Ah, January. The first month of the year. A winter month. A month where millions of families in America gather in the living room to spend quality time with each other, playing board games while eating cookies.
Oh, who am I kidding? Families gather in the living room in mid-January because of one thing: the world's most popular, overblown karaoke contest.
Yes my friends, American Idol 6 is debuting this Tuesday at 8 PM.
Once again we'll see our gaggle of hopefuls as they try to sing their way to super-stardom. And of course, there's the peanut gallery: host Ryan "My Highlights are Sooo Pretty" Seacrest; and judges Randy "I Used to be in Journey, Dawg" Jackson, Paula "I Swear- the Coke Isn't Spiked" Abdul, and of course, Simon "I Make More Money Than God Because I'm a Jackass" Cowell.
Like past seasons, the first couple of weeks will feature the humiliation episodes. There'll be lots and lots of people who should never speak again, let alone sing- and Simon will naturally be there to rip their dreams to shreds and piss all over them.
We will see cute, tone deaf teens from the midwest who'll get their hearts broken because this will be the first time someone has told them that they suck. There'll be really weird people who think that they can pass a singing audition by doing everything but sing (juggle, dress in costume, rap, dance, display their inventions). We'll have to sit through all the Whitney/Mariah/Celine wannabes, and groan at the lame Stevie Wonder impersonators. Some idiot is going to flirt with/sing to Paula and will pass to the next round. Simon will call someone fat, and Randy will contribute nothing whatsoever. Good times are ahead of us my friends — good times.
Then the elimination game begins. People are sent packing, picking up the pieces of their shattered dreams. This process continues until the group is eventually whittled down to the sacred Top 12. These contestants become celebrities overnight. Fan sites are created, forums discuss every single detail of each contestant's looks, attitude, personality — and of course, performance. The Top 12 enjoys this newfound fame until they get booted off the show. Each week a contestant is systematically eliminated until there's one person left standing — the winner.
To be perfectly honest, I never watched the first season of American Idol. It didn't interest me. I'd see my parents watching this show that seemed like a televised karaoke contest and think, "Didn't they cancel Star Search years ago?"
I just thought it was odd, watching a bunch of nobodies perform old songs. Then again, I was never really a fan of reality TV. I just didn't get the point about getting excited over a bunch of people who, before entering some TV contest and agreeing to expose their lives to millions, were just like me and you.
But one fateful night my boyfriend was at my house and noticed that my parents were watching the season finale. He'd never seen the show either and wanted to at least catch the last show of the season. Since I had nothing better to do, I reluctantly plopped down on the couch next to him. That night, I was introduced to the contestants' energy and devotion to their craft, Simon's nasty remarks, and the audience's excitement. I then witnessed a Texas cocktail waitress named Kelly Clarkson totally OWN some curly-haired dork named Justin Guarini. After seeing all that, I was hooked.
By season two, I was sitting right next to my parents on the couch. I watched it right from the beginning, and I became involved with these nobodies' lives. I took sides when contestants would bicker. I booed Simon whenever he insulted someone. I rolled my eyes at Paula's nonsensical statements.
I also witnessed what quite possibly was the easiest Idol prediction in history. It was plainly obvious during the first week of the Top 12 that in the end, two men would emerge as the winner and the runner-up… only I didn't quite know which person would fill which role.
One was a large, soft-spoken young man with a silky voice similar to Luther Vandross. The other was a gangly, freckle-faced guy with the most powerful lungs I'd heard since Christina Aguilera. The country was quickly divided into two camps: The Rubenites and the (now infamous) Claymates. When Ruben Studdard defeated Clay Aiken in a very narrow victory on that fateful May evening, the contest between the two didn't end there. Although Studdard was the American Idol, it was Aiken who would eventually emerge as the true victor, in the sense that to this day he remains active in the public eye. Aiken did talk shows, magazine interviews, went on tour, did Christmas specials, and became a UNICEF National ambassador. Meanwhile, the quiet, easygoing Studdard slowly faded from sight.
