Everybody loves Raymond and Dancing with the Stars; sorry we don't have your hip, East Coast sensibilities.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:51 AM on January 25, 2006


I would bet that the majority of the people who suck, know they suck. Its not about the singing. Really, the best thing that can happen to any American is to get on television... to be Watched.
posted by hatchetjack at 11:53 AM on January 25, 2006


That Crystal person... sweet mother of god. Did they make her in a vat or something?
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 11:53 AM on January 25, 2006


Obviously they are screened before they get to the judges, but how come nobody ever says anything along the lines of "If I'm so awful how did I get through the screening?". Just careful editing?

Oh and for what it's worth, I love AI and the current British equivalent "X-Factor", although I could stand a lot less of the comedy performances and a bit more attention on the better singers in the audition shows.
posted by teleskiving at 11:54 AM on January 25, 2006


I didn't watch it last season, but this season Simon Cowell seems to have slipped from brutal honesty to pure, bullying sadism. He seems to nakedly despise his job, despise his coworkers, and despise the kids who are auditioning for him.

Maybe it's time he left the show.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 AM on January 25, 2006


Fleetmouse said what I wanted to say. Dammit.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 11:56 AM on January 25, 2006


What monju_bosatsu said. Now that we've been exposed to about, what, 7 years of "reality" tv, anyone who willing submits to that process should know what may be coming.

In any case, difficult to muster much sympathy.
posted by everichon at 11:57 AM on January 25, 2006


American Idol is basically a film of the autopsy on rock and roll's corpse. And as such, I can't watch.

Are you serious? American Idol doesn't have anything to do with Rock and Roll.
posted by glenwood at 11:59 AM on January 25, 2006


nlindstrom, Merry Christmas from American Idol.
posted by shinynewnick at 12:03 PM on January 25, 2006


Cripes, who does Crystal's makeup? Earl Scheib?
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:03 PM on January 25, 2006


exactly, glenwood. Rock and roll as we know it is dead to the popular conciousness. If this show was made in say, 1966 or 1971, it would at least have to pretend. Rock's just another genre now.

*sigh*
posted by jonmc at 12:03 PM on January 25, 2006


And I spoke too soon. More Rhonetta goodness for you all.
posted by shinynewnick at 12:04 PM on January 25, 2006


Next they'll be telling me that WWF is staged. Is nothing sacred?
posted by Crackerbelly at 12:05 PM on January 25, 2006


'American Idol's' mean streak
posted by ND¢ at 12:06 PM on January 25, 2006


American Idol or Karaoke at a local bar?

There is no difference... except the karaoke is much more entertaining.
posted by BobFrapples at 12:07 PM on January 25, 2006


Rhonetta was definitely one of the sexiest women I've seen on TV in a long time.

Except for that 'Rhonetta' part.
posted by NationalKato at 12:08 PM on January 25, 2006


I've always wanted to sing "love will tear us apart" and when the judges said that I wasn't good enough tell them that I was going to hang myself.
posted by I Foody at 12:11 PM on January 25, 2006


Rock's just another genre now.

That's all it ever was.
posted by the cuban at 12:23 PM on January 25, 2006


The show is popular because everyone else watches it. It is a product of that idiotic snowball effect. If people could not talk about the show with other people, then they would likely not watch it in the first place.

It is just like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It was a trivia based game show. People watched it because other people watched it. It is still on television now. It is still of the same quaility now. No one watches it now because no one else watches it.
posted by flarbuse at 12:23 PM on January 25, 2006


It's not exactly a surprise that contestants go through a pre-screening procedure. You think Simon, Paula, and Randy are willing to sit through that many auditions?

I'm confused by what seems to be a double standard applied here. We decided, collectively, that it's okay to point and laugh at Josh. After all, he put himself forward; he asked for it by putting up a website on the public internets. But when it comes to American Idol, well, shame on everyone involved for daring to show those poor misguided people who obviously can't be held responsible for wanting to audition!
posted by booksandlibretti at 12:24 PM on January 25, 2006


That's all it ever was.

