My lady and I drifted into a local eatery a few days back where we were greeted by what looked to be a Sixties drop out. The fellow was covered in mounds of thick black facial and skull hair. I immediately had a flash back; I know this guy from Hermosa Beach, possibly this guy James I knew who would chase the Grateful Dead from town to town. “Hey bro’ — Let me help you out there.” “Bro?” I am talking about a twenty-something addressing the ‘silver fox’ with some revisionist street lingo. Cool!
As we were being seated I scanned the patio and instantly realize I’m the only guy without a beard. I tell my partner I’m thinking of growing one which got me one of those sophisticated slap downs. She never liked beards especially when I tried to pull a Jerry Garcia on her.
Conversations right and left were all about bands, musicians, film, television, dance — all about the arts. We had obviously landed in a favourite watering hole for artsy types. One group sat a picnic table talking jazz, the two guys next to us — drummers — discussed the top fives in the world.
I open the paper and there’s a story about how “millennials” are turning away from religion. Not just religion but a belief in anything connected to past traditions. They are moving on. Not buying into prescribed norms! In fact, they don’t watch television, read from the same mainstream pot as the rest of us or listen to what’s being stuffed in their ears; which brings me to the death march for American Idol.
Time has run out on this vanilla extract. It’s unwatchable.
I happened to land on the last ten minutes of season 14 just as J Lo, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. were slashing their way through some feature song — I’m guessing penned for J Lo — that was so insipid it could have been written for a Richie Rich comic book. Bad is bad, but this was far worse. Then the big tense ending and the winner is crowned. Confetti! Reams of streamers, all red and white, not unlike that at a six year old’s birthday party with the new single all prepped for the last performer standing. How do you spell crap? C-R-A-P!
Oh my, has the world ever moved on?
There was a time we would sit through this stuff and cheer for the underdog. Who has that time anymore? Besides, you can’t fool the kids — they have YouTube, Spotify, Meerkat, Stingray, they have each other and direct channels of communication — and they will tell you that they don’t have to suffer the abuse. Those contemporary bearded men must look at J Lo in her flesh-eating costumes and think, “she’d sure look good in a pair of Timberlands and flannel briefs.“ That’s sexy!
Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul were American Idol: Mr. Evil and Miss Loopy; I never paid much attention to Randy Jackson. Cowell gave us just what we wanted, overblown, over-produced money note singing. The verse always sucked until the screechy chorus and then everybody jumped up, parents cried, the seat plants held hands and swayed to the impending miracle. Idol was about sacrifice. “She has five children she can’t feed, works eighty hours a week — supports a bedridden mother and feeds a hoard of freeloading deer and sings like an angel.” She must, must survive and make into the top twelve. Then they pop that Donna Summers tune on her. The poor young thing only knows the Coldplay songbook. Exit stage left!
There is no denying a handful of hopefuls made the notoriety money cut. They are well known: Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Adam Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, and Jennifer Hudson. With or without Idol most would have eventually surfaced in the right arms.
The last few years Idol has earned the reputation of career killer. Nothing on the show mirrors what’s really happening in music heartland. Today it’s back to the roots and away from bloated celebrity worship. That still exists but it’s more or less tabloid fodder.
No one really needs a record contract, one that ties an artist up for eternity and bounds them to committee-scribbled schlock. Anyone can record, post a video and impress a few dozen fans. Besides, Idol contestants don’t sell records anymore and even during the prime years they never made that much of an impression. Ask a label chief if they are up to signing an Idol contestant and they’ll remind you that’s not a sound in their wheelhouse.
Just one more season but why?
By January 2016 the home screen will be overrun with magnificent television fare and we will have moved further along. Netflix on its own is feeding us one glorious series after another. There seems to be a huge pool of talented writers and visionaries, filmmakers who compose with both sides of the brain. That’s where we are going. Karaoke contests are not for this dressed down ‘60s style camping out generation. Idol is as unhip as Lawrence Welk was to us.
“Hey, ole bro’ — want the bill now?”