Do American Idol's clean-cut winners represent middle America's rejection of an increasingly bawdy and lurid music industry? Fort Worth Star Telegram columnist Douglas Perry thinks so:
In the first two seasons of the surprise hit show, judge Simon Cowell tried to guide the audience toward the belly babes and winkers — the Nikki McKibbons with their swinging hips and Justin Guarinis with their smarmy smiles.
Didn't work. America picked sweet Kelly Clarkson in the first season and then elevated teddy-bearish Ruben Studdard and virginal Clay Aiken in season two. Jane and Joe America had had enough, and they had chosen American Idol as the place to make their stand. Maybe in New York and LA, people want to see sexually aggressive girls fly through the air or sneering thugs chant about "ho's" and violence. But in the Heartland, they're still spinning Pat Boone discs.
While this may be a simplistic analysis, there is an element of truth to it. The finalists in this and past seasons represent a distinct contrast from the acts currently atop the charts. Everything about the show, from the frequent shots of eager parents cheering on their progeny to the persistent booing of any real criticism from the judges, screams good, wholesome fun. The video biographies of the finalists focus on their community service, their commitment to family, and their life-long passion for performing. There's definitely a beauty pageant element to it, a fact that many use to dismiss the quality of the performances outright.
The singers squeaky-clean images are further enhanced by the constraints placed on their performances, in which they sing only pre-approved songs. Despite the judges repeated urgings not to "play it safe," it is consistently the safe performances that garner the most applause and votes.
The show's producers have fostered this wholesome image by booting contestants when certain unsavory details about their pasts have surfaced. In fact, the show has eschewed controversy so much that a perceived obscene gesture by Simon Cowell made national headlines last week.