To you, maybe. But to others, and at other times, it was an ethos that seeped into just about all genres of popular music, if only to force lip service or opposition.
posted by jonmc at 12:25 PM on January 25, 2006


I used to get my talent night kicks from Letterman's "Is This Anything?" spots. More honest and at least you have grinder girl and hula hoop girl. That's what the show needs, for contestants to be flanked by a woman with a stanless steel corset and a battery powered construction tool.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:28 PM on January 25, 2006


that it's okay to point and laugh at Josh

Yes, but Josh is a Christian!. Of course we can make fun of him.

Most of the contestants on American Idol are African American, Homosexual, and quite possibly retarded, making them unfair game for these shenanigans.
posted by glenwood at 12:29 PM on January 25, 2006


Is 'Idol' homophobic?
"Gay rights organization concerned over judges' comments."
posted by ericb at 12:32 PM on January 25, 2006


Most of the contestants on American Idol are African American, Homosexual, and quite possibly retarded,

I dunno if you're being sarcastic or not, so here goes. I agree that it's unfair to make fun of retarded people since they lack the ability to fight back effectively, but if a black or gay person acts stupid or ridiculous, I reserve my right to point, laugh and say 'you're stupid and ridiculous' just as I would any straight white person.
posted by jonmc at 12:33 PM on January 25, 2006


Why worry about Crystal's singing performance when you can visit her MySpace?
posted by NationalKato at 12:35 PM on January 25, 2006


I forgot to add: lol, lmao, xxooxx, and mwah.
posted by NationalKato at 12:39 PM on January 25, 2006


Thank you, shinynewnick! I bow to your search engine kung fu. Looking at the pictures in the second link, I now must admit I am wondering if Rhonetta Johnson applied her makeup for American Idol with a trowel or a shovel. Regardless, I would still pay up to $9.95/month to watch her try to sing while naked. Yes, the maximum rate has come down by $20. ;-)

Oh, and...



Rest assured that the back end is just as glorious as the front.
posted by nlindstrom at 12:41 PM on January 25, 2006


I dunno if you're being sarcastic or not, so here goes. I agree that it's unfair to make fun of retarded people since they lack the ability to fight back effectively, but if a black or gay person acts stupid or ridiculous, I reserve my right to point, laugh and say 'you're stupid and ridiculous' just as I would any straight white person.

Sarcastic? Oh god yes. Most definately. Actually I'm not sure. I have trouble telling the difference anymore.
posted by glenwood at 12:44 PM on January 25, 2006


American Idol is basically a film of the autopsy on rock and roll's corpse. And as such, I can't watch.
posted by jonmc at 11:00 AM PST on January 25

Typical elitist crap. Let me guess: you only watch Arrested Development and only listen to experimental math-rock, only write in your Moleskine and only read Proust. Excuse us for liking Everybody loves Raymond and Dancing with the Stars; sorry we don't have your hip, East Coast sensibilities.posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:51 AM PST on January 25 [!]

A million cheers for Optimus.
Not your usual seamless prose, perhaps OC, but that's telling it.

Also, a funny secret about that poisonous but seductive little box in our living rooms. Unless you're a pro - or terribly lucky - you will somehow assume you won't look like an idiot if it ever becomes your turn. I'm - er - speaking from experience here (not from an Idol-type show, but not so different - and several times). Your healthy ego will convince you some sort of magic will attend your appearance. The producers/bookers bank on it. Of course, you are as bad as you feared - but you are helping to exploit yourself.
There are worse things than enjoying "Idol". Truly.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:44 PM on January 25, 2006


Jody Tressider: I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with enjoying the show. Hell, my girlfriend likes it. I'm just saying why I don't like it.

you only watch Arrested Development and only listen to experimental math-rock, only write in your Moleskine and only read Proust. Excuse us for liking Everybody loves Raymond

I'm the guy who likes King Of Queens remember? Jeez, either I'm an elitist or a savage, Just let me know.
posted by jonmc at 12:48 PM on January 25, 2006


How is Optimus Chyme's 'elitist crap' tirade any different than jonmc's comment?
posted by NationalKato at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2006


I, for one, welcome our new flawless overladies.
posted by MikeKD at 12:54 PM on January 25, 2006


In other reality television news -- this just in -- Ex-‘Survivor’ Richard Hatch found guilty of tax evasion.
posted by ericb at 12:54 PM on January 25, 2006


Maybe you'd prefer Ethiopian Idol.
posted by mike3k at 12:56 PM on January 25, 2006


