Like so many inexplicable phenomenas, American Idol continues to chug along season after season, winner after winner with seemingly no end in sight in spite of its almost quiant of touchness with reality where within the context of a show somebody beatboxing can be construed as "edgy" and loud=good and where no personal tragedy is left unexploited by the producers and increasing diminishing returns when it comes to its supposed talents.
I could say that I've become disillusioned with the show that actually got me to get up and vote for Kelly Clarkson season one when it was down to her, Tamyra Gray, Justin Guarini and Nikki McKibbin and now can barely get me to care anybody aside from the poor people who have to wrangle Paula Abdul back to her seat during commercial breaks; but to say that I'm disillusioned would be instilling way more of a give-a-crap about the whole proceeding than I could ever possibly muster.
And while American Idol has quickly become a monster feeding onto itself, it has spawned an interesting off-shoot, namely the American Idol Karaokes. Across the country dime store divas and belters off from work come shuffling into local watering holes with the faint hope of impressing the locals and usually a panel of judges with songs they've been singing since somebody first told them they in fact could carry a tune.
Recently, I got the supposed honor of being a guest judge at just such an event and I have to say it was a bit more panic-inducing than I had expected. Being bitchy and snide on a blog or yelling critiques at the television screen from your futon is a lot different than telling somebody to their face in front of a crowd of people that they were a "little pitchy, dawg" to borrow from Randy Jackson's mind-blowingly limited vernacular.
There we were, a panel of four in a small bar, sitting just a few feet from a half-moon stage with glittery streamers behind the contestants. I listened intently to each vocalist but I couldn't help thinking about what the hell I was going to say when the microphone inevitably got passed to me. The other judges had already been doing this gig for a few weeks and had fallen into an easy grouping of one being bitchy, one being nice and one being the referee. As the guest judge, not unlike fourth judge Kara DioGuardi, my job was pretty simple since I was, in the long haul, totally meaningless.
The first critique came by and I was kind and to the point. The vocalist had sung Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and covered by seemingly every artist known to man. The next performer was a young hippy man who sang an Elton John tune. I still found myself searching for the proper words each time the mic landed in front of my face and I found myself for a split second the center of attention.
Now the third performer came to the stage and performed Somewhere Over the Rainbow, in the most painfully slow rendition I had ever heard. There was much discussion after her performance that she had been sick and a lot of other blah blah crybaby cakes about the matter.
This time, when the microphone came to me, I at least had something to say on the matter other than, "That was good. I think":
"I just think you could've sung that song with a little more passion," I sighed. "I mean, realistically, isn't the song about Dorothy wanting to get the fuck out of Kansas?"
The remark got a small smattering of chuckles from the booze-soaked crowd and I felt less of a total failure as a guest judge.
The evening wore on and Somewhere Over the Rainbow girl ended up being eliminated from the competition. And unlike the real American Idol, there is no tour for karaoke rejects.
Say . . . That's not such a bad idea though. I smell a new reality show idea.