Moral Concessions (get comfortable and hold on tight)

Fair recently, I have been forced to sort of…eat my own words. Rather, append an argument. Fine, say “I was wrong.” Maybe. 8)

The issue at hand is the television show “American Idol”. In my attempt to be an honest person, and a “good little fan”, I have decided that it’s only right that I should go back and force myself to actually watch the first season of American Idol. You have no idea how huge of a concession this is, on my part. Kelly Clarkson owes me a good drink for this. LOL

You see, I railed and railed endlessly against the show when it came out. Not based on the talent of the show, based on the ideology and my disagreement with the major label record companies. I consider the show “cheating”. And that argument does stand. I think it’s ridiculously disgusting that they’re basically saying to people `you may have talent, but we’re going to make you get millions of fans first, before we even agree to give you a contract’. That’s bullshit. It’s unfair. It’s completely cheating to say you’ll only give someone a recording contract if they bring you a huge national already-built fan base.

Then, there is the second part being that I was more of a music snob. Early in my life I was a big pop fan (early 80’s). Then in the late 80’s/early 90’s I suffered the attack of the Taylor Dayne’s and Mariah Carey’s (oh don’t EVEN get me started…) and became just as angsty, perhaps even more so because of my great love of music, as the rest of my Gen-X generation. I had completely given up hope on Pop music. Tuned out. Considered myself to have ‘grown past’ it. uh-huh.

That is why it took me some 6 years (ish) into her career before Kelly Clarkson finally managed to catch my attention, and slowly return my gaze to the genre. And even the way that happened is sortof funny. Inadvertant. But in the meantime I of course could not avoid catching tidbits of (esp the first season) American Idol and it’s songs (like on commercial breaks – commercials for it) and was unimpressed. To this day I can’t stand the “A Moment Like This” song. It’s theme-appropriete but otherwise just cheesy bad, I’m sorry. LOL. Ugh. I wince and hit “mute” quickly if I’m watching something and she breaks into one of those-type early songs and just try to wait it out. Even as a later fan, I did not buy her first album (though I did amazon.com “Miss Independant” and I LOVE that song, “Low” is pretty good, and I’ve slowly warmed a bit to “Thankful”). However, I understand they are greatly popular. Da Populace Luvs Da Cheeze. I myself prefer deeper, more soul-grabbing content (which Kelly, once unleashed,  shows a strong proclivity toward).

Back to issue: I had tuned out and turned my nose down, disappointed, toward Pop Music. At the time, there was probably no way in hell you could have *paid* me to watch the show. I was just dead-set against it. I kept saying if the producers thought the people had enough talent to pay for a moment of television time for them, then dammit they should just give them a record contract and set them loose on the population, like traditionally is supposed to happen. `But no, I’m not going to listen to it because I’m sure it’s all just typical-pop-crap and I’m not interested’. Hurumph. (much chuckling at myself now….ahem) (damn you, Kelly ;’P  ).

Now, having taken strong note of Kelly Clarkson, and watched quite a bit of her career (yay youtube) progression and interviews, her growth as a person and artist… I feel a compulsion to go back and watch the beginning. And also, a hint of “justice” in it because I’ve been forced, through Kelly, to openly admit that the world did gain something quite positive out of the “American Idol” show [I partially wonder if I didn’t subconsciously block hearing her sing earlier out of sheer stubborness LOL].

What I’ve learned about myself from watching the first season, and I’m only up to the 7th episode so far (Group 3 performing) – is that I am an incredibly particular music critic. I would be somewhere between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul – my instinct is to be nice, to be positive…but my incredible passion for music also forces outright honesty. So while I would want to try to be nice, be encouraging and thankful to the participants, all in all I would eliminate most of them. Fair quickly. Faster than Simon on a lot of them, honestly. If I see a trait worth waiting for another shot at, sure, I’m a ‘go’. But often I find myself viewing the contestants and saying “average” “average”…”good, but not great“..good but not great is probably my most common reaction. Twice I’ve had quite harsh things to say: one contestant (a female) performed as though she were in a High School competition…at the level of being alright for a High School competition, but not for this competition and I felt very strongly about that. Another, a male, would make a great Las Vegas lounge lizard. Seriously – he would do well. I honestly hope that’s what he’s doing now so he’s at least still getting to sing and perform, and make some money while at it. But not good enough to go professional pop star on his own, no.