Maybe you'd prefer Ethiopian Idol.
Nah, they're too skinny, and they're wearing too much clothing.
posted by nlindstrom at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2006


I never thought I'd learn anything in this thread, but man was I wrong! Things I've learned so far:

Rohnetta = hot.
Moleskine = notebook.
Math rock = a lot of bands I've never heard of
Jonmc = savage elitist or elite savage
punk rock and pre-1971 rock = not commercial

So much to learn in such a short thread!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:06 PM on January 25, 2006


Its funny, in school I always complained about school elections as popularity contents. No one every pointed out to me that real-life elections (and such contests like AI) are basically the same thing.
posted by SirOmega at 1:07 PM on January 25, 2006


punk rock and pre-1971 rock = not commercial

Que? The Beatles, Motown, and Elvis weren't commercial?

(I don't consider 'commercial' a put down, btw)
posted by jonmc at 1:07 PM on January 25, 2006


Hey, I'm just reporting what I've learned thus far on this thread.

Maybe I'm wrong but I got 1971 as the cut off date from this:

If this show was made in say, 1966 or 1971, it would at least have to pretend. Rock's just another genre now.

What would they be pretending? That they were really country musicians? That they weren't in it for the money?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:17 PM on January 25, 2006


I think David Cross got it right when he talked about the "non-stop parade of delusion" that embodies American fame and Hollywood culture, typified by American Idol.

As such, I've got no problems grabbing a seat, and watching the parade roll by.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2006


I picked two eras where rock and roll was such an important part of popular culture that popular performers would have to at least 'pretend' to be rock and roll or 'pretend' to acknowledge it. I could just as easily have said 1968 or 1957.
posted by jonmc at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2006


"How is Optimus Chyme's 'elitist crap' tirade any different than jonmc's comment?"
posted by NationalKato at 12:53 PM PST on January 25 [!]

Because, NK, jonmc made the fatal mistake of writing - and god, I can hardly bring myself to repeat it - "a film of the autopsy on rock 'n roll's corpse".

And even if Optimus didn't quite hit full tirade stride - more a strangled peeve, really - jonmc surely deserved death by peeve.

If you don't shudder NK, to your very marrow at ANY sentence using ANY combination of corpse, autopsy and rock 'n roll EVER, I don't know what to say!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2006


No, Jody, I just meant OC's comment was elitist as well.
posted by NationalKato at 1:26 PM on January 25, 2006


I agree with jonmc -- but I think that the true reality-TV autopsy of rock-and-roll was in fact Rock Star: INXS. That was the worst.
posted by josh at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2006


Ah, OK, I misunderstood then.

I think though that there were plenty of people performing what was then called "Pop" music that had very little to do with Rock. I don't recall Guy Lombardo or Frank Sinatra doing much acknowledgement of the genre!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2006


If you don't shudder NK, to your very marrow at ANY sentence using ANY combination of corpse, autopsy and rock 'n roll EVER, I don't know what to say!

Jody: You will not find anywhere on Earth, a more hardcore True Believer down-to-the-bone rock and roll fanatic than me. Why do you think I'm so angry at what Idol and it's spawn have done to it?

I caught a few minutes of some chick singing "You Really Got Me," on it in a leather tank top. Seeing Ray Davies perfect ode to obsessive lust transformed by some S&M Barbie into hollow fluff depressed the crap out of me.
posted by jonmc at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2006


I also kind of wish the young Wild Man Fischer could be a contestant. or maybe even GG Allin.
posted by jonmc at 2:01 PM EST on January 25 [!]


Oh yes, yes, yes. I would love to see GG do his thing, and maybe launch a bit of it at Cowell. He could sing: "Suck my Ass it Smells" that would be delightful...
posted by ob at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2006


this show is absolutely not for smart people.
Sure, if you're smart of enough knowing how Broadway works you may just enjoy it for the auditions alone. Its comedy gold entertainment for some, and for others: “I wouldn't be caught dead doing that in front of a camera…,[shyly said] pleassssse, next channel".
posted by thomcatspike at 1:34 PM on January 25, 2006


I think that the true reality-TV autopsy of rock-and-roll was in fact Rock Star: INXS. That was the worst.

Good point. Watching that moron in the mohawn smile like a fucking cabaret singer while singing "Paint It Black," made me wanna kick in my screen.

