American Pretender

In 2002 the first American Idol saw the light of day. Thirteen years later, the show has gone from opportunity for talented musicians to a nursery garden for good willing but childish inexperienced hopefuls.

What’s the expiration date for reality shows? When is the time to lay down the curtain, pack up the jury table, burn the stack of yellow Hollywood invitations?
It’s up to the network. Ratings, declining but still reasonable, renew the show every year. It’s become part of the television landscape, with Ryan Seacrest as indisputable annual living room portrait.

The X-Factor has tried, The Voice has succeeded in surpassing American Idol and reaching number one. Both were updated versions of Idol. The latter could have implemented spinning chairs, or even the possibility to vote contestants off the stage with three big red crosses. Instead, the one that started it all stayed true to its format. Full steam ahead on a road to nowhere.

So there are a lot of things wrong with the show. It’s outdated, old-fashioned, stale, repetitive and dull. However, the real problem American Idol has is it doesn’t bear idols. The producers have carefully been tweaking the format, shaking up the jury, but it looks like the only thing that’ll be able to save the show is: talent.

The first few years musicians came in. Singers who’d played in bars, schools, on birthday parties. They could carry a tune and had mastered, at least to some degree, the art of performing on stage, in front of people. They were trying to get themselves heard, literately. Express themselves as artists. American Idol was a means to an end.
Because of its popularity, artists shied away. Their places were taken, not by musicians, but by contestants. People whose goal it is to be crowned as the next American Idol. To do the best they can in order to win the prize. To pretend to be performers.

These are kids, playing to win. That’s why they don’t have anything to say about their music. That’s why they sing One Direction. That’s why they can’t name more than two Beatles songs. Thats why they’ve never plundered their parents’ record collection. That’s why they impersonate instead of create.

Artists do still sign up, but get flushed out fast. The format’s working against them. This year, one has penetrated the final 12, and she should definitely win. If only to show the world American Idol still holds original music dear to its ever fading heart. Joey Cook’s got the chops. She has already blown all competition out of the water. But it’s sad I’ve lost the will to watch anymore.

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