Season three was overall very unimpressive, especially the contestants. Half of the Top 12 was composed of underexperienced teenagers who were so nervous that their voices often faltered when they sang. And unlike the previous season, in which I was torn between Aiken and Studdard, I didn't care at all about the eventual Top 2. I didn't like either of them.
Diana DeGarmo was a cute little 16-year-old who was nearly booted from the show several times. Fantasia Barrino, a sassy 19-year-old Macy Gray soundalike, milked her sob story of being a single mother for all it was worth, helping her win the Idol crown.
Actually, the greatest thing about Idol Season 3 had nothing to do with either the winner or runner-up. In one particularly shocking results episode, crowd favorite Jennifer Hudson was booted very early, while the less talented and experienced teenage contestants remained. This departure from the show proved to be one of the greatest things to ever happen for Hudson, for as we all know, she later landed the coveted role of Effie White in a movie called Dreamgirls. Dreamgirls is a blockbuster hit, and Hudson is nominated for a Goldern Globe Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role. Not bad for an Idol loser.
It was a little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll during season four. When the contestant age limit was upped to 28, this opened the door for more mature, more talented musicians. The new age limit also inadvertently introduced the rock genre to Idol. Bo Bice and Constantine Maroulis were not only the oldest of the Top 12, but they were also referred to as "The Rockers".
While Maroulis' version of rock had more of a mainstream feel to it, Bice was a southern rocker, who had a growly, powerful voice and an amazing stage presence. In a legendary Idol performance, Bice threw caution to the wind and sang without any musical accompaniment.
In the end however, Bice would wind up second place to country singer Carrie Underwood, whose looks and musical talent made up for her lack of personality onstage. Sadly, Bice has yet to really succeed in the music industry. His debut album was a failure, most likely because most of the music was more generic pop rock, a departure from what fans (like me) expected from Bice. Meanwhile, Underwood has gone on to become highly successful in country music, winning a number of awards.
Last season's American Idol was overall unmemorable. Yes, there was controversy surrounding Paula Abdul's increasingly erratic behavior during the show, and accusations of illicit affairs from past contestant Corey Clark. And yes, contestant Mandisa may have upset some members of the gay community. However, there weren't really any amazing Idol moments, or contestants who really stood out above the rest.
The most memorable moment I think is related to Chris Daughtry, a bald-headed industrial rocker. Daughtry didn't quite have the pipes, but he definitely had the energy, and awesome stage performance. The man OWNED the stage. It was electrifying to see Daughtry perform every week, and he was easily pegged as the winner. Idol fans got the wind knocked out of them when Daughtry lost, coming in at fourth place. I recall screaming at the TV in horror when I watched Ryan Seacrest announce that Daughtry was going home.
The final showdown was between a prematurely gray, 29-year old blues singer named Taylor Hicks, and a lovely, 22-year-old woman named Katharine McPhee. Hicks was very likeable. He looked just happy to be there, singing his little heart out. Every week he'd yell, "SOUL PATROL!" as a shout out to his pre-Idol, longtime fans. His silly ticks and quirky movements onstage were sometimes annoying, but mostly entertaining. McPhee on the other hand, had a beautiful and sultry voice, with a face and body to match. In the end, the odd, jerky man easily defeated the brunette beauty. We have yet to see whether or not either of them will go past their 15 minutes of fame.
What will American Idol season six be like? Who will we root for to win? Who will we want to go home? Will there be any new controversies surrounding the contestants? Whose sob story will FOX use to manipulate the audience with this year? How many of the Top 12 will disappear into obscurity within six months after the season finale? Will Simon Cowell wear a t-shirt color other than black someday? Will Randy stop saying, "Yo dawg, yo"? Will Paula finally sober the hell up? We can start finding out tommorow night, at 8 PM.