I don't recall Guy Lombardo or Frank Sinatra doing much acknowledgement of the genre!

Guy I can't really comment on, but Frank's badass swagger and refusal to water down the Black influences in his style made him a proto-Elvis of sorts. And Guy was sort of a refuge from rock for the old folks and the squares, so it still was acknowledging it.
posted by jonmc at 1:34 PM on January 25, 2006


Um, y'all know that "rock and roll" was a marketing phrase coined by a white DJ to apply to certain types of "race music" (itself a widely used marketing term that "rhythm and blues" was coined to replace) in order to make said product palatable to a larger white demographic, right? R&R has ALWAYS been about commercialism, popularity ("pop") and product. Otherwise you are talking about folk music (not "folk" as in the marketing term of the 60's, but folk in the generic academic sense of music by folks for folks).

Idol not only has nothing to do with rock and roll, but even rock and roll has nothing to do with rock and roll.
posted by bonefish at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2006


R&R has ALWAYS been about commercialism, popularity ("pop") and product.

Sure, but as Mark Kingwell once said, it's at the junkfood level that standards become most important. And Idol and it's ilk have pissed all over it.
posted by jonmc at 1:39 PM on January 25, 2006


As regards my last comment, I thought that I should make clear that I am aware that GG Allin is dead. But his soul lives on and could quite possibly possess an AI contestant. That would be one hell of a show: American Idol, the unrated edition...
posted by ob at 1:41 PM on January 25, 2006


josh, the worst part about Rock Star INXS was listening to the freakin' band name drop their own band's name as often as possible. (Disclaimer: My wife loved the show and I was peripherally tainted by it, but I didn't like it at all).

bonefish, if rock and roll has nothing to do with rock and roll then what does rock and roll have to do with and who's it doing it with?
posted by fenriq at 1:41 PM on January 25, 2006


I watched a bit of it last night and thought that Simon looked as though he was getting mad more at the show (the screeners? its obvious they prescreen because there is no way all 25,000 people get to see the judges in 2 days) and the producers for wasting his time whenever someone was a terrible singer.
posted by jeffmik at 1:42 PM on January 25, 2006


bonefish, now you're just nitpicking. if we cannot agree that something natural and genuine can be said about 'rock n' roll' (the style of music) versus American Idol, I'm bowing out of this thread.
posted by NationalKato at 1:43 PM on January 25, 2006


As regards my last comment, I thought that I should make clear that I am aware that GG Allin is dead. But his soul lives on and could quite possibly possess an AI contestant. That would be one hell of a show: American Idol, the unrated edition...

Yes, I agree. American Idol definitely needs more felching!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:43 PM on January 25, 2006


Wait...so...this reality show is staged? OMGWTF?!
posted by graventy at 1:46 PM on January 25, 2006


Who Will Save Rock And Roll?! (rapidshare link) (lyrics)
posted by jonmc at 1:46 PM on January 25, 2006


Yes, I agree. American Idol definitely needs more felching!
posted by Pollomacho at 4:43 PM EST on January 25 [!]


Well, just more bodily fluids in general. I think that would spice things up a little.
posted by ob at 1:47 PM on January 25, 2006


"You will not find anywhere on Earth, a more hardcore True Believer down-to-the-bone rock and roll fanatic than me."

Actually, I twigged that jonmc.

That's why you have to get all Wagnerian on our asses when you are mad. And, you know, magnificent!

Just don't use that...polyester phrase.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2006


Cowell could even start a ratings system. If they're not too good he spits, really bad he pukes, and if they really stink then... well, you get it. I think that would give the show some class...
posted by ob at 1:50 PM on January 25, 2006


"Excuse us for liking Everybody loves Raymond and Dancing with the Stars; sorry we don't have your hip, East Coast sensibilities."

Then quit fucking whining about it. You like cheap bullshit-- it's OK. American Idol is boring as hell, watching the same voices try to out mellismatic each other.
Just as much as the "I wouldn't condescend to watch!" elitism annoys me, the knee-jerk defense of anything that gets dismissed as stupid or unsophisticated is even more tiresome. Jonmc may be doing his little dance, caught between the poles of authenticity and artifice, but using that as an excuse to rail against some percieved elitism is retarded. It's the same thing as arguing that because you like to eat ho-hos for every meal, it's elitist to tell you that you're a moron for doing so.

