Friday, March 23, 2012

The Ancient American Idol

I'm having issues with American Idol. Look, the show has been on how long? Eleven years or something like that. Now, as with anything, after eleven years, the popularity is expected to start to wane a bit. So if you're the producers, wouldn't you want to do whatever you could to counteract that sort of inevitable decline as much as you could? I would think so. And while I have no idea if the producers think that same thing or not, I do know that if that is their line of thinking that they are certainly going about it in a very strange manner.

See, last night, the contestants were to sing Billy Joel songs. I have nothing against Billy Joel. He's a fine musician and I enjoy many of his songs. But when was the last time he had a hit? A BIG hit? Early 90s? I thought that I heard them mention on the show that his last hit was 17 years before one of the contestants was born. And I'm not totally sure that his music has withstood the test of time. Tell me again why playing the songs of the elderly is a good idea for a pop music singing contest on television? I'm not seeing their logic.

On top of that, who do the contestants have helping them out (also known as 'mentoring', though if that's what they're doing, it's minimal mentoring at best) but none other than Diddy. Aka P Diddy. Aka Puff Daddy. Aka Sean Combs. Now, Sean Combs is a talented guy and a surprisingly good business man. (He's no Jay-Z, but he can hold his own quite well.) How did they come up with the idea of Diddy helping these kids sing Billy Joel songs? And how did they get him to agree to it? (Hey, Sean. You wanna help kids sing old man Billy Joel songs?" "Who? I mean, sure!")

Let me put this in perspective. Let's say that you're my age-ish. (I'm going to make my age-ish 40 for this discussion. Let's not talk about how old I really am, shall we?) Now let's fantasize that I was a teenager who could sing and take it back 24 years so that I'm 16 and it is now 1988. The Number One song that year was inexplicably "Need you Tonight" by INXS. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison was Number Four. "So Emotional" by the recently departed (and constantly coked up) Whitney Houston was at Number Six. "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns and Roses was at Number Eleven. You get the gist. Now, if American had done then what they did last night and picked songs about thirty years older than I was at the time, I would have been expected to sing the likes of "Mule Train" by Frankie Laine and "The Hucklebuck" by Paul Williams! That's laughable to me now! And isn't that essentially what they're doing with the current American Idol contestants? It is! I just don't know why!

It'd be like if I walked out there (still playing into the fantasy that I could sing when I was a teenager) and the director said, "OK, guys. Tonight we're going to be doing the songs of Irving M. Cohen!" (If you don't get that reference, I've included a handy video below!) Or "Good news, kids! Sousa marches!" What the what?!

I don't understand what they're doing. The show isn't exactly compelling anymore. This is supposed to be a contest for the next biggest music star and they're having them sing outdated Billy Joel songs after being mentored by rapper Diddy and outfitted by sixty-year old Tommy Hilfiger. I don't get it. If I hadn't been watching Idol since the beginning, maybe I wouldn't feel so invested in it that I feel almost a duty to keep watching. But I'm really not seeing how this sort of thing is going to help.

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