Saturday, January 19, 2013

Idol Starts Season 12

I debated holding off talking about American Idol until all of TV was back, so I could do another roundup.  But I had a few friends ask me my thoughts, so, here they are.


To recap:


I started watching the show two years back only because my wife’s coworker was on the show.  Or rather, the coworker auditioned, and got in front of the judges, then didn’t go to Hollywood and wasn’t good or bad enough to go on the air.


I was ready to be done by the end of that episode.  The person lost, so, I had no horse in the race.  But my wife insisted that we trudge on.  So trudge we did.


Interestingly, I pegged the actual winner as flaming out in the middle twice over the last two years.  I’m not sure if it says more about me or America.


Over the years, of course, there have been 11 winners, and a variety of also-rans who have gone on to a measure of fame and fortune.  Interestingly, just making it into that upper echelon seems to be enough to launch a career.  Which I guess is nice.  But I had no real interest in any of the winners or losers.  Even the most popular of them all, Kelly, only had a couple of singles that really interested me.




Along came Phillip.  Well, kind of.  Along came Phillip, and someone had the bright idea to stick a bunch of excerpts from his album online, and I listened to them and kind of dug it.  Plus I had a long road trip coming up and needed something to listen to.  So I bought it.


What to say?


Well, I guess we can start with the title: The World From The Side Of The Moon. That’s a mouthful, and I can never remember it.  Also mostly a blank are the song titles, with the exception of Home.


Having read a dozen critical takes on it before picking it up, I have to agree with the general assessment.  It sounds a lot like Dave Matthews, which isn’t a bad thing.  And aside from Home, there are a few song which are almost painfully catchy, and there’s no harm there, either.  In particular, I enjoy Gone, Gone, Gone, Get Up Get Down, and Where We Came From.  And the rest of the CD is inoffensive, though kind of forgettable.  Even now, I couldn’t sing any of the other tunes for you.


Oh.  And if you buy it at Target, he’s got a version of Thriller on there, which ain’t bad.  I kind of liked his live, one-man-and-a-guitar take from his audition more, but it’s got a fun country-rock vibe. 


Ultimately, I give him credit, as he wrote a bunch of the songs on the album, and none of them are terrible.  My real curiosity, I suppose is how well he’ll sell and what he’ll do on the second go-around.  Like most artists who get their first album out, he has now run through all of his A songs and will have to either start from scratch or bring out the B team.  And judging from this release, I have a hard time imagining that the B team is where all the really brilliant songs are tucked away.


But I was talking about the new season of Idol.


Two judges dropped out.  Jennifer managed to give her career a nice later-period revival, I think.  At the very least, she sold some records, did some dancing, and got another TV show out of it.  So I’d argue it was a win for her.


Steven, on the other hand, confessed that he took the job for the money, and then got his band back together.  His album kind of flopped, but I’m guessing the concert tour probably did well and some monetary coffers were filled.  Plus he had that terrible memoir, which sold well. 


Randy was supposed to be out of the show, but then wasn’t.  I’m not sure why.  I guess the producers thought they don’t want to lose the Randy fans?  Assuming there are Randy fans?


I’m not knocking the dude.  I just don’t know.  Nobody ever seems to come on the show just to tell Randy that he’s been an inspiration to them.  Or maybe we just don’t see those guys.


But anyway, he’s back on this year.  And we’ve also got Keith Urban.  For whatever reason.  You can tell he’s Australian, because he comes off as the nicest man on the planet.  I’ve been to Australia, and I can honestly say I never met anyone who wasn’t incredibly nice.  Almost eerily so.  And that about sums up Keith.


Randy is Randy, I guess.  He seems to have gotten more bitter over the last couple of years. Maybe having Simon gone forced him into the bad cop role.  Or perhaps it’s the show.  Because they seem to be sending more terrible singers down to the judges, as if there weren’t another hundred very good singers they couldn’t send down.


Which I guess brings us to the big stars.


Mariah Carey in, much to my surprise, coming up on her silver anniversary of fame.  Vision of Love, her first big hit, came out in 1990, which means that one year from now she’ll have racked up 25 years of hitmaking.


Which explain why every woman through the door gets to say, “I grew up with you.”  They did.  Even at the oldest age you can hit and be on Idol, you were maybe three when Mariah hit the scene.


And… what to say about her?  Well, outside of her so-called feud with Nicki Minaj, she’s a bit of a tough nut to crack.  They threw a lot of money her way to be here, and I suspect that a big part of the reason she took it is because the albums are finally starting to peter out.  Her last couple of releases barely scraped platinum, which isn’t really acceptable when you’re supposed to be a huge star.  And while I hate to say it, the stiffness in her face and her lineless forehead seem to indicate that she’s been getting at least Botox, if not more work done.


And that makes me sad.  It’s clear she’s an influence, it’s clear that she’s an important part of music history, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for her.  She’s also trying to maintain herself as a picture of youth, even though she’s in her forties and a mom now. 


It’s sad, because she seems to have a sweetness about her when it comes to certain contestants.  I can tell she wants to be kinder, but she’s prevented from doing so.


Mostly by Nicki Minaj.




What to say?  Nicki was clearly brought on to bring in the kids.  She’s had the biggest hits of the last five years or so, and she is, yes, part of the now.  She also raps, but that’s neither here nor there, seeing as how Simon didn’t sing and Ellen didn’t do anything musical at all.


With all that said, in the promos, she was walking off the stage and saying she was done as of next week, and you know what?  That’d be AWESOME.


Nicki might be a great human being in real life, but on the show she’s combative and not at all fun.  Is it for the cameras?  Is it to bring in ratings?  Is it because she has a massive ego?


I just don’t care.


Fights about talent I can handle.  Fights about contestants, and who should be on?  Okay.  At least it would indicate that Nicki wants the show to be better, or that she favors a certain kind of music.


What I’m getting from the show is that she’s an unpleasant person, and that isn’t fun to watch. 


The problem is, I don’t see the problem correcting itself.  Nicki is clearly in for the long haul, and that’s kind of a shame.  Because right now she’s adding nothing to the show, and I sort of wish I could just abandon it.  And I may yet do so.

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