Monday , September 21 2020
The Party is over.

The Rockologist: What If They Were On American Idol?

Let's get something straight here first and foremost. I'm just not that big of a fan of American Idol.

Oh sure, as strictly entertainment value while I'm eating dinner or whatever, it provides a harmless, and occasionally humorous enough diversion. I laughed as hard as anybody else during the Sanjaya segments from a few seasons back, and I especially love the earlier parts of the competition where guys like William Hung or "Pants On The Ground" guy are weeded out.

You go, Platt! 

Still, I could use a lot less of the really nasty references to things like "monkeys" and "retards." That's just some really hateful stuff. But I digress…

In the cases of both aforementioned contestants, I especially love it when they actually catch on in a populist sense. To me, this is musical subversiveness at its most fly-in-the-ointment-best — color me nuts, but I was one of the guys actually rooting for Sanjaya, okay?.

That said, I have also wondered aloud to myself what would happen if some of the musical greats from the past were to go up before the American Idol judges? Would they pass the test? My money is on doubtful — but I'll let you decide. More on that in a minute…

Here's the thing though.

One thing that I like, watching this season of Idol as I usually do at about the same time the Pork N' Beans and Rice are sizzling on the burner, is that the judges seem a little more willing to break through the barrier of innocuous pop singers that have characterized the series thus far than usual…

I like that. I like that a lot actually…

As Kara told one contestant, at least in not-so-many words, "You are bringing something different to Idol — and maybe after seeing you, we can somehow find our way outside of this cookie-cutter crap."

Okay, I added that last part. But one can hope, right?.

On that note, they do seem to be looking for something a bit different this year than someone who can trill a Mariah Carey song like nobody's business. For which I can only say "Thank God" and good for them. It's about damn time, even if it's a case of too little too late.

To that end, my money is on the chicks this year.

Damn, did I really just say that? Not just the part about the chicks, but the admission that my money is actually on anybody?

Have I actually been drawn into this overblown karaoke contest that has, at least in my own humble opinion, contributed more heavily than anything else — including free internet downloads — to the downward spiral of the record industry this past decade? Am I really ready to sign on to the whole idea of the here-today, gone-tomorrow stars promoted by American Idol?

The truth is that, yes, perhaps I am.

Are any of these Clay Aikens, Adam Lamberts, or even Kelly Clarksons going to have any sort of a shelf life beyond their