American Idol – Redux Revisited

We’re now four episodes into the season and we know our new judges a little better. These are still the raw audition episodes so we’re not really familiar with the talent yet and, though a few will stand out, with only three minutes of exposure, we’re not really going to remember much from these episodes except the judges.

It’s a slightly different show without Simon. There’s no cringe effect, no sadistic wit as Simon callously rips into some person who can barely sing or can’t sing. The show is more pleasant, more about the joy of the singers, and not just the good ones.

There are still the cringes at the awful singers they show because they’re the special kind of awful. I don’t have any sympathy, after ten seasons, for people who make it through to the final just because they’re spectacularly bad at singing. By now, everyone, whether they watch the show regularly or not, knows that Idol shows two kinds of singers at this stage, good and incredibly bad. If these people don’t want to be embarrassed on national television they should get affirmation of their talent from someone besides their parents before they audition for Idol.

Anyway, back to the judges.

Randy is still the “keep it real” guy.

J-Lo is still sweet, but she’s learned to say no. She’s compassionate, but honest. If anything she’s the voice of reason when, say, a former Miss Teen USA shows up and sings only a passingly okay audition. She charms the socks off of Randy and Steven (Not, as Jennifer learned, Steve). J-Lo said that she wasn’t quite good enough and voted no. Unfortunately, the voice of reason in the presence of feminine wiles is overwhelmed by sheer numbers and the former beauty queen snuck into Hollywood with two of three judges voting “Yes.”

And Steven Tyler is stealing the show. He’s got a good ear for music and will sing along with people who put passion into their performance, whether or not they can sing. He is a bit of a lech, but anyone who expected him to be anything else might also be expecting it to rain donuts. He’s a Rockstar. He spends a significant portion of his life around women who are throwing themselves at him. This will tend to skew one’s understanding of what constitutes proper etiquette. The sexagenarian has more energy than we’ve seen on the judges’ panel in the last nine years combined. No, that wasn’t another reference to his rockstar activities.

They claim they lowered the age to 15 to find the next Justin Beiber.  A good portion of the talent going on to the next round are the fifteen year olds. This is simply because those people couldn’t audition before, not because 15 year olds have more talent.

But there are a lot of people going through to the next round. When they have to cut it down to a top twenty or so, most of those 15 year olds are going to get cut, but most of all of them are going to get cut. I think there are going to be almost 300 contestants in the Hollywood round this year, as compared to about 150 in previous years. This is because the judges are nicer this year and letting more people through. They’re just postponing the time when they have to be mean. The top twenty won’t be the twenty best of the 300. It will be the best of each class of singer and a few others from the overall best. So being too nice at the auditions will only mean more work for them later in the process as they have to cut 93% of the contestants.

So far the changes are for the better, I think. I know I feel better about watching it, since I don’t have to feel as guilty for watching Simon mock contestants.

I don’t like people who have sob-stories. I don’t care how someone’s hard life built their character. I just care how well they can perform. I almost said how well they can sing, but there is so much more than singing happening on stage. Once I like someone for their singing, and it takes more than one show until I really decide to commit to considering liking someone as a singer, I will care about what got them there in life. The human interest stories are nice and all, but I’d rather see them as news segments or as a link on Facebook than on American Idol. Even if knowing a contestant is taking care of his brain-damaged fiancée doesn’t really affect the judging, and I’m not saying it does or doesn’t, it allows for the appearance that it might.

I do worry about the White House intern, I think by professing her (platonic) love for her boss, you know, the President; she has alienated half or more of the audience.


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