Are you good-looking and musically talented? Are you decent looking with mediocre musical talent? Are you just a regular person with no discernable talents whatsoever? If you fit into any of these categories, you are in luck. This week, “American Idol” (the best thing to happen to music since MTV’s “Wannabe”) has been recruiting on the University of Miami campus looking for the next “big star.” And judging by the last series, they have no qualms about scraping the bottom of the social barrel to find that star.
Yes, you heard right, our good friends Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson are back again as the judges of “American Idol” to grace America with their saucy wit and music-business-insider panache. Of course, most people are probably thinking, “Paula Abdul? She hasn’t been cool since 1991.” But much like Alf in those collect call commercials, Paula has been resurrected from early nineties oblivion and placed back atop the sphere of popular culture.
For those who do not know how the show works, here is a brief synopsis. Simon is the “in your face, tell it like it is” judge. He isn’t afraid to hurt feelings, and you can only imagine the drama created as he brutally crushes a 16-year-old girl’s most treasured hopes and dreams. Paula is the compassionate judge. She always has a kind word to say to even the worst contestants probably because with songs like “Crazy Cool,” and “Forever Your Girl,” she knows what failure feels like. Finally, Randy is the token black judge. He represents corporate America’s half-hearted and ridiculously futile attempt to pretend that it promotes equality. These three judges waste countless hours of their lives watching hundreds of people sing and dance and then ultimately decide who gets to be the next big thing in the music industry.
Obviously, that decision is a vitally important one. After all, even though we are about to get involved in a massive bloody war and the country is going through a terrible economic downslide, who among us would not rank “American Idol” as one of the most important historical events of our era? In 30 years, who will not shed a nostalgic tear at last year’s winner, Kelly Clarkson singing her hit song? We might not remember the name of it, and the lyrics may have been written by a 50-year-old businessman who couldn’t remember if teenagers like skateboarding or roller-skating better, but that won’t be important. What will be important is that our generation was lucky enough to have a never-ending supply of people who can sing and dance but have no worthwhile ideas of their own and create nothing of social, political, or artistic importance.
And in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? Who needs thought or emotion in music anymore? They are passE. They are as dead as John Lennon, and out of the ashes has emerged that magic word: merchandising. That is precisely why “American Idol” is more brilliant than any boy or girl band that has ever been assembled. It has the guts to show the American viewers the exact process through which big business sucks the life out of music. They let us in on their secret: the most beloved stars are merely empty vessels through which we can be fed meaningless drivel; a means to desensitize the American public with mediocrity so that, even after being shown that it is soulless garbage, we still flock in droves to buy the CD.
Hopefully someone from our campus will win, because as we all know, Miami doesn’t put out enough terrible music already. One word of advice: don’t take what Simon says too personally. Underneath that brusque exterior, there must be a heart of gold. Or maybe even he’s being paid so much there’s just gold.