Oh, and Jody: While the mick shoulda saved that salvo for a more deserving target (American Idol is more feasting on the corpse of Whitney Houston and Gladys Knight than rock and roll), your hyperbole in response wasn't even, you know, amusing.
posted by klangklangston at 1:50 PM on January 25, 2006


fenriq: Rock and roll as a mythical strain of rebellion, creativity, youth and raw quality (or whatever it is that people like jonmc believe can die or be killed or pissed on) has nothing to do with rock and roll the marketing term (and its derivative "rock") used to label vernacular American music products.

That said: rock died with the release of the first Bad Company album.

/KITH reference
posted by bonefish at 1:52 PM on January 25, 2006


Jonmc may be doing his little dance, caught between the poles of authenticity and artifice,

I like that, klang. Actually, I dig the authenticty of artifice, man. ;>

American Idol is more feasting on the corpse of Whitney Houston and Gladys Knight than rock and roll

Whitney, I can do without, but Gladys is rock and roll to me. "If I Were Your Woman," oozes soul.

your hyperbole in response wasn't even, you know, amusing

Well, were forming a band. Wagnerian Hyperbole, coming to your town!
posted by jonmc at 1:54 PM on January 25, 2006


That would be a really great comment, klangklangston, it weren't screamingly obvious that I was joking, playing off of jonmc's well-known blue-collar, anti-snob ethos.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:55 PM on January 25, 2006


"...your hyperbole in response wasn't even, you know, amusing."posted by klangklangston.

What hyperbole, oh amusement monitor?

Fair enough, actually. Sorry.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:56 PM on January 25, 2006


You know, when I was 16, my look wasn't a whole lot more subtle than Crystal's. It was this horrid amalgam of Flannel Feminist hair and (non-existant) make-up, atop as much cheap black lace, chiffon and stretch velvet as I could find. Plus businesswear stolen or "borrowed" from my Dad. Plus battered, never-polished issue boots. Plus "funky" socks and earrings of the sort that school librarians wear on holidays. I thought it was fabulous. On television, it would have looked like I was trying to do a one-woman production of The Addams Family, playing all the parts at once.

Derek's old enough to know better. The man's fair game, and there's no reason not to mock him. Crystal's different. She strikes me as a gal who's really trying. Her inane blather? Her inabilty to answer questions? That's not necessarily stupidity. My guess is that it owes more to nerves and a (16 year-old) lack of polish. I really hope she's able to William Shatner/Hung out with this thing, and monetize her humiliation.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:58 PM on January 25, 2006


What's a Ho-Ho?
posted by raedyn at 2:01 PM on January 25, 2006


sort of a cut rate Yodel, but the caramel flavored ones are the sucrose equivalent of freebasing Pink Peruvian.
posted by jonmc at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2006


Her inane blather? Her inabilty to answer questions? That's not necessarily stupidity.

Go here for a few minutes, then come back and say that again.
posted by glenwood at 2:05 PM on January 25, 2006


That's still wy over my head. Thanks for trying, jonmc. Maybe it's a US only thing?
posted by raedyn at 2:07 PM on January 25, 2006


So ... you guys are aware that at this point, most of the "bad" singers, with the exception of a very few who are genuinely insane, are actually completely aware how bad they are, and are doing it to get on TV, right? That, for example, many of those scenes of enraged contestant storming out, cursing and swearing about how the judges are idiots and will pay and I'm really wonderful and someday they'll see, are FILMED SEVERAL TIMES to get a good take? That the cameramen actually ask the contestants to go back to the doorway and storm out again, and they cheerfully agree, knowing it will increase their chances of getting on television?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I think the producers of American Idol are scum and the show is a black hole of suck, but don't delude yourself that somehow the bad singers are either total morons or getting taken advantage of. Many just want to get on TV, and some are hoping to become the next William Hung (who made a mint of being a bad singer). Many are even faking it to be even worse than they really are.

There are, probably, a few genuinely deluded people, but they are a small, small minority of the contestants.
posted by kyrademon at 2:09 PM on January 25, 2006


If you don't shudder NK, to your very marrow at ANY sentence using ANY combination of corpse, autopsy and rock 'n roll EVER, I don't know what to say!

