What Happened American Idol?

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I think there is general agreement that this is the worst season of American Idol. It just doesn’t strike the same chord of inspiration and fun that previous seasons have. To be clear, I discount the initial episodes of tryouts. Those can be funny but the real season begins with the top 12. After hearing thousands of voices we are to be assured that these are the best of the best – and the winner is among them.

There always seems to be a Sanjaya or John Stevens or Jorge Nunez… and even they have their fans. I have no argument with that. Musical tastes are as varied as the landscape of people among whom we live. However, if we are to believe that the process of choosing these contestants is genuine then the future of performing arts is endangered!

In my opinion there is one clear winner this year, and no one even comes close. I don’t want to jinx them by mentioning their name (I’ll brag later if I’m right!). And truly all of the contestants seem like really nice people. But aren’t we all just biding our time while they’re all voted out so we can actually have our Idol. In my mind there is no tension at all … there are several really nice and fairly talented singers, and one who is ready to go professional today.

Ryan Seacrest continues to be an outstanding host. He is perfect for the job. Simon Cowell continues his absolutely accurate analysis of the performances. The audiences often boo him, but I’m usually thinking that he has said exactly the right thing. Kara Dioguardi is still a mystery to me. I’m not sure of her role on the judge’s panel. Ellen DeGeneres brings a needed bit of kindness to the panel, often unwilling to say what she thinks about a bad performance. Sometimes funny but maybe not as funny as they had hoped she would be. Randy Jackson contributes a coolness factor none of the rest of them have.

The judges … the host … the process … a proven product … not so good selection of singers this year. You know, it’s kind of like eating at a buffet where all the food was freshly cooked, tasted ok, was filling, but you’re just not satisfied with the experience.

What’s missing is obvious, and that is Paula Abdul. Yes, we sometimes thought she was a trainwreck in the makings. True, there were questions of sobriety at times. And we have read stories of relationships with contestants that might not have been allowable. But there was a heart there – someone who really cared about the contestants – and who was genuinely concerned about them making it big. The rest of the judges do their job well, but there is a distance that they do not care to bridge.

paula-abdul-gothic-necklaceThat’s why I think American Idol is not so good this year. It lost it’s heart and became just another game show. Let’s face it, when Ellen tells a young lady she looks great and fashionista Abdul says the same thing – it takes on a new life. When a young man wants to sing a love ballad and he zeroes in on Paula, he’s got inspiration. You don’t see that here. (Even though Kara embarassed herself with over-the-top flirting with Casey James. He seemed totally disinterested in her advances, a credit to him.)

So, Paula, it’s not just that we miss your antics. It’s that when you didn’t return the show lost it’s heart. And while it’s not the Gong Show by any means, it’s not what it used to be. That’s what happened to American Idol.

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