I am most critical of actual singing ability…I think it’s great when someone attractive steps up, has a good sellable ‘look’ to them, but not being attractive is not something I hold against them as that can be manufactered (and that’s something I think Simon doesn’t understand, flat-out). Yes, in the pop world – manufactered beauty is The Way. They pomp, buff, fluff, manicure, touch up the shit out of everybody – and all it takes to be considered “attractive” to the masses is a buffed, manufactured image. I firmly believe absolutely anybody can be assisted-to-death into acceptable pop-culture attractive packaging (ugh). But that’s the way of things.

I am highly critical of singing – note for note, even. I’m little-ms ‘cut that note, lengthen that one, you shouldn’t trill on that word it doesn’t work, but pull your range on this one…” etc etc. LOL! Constructive critisism..but my, my I am quite particular. I would probably be fair grueling in a studio…though I do have complete confidence that you would come out of the room with something Great…but only after I’d beaten my head against the equipment a few times trying to find the `missing link’ between good and great in any particular piece. *chuckle*.

With all that in mind, there is quite a lot of good talent in the first season. At least a handful of them, I feel, deserved more work from a label. As second runner up I probably would have chosen Christina Christian. I can’t get enough of her singing “Ain’t No Sunshine” – she’s got a very classy touch and she brings it to her music, as well as a good soulful performance. Perhaps not *pop* star, per se, but with some label effort the woman definetely could have gone farther in the more r&b side of pop (think Rihanna, Leona Lewis). Christina’s a million times more talented than Fantasia (from some later Idol season). At least. She’s simply a much more solid bet than Fantasia – much more to work with. But, offhand, the judges do not seem to have gotten as “lucky” on the other seasons as they did on the first one, where quite a lot of good talent walked in the door.  Justin Guarini is another, of course, person who should have gone farther. He’s not of a genre split that I would actually listen to, but I recognize the talent – he has at least as much malleable talent as the other Justin does – Timberlake. His lack of super stardom I feel is more a failure of the label and management, then of talent. He does have it. There is quite a lot of malleable talent on the show.

Kelly still has the outright raw undeniable talent that stands out – I have only seen her first performance so far, in the second group, she sang a tidbit of “Respect”. Whoever controlled the camera time really did not like her – LOL! She quite literally got *none* for the first few episodes…then comes out of nowhere and hits you with her final-10 picking performance. She comes in front of the stage quite nervous seeming and a bit timid – but the moment the woman opens her mouth to sing she just takes command & control. Kelly has the unique ability to sideswipe you completely, and knock you 10 feet back (in a pleasant way LOL).  Short little 5’3″ woman that walks onto stage then stuns, paralyzes and jaw-drops you as she starts to sing. You just don’t see it coming. Pure, raw, talent. But there was definitely at least good competition.

I’m sure I’ll comment more as I watch more of the first season but I have at least been struck by 1) the fact that good talent worth watching is present and 2) wow I’m a strict music critic.  There was one guy so incredibly good looking in the 3rd group that I found myself wishing they’d keep the camera off him ’cause I couldn’t concentrate LOL. They pan to him a lot and every time I’m like ‘damn..he’s cute!’. Sadly, I’m probably related to him because his last name is Scott (mother’s maiden). Double-damn. [as far as performance, he has a good voice but had a bad song pick, not a good over-all performance…sigh].

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One Response to “Moral Concessions (get comfortable and hold on tight)”

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