Sounds like a great song lyric to me. Or at least, something for a poster. Or even, a slasher movie musical title!

That would be a really great comment, klangklangston, it weren't screamingly obvious that I was joking, playing off of jonmc's well-known blue-collar, anti-snob ethos.

He's so lowbrow, it's hip!
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:18 PM on January 25, 2006


raedyn, let me translate:

cut rate = low quality
Yodel = type of junk food
sucrose = sugar
freebasing = way of smoking cocaine
Pink Peruvian = rosy colored cocaine from Peru (considered some of the best cocaine among cocaine users).

So I guess jonmc said a Ho-Ho is like a Yodel but not as good, except for the caramel-colored ones, which are very sweet.
posted by bonefish at 2:19 PM on January 25, 2006


What's a Ho-Ho?


10 individually wrapped packages of ick.
posted by nlindstrom at 2:21 PM on January 25, 2006


All "reality" shows are scripted and staged. Do people really think the "Survivor" cast are not making a bee-line for the Craft Services tent when the cameras stop rolling?
posted by wfc123 at 2:24 PM on January 25, 2006


Off topic rant

I'm still trying to figure out what jonmc thinks rock and roll is. So far it seems that if he likes it, it's rock and roll, and if he doesn't, it's not. Further anything he doesn't like is still somehow below rock and roll, in that it is forced to react somehow. This is a pretty good rhetorical strategy, as it leaves only jonmc as a judge of "authenticity" (which is a term that has been so drained of meaning I roll my eyes whenever anyone uses is. Ironically, authenticity is the new irony, but that's another story.)

My theory? Rock and roll never was. It was a marketing pitch, pure and simple. It was a product. It was a recording aesthetic and a bunch of bad haircuts. T-shirts don't make a cultural movement, just something that looks like a cultural movement, but without the effort.

Don't get me wrong, I love good music, and much rock falls into that category, but this weird reification, this weird nostalgia, for something that was basically marketing, strikes me as wantonly naive. But maybe that's the point.

/off topic rant
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:03 PM on January 25, 2006


Thanks for dumbing it down for me. If it's possible to dumb that down. I think we've got something similar here in Canada (hell, maybe the same brands) but I make a point not to notice that sort of thing.

I (heart) MeFi
posted by raedyn at 3:09 PM on January 25, 2006


> watching the same voices try to out mellismatic each other

Melismatic is my word of the day, thanks! And OK, there is an element of that but it just makes it all the better when someone turns up who makes a big impression with a great tone and control rather than a lot of showing off.
posted by teleskiving at 3:21 PM on January 25, 2006


To follow elwoodwiles off topic, is it about rock and roll being authenticity itself ("natural and genuine" as it was put somewhere above), or just being authentic to its own young, shallow traditions, hence debates about what "real" rock and roll is?

jonmc seemd to be asserting that American Idol is not "real" rock and roll or somehow treading on its sanctity Then it was pointed out by otheres that AI is not rock and roll at all, but instead mere pop music. Which I guess means that while rock and roll can be pop music, pop music can't be real rock and roll.

But if AI is about rags to riches, fame and humiliation, getting on TV no matter what and other attributes that are distinctly amusical, then American Idol is totally authentic and real to its own theme, right?
posted by bonefish at 3:35 PM on January 25, 2006


>>>So ... you guys are aware that at this point, most of the "bad" singers, with the exception of a very few who are genuinely insane, are actually completely aware how bad they are, and are doing it to get on TV, right?

DING DING DING

We have a winner!
posted by birdsong at 3:49 PM on January 25, 2006


If you don't shudder NK, to your very marrow at ANY sentence using ANY combination of corpse, autopsy and rock 'n roll EVER, I don't know what to say!

As the coroner performing the autopsy on her maggot-ridden, fire-blackened corpse, I was forced to conclude that her last words, "My life was saved by rock 'n roll" were not, in fact, the case.
posted by Sparx at 4:03 PM on January 25, 2006


I'm still trying to figure out what jonmc thinks rock and roll is. So far it seems that if he likes it, it's rock and roll, and if he doesn't, it's not.

Nah. Styx, for instance, is bad rock and roll.

strikes me as wantonly naive. But maybe that's the point.

not in so many words, but kinda.
posted by jonmc at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2006


Look, I love good pop music. I even love a lot of bad pop music.

