American Idol and the Death of Knowing Criticism
One of my guilty pleasures is American Idol. At the end of a day of reading things with plot-plot-plot, it's nice to turn on the TV and be able to watch something without a story.
Not that the singers on the show don't have their ongoing drama. But you know what I mean. It's mindless television, and sometimes I like that.
This week, though, something strange has been happening.
Simon Cowell, who usually comes across as crabby but generally right, now just seems clueless.
Over the past few nights, the 12 male and 12 female contestants were singing songs from the 1960s. And we're not talking obscure songs -- we're talking hits.
Yet there were a surprising amount of songs that Cowell admitted being unfamiliar with, even as he blasted contestants for singing them.
He'd never heard "Spinning Wheel". Or "Baby Please Don't Go".
The problem is that when he reveals his ignorance of basic musical history, it just underscores his lack of qualifications in general. Unlike Randy Jackson or Paula Abdul, he has no hands-on industry experience. And where he used to at least represent sort of a snarky everyman's honesty about performance, now he seems fixated on what will be commercial today, what will sell, with no real sense that he actually knows what that is.
What's feeding this may be the fact that a lot of recent Idol winners and runners-up haven't exactly burned up the charts. Obviously the Idol people would like performers who are ultimately going to sell a lot of records.
But for a show in which it is the public voting on who goes ahead, Simon Cowell is just coming across as more and more irrelevant, no longer having anything to add that really seems to mean anything.
I make my living being critical of others' work, and at this point all I can do is shake my head. And root for the rock-nurse to keep coming back.