But I had to stop watching American Idol, ever, a season or three ago when an auditioning contestent brayed out an off-key, hyper-melismatic rendition of a song she introduced as "'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'? It's by Beyonce."

...And she made it through to the next round.
posted by Tomatillo at 4:11 PM on January 25, 2006


I should clarify something: I may exaggerate my rock fandom in the interest of amusing whoever deigns to read them, but only because it does mean a lot to me. As an awkward, spazzy, pre-adolescent defective, it woke me out of my stupor and help me find my place in the world. It led me to all kinds of ideas, literature, politics, art and people that I never would've encountered and expressed thoughts I never would've been able to articulate otherwise. Without it, I'd probably be sitting in some office selling car insurance and waiting to die. Plus, there's just the visceral pleasure I get hearing it. So, I'm very grateful to it.

As far as my personal definition goes: traditional rock, blues, soul, hip-hop, punk, funk, R&B, metal, country, bluegrass and a lotta jazz is what rock and roll is to me. But I fully understand that others can find those things in other ways. Many of my closest MeFi associates get it through electronic music, or classical or opera or through art and sports. and that's great.

Just to clear the air.
posted by jonmc at 4:19 PM on January 25, 2006


Wow. That Crystal creature is almost as creepy as the camel spider from this thread. I'll bet that on one of her butt cheeks is a stamp that says 'Mattel'.
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:53 PM on January 25, 2006


The NYTimes editorial department chimed in on this last weekend.
posted by jba at 4:58 PM on January 25, 2006


What bothers me the most is that the type of voices that they priviledge are super clean and probably run through all sorts of processing before even getting to our ears, which both eliminates markets for people with unique voices and convinces the audience that this is how things are SUPPOSED to sound. Gladys, Martha, Aretha, even Whitney, all had unique voices that set them apart from the rest and were instantly recongnizable. Now everything's as unremarkable as Nebraska roadside.
posted by klangklangston at 5:10 PM on January 25, 2006


I just scrolled through 125+ comments and there wasn't a single additional car wreck audition video.

You guys let me down.

Seriously, I think you can learn a lot about music by seeing it busted apart.

What is the motto of the Geological Society? Something like "we fracture to reveal," (only in latin.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:16 PM on January 25, 2006


I think Crystal was photographed with a tilt-shift lens.
posted by dhartung at 5:18 PM on January 25, 2006


jonmc: I think I owe you a beer now. I've been harsh.
posted by I Love Tacos at 5:18 PM on January 25, 2006


Gladys, Martha, Aretha, even Whitney, all had unique voices that set them apart from the rest and were instantly recongnizable.

I'm sorry, but I can never forgive Whitney for ruining high school graduation ceremonies by forcing them all to feature a young black woman warbling "The Greatest Love Of All." Some schools in Montana were forced to fly the same black girl in. She's tired.

jonmc: I think I owe you a beer now. I've been harsh.

Don't sweat it. I'm glad I got to say that.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 PM on January 25, 2006


I'll save my text message voting for when Honk Bag starts.
posted by furtive at 5:36 PM on January 25, 2006


AI is just a popular TV show; I'm surprised some people here are so passionate about hating it. I've watched most of the last two seasons and enjoyed them. The bilious loathing of AI by its MeFi detractors makes me think their opinions are more about what they think they should despise to keep their hipster street cred intact, rather than what they actually have good reasons for despising. If you simply didn't care for it, I don't think you'd be so heated about it.

Anyway, I think it's clear that few, if any, of the early contestants are really humiliated by their treatment by the judges. They love the attention, and the show may actually help them by putting to rest their ridiculous dreams of stardom.
posted by jayder at 6:27 PM on January 25, 2006


...what they think they should despise to keep their hipster street cred intact...

Where I come from, nothing says hipster street cred like deluded self-conscious faux-naive deconstructed antimusic in the shriveling glare of the media spotlight.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:23 PM on January 25, 2006


Do people really think the "Survivor" cast are not making a bee-line for the Craft Services tent when the cameras stop rolling?

FWIW, they're not - Survivor, while definitely contrived, is pretty hardcore in terms of the conditions they live with. They really *don't* eat more than we see, or have more water than they carry in (I've met a few of the contestants...besides, you can see how skinny they get!)
posted by tristeza at 7:24 PM on January 25, 2006


Hrm, all this talk about AI and Rock and there's no mention of Bo Bice from last season?

He really was kinda amazing, the guy who would do a deeply anguished performance of Whipping Post while everyone else was still stuck on Backstreet Boys covers, the shaggy guy who wasn't afraid to wear a dashiki when everyone else was in evening gowns, the guy who took all sorts of chances including doing an accapella number from an obscure metal band when the other semi-finalists did nothing but adult contemporary schlock.

Bo's voice wasn't really clean at all, but was rather growly and he didn't resort to the infamous glory note. And he definitely had the look of someone who has spent the past ten years playing in dives for little money, just for some great love for music.

And, if the rumors are to be believed, he came within a few hundred votes of winning the entire thing. So sometimes the AI audience does reward authentic performers who are willing to take chances and perhaps Rock does still have some sort of relevance to the mainstream audience.
posted by pandaharma at 8:38 PM on January 25, 2006


If you're dumb enough to have thought that every single person who showed up and filled the stadiums had personal auditions with Randy, Paula and Simon...in the _2 days_ they spend in each city, mind you...
posted by apple scruff at 9:31 PM on January 25, 2006


wtf, styx rules!
posted by 31d1 at 9:44 PM on January 25, 2006


Eh, I like it. Who cares, it's just a show.
posted by agregoli at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2006


"The bilious loathing of AI by its MeFi detractors makes me think their opinions are more about what they think they should despise to keep their hipster street cred intact, rather than what they actually have good reasons for despising. "

And then, when people do list reasons for disliking it, you conveniently ignore them...
posted by klangklangston at 8:38 AM on January 26, 2006


Interesting thread.

What bothers me the most is that the type of voices that they priviledge are super clean and probably run through all sorts of processing before even getting to our ears, which both eliminates markets for people with unique voices and convinces the audience that this is how things are SUPPOSED to sound.

This is a good point. In addition to the aforementioned overly melismatic (a melisma is when more than one pitch is sung over the same syllable; i.e. "And the land of the freeee-eeee-eee-eee-EEEE!"), faux "soulful," contrived vibrato, wailing style of singing they promote. I'm not a big Modest Mouse fan, but I read a writeup that praised Isaac Brock's success with his gruff vocal style as being an "anti-American Idol." And yes, I know Isaac Brock didn't invent that style, thank you very much.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:08 AM on January 26, 2006


They're no Deerhoof, but yeah. Hopefully, as with the end of the Baroque period, the ornamentation will become too much for people to swallow and there'll be a swing in the other direction. Though now, with the way music is fractured, I'm not sure that the backlash and the lash can't exist simultaneously, which doesn't necessarily do any good overall...
posted by klangklangston at 12:14 PM on January 26, 2006


Rhonetta Johnson now has an official fan club, thanks to someone on the Internet.



RhonettaJohnson.com
posted by nlindstrom at 11:26 AM on January 27, 2006


jonmc:As an awkward, spazzy, pre-adolescent defective, it woke me out of my stupor and help me find my place in the world.
MetaFilter: So Totally Better Than jonmc's High School
posted by scrump at 2:43 PM on January 27, 2006


I auditioned for the past 2 seasons of Malaysian Idol. kyrademon has the right idea when she says that most of these people KNOW they're going to be on air and act the way they do for that purpose.

MI didn't really ask us to do anything; rather, they just took advantage of those that were already kooky. There is a pre-screening with the producers before the judges. (I think they actually do mention this stage on MI)

I got to the judges on my 2nd audition mainly because I sang in Bengali - unique for them. (I didn't go any further) I got filmed a lot too because I was generally goofing off. One of the people after me got told off for sounding "gay", and I ranted (to the other auditioners but in front of the producing team) about how obviously homophobic that was. They got him to record a response to that, but neither one of us made it on air in the end.

The people who were goofing off and being silly were the ones that had the most fun. The super serious ones just got stressed out (and they rarely made it through anyhow). One of my friends auditioned with a bad-on-purpose rendition of The Cranberries' "Zombie", and she (plus 2 other people) were actually invited back to the grand finals for a special performance.

Singing talent is necessary to make it through the competition. Actually getting aired requires something else entirely.
posted by divabat at 4:54 AM on January 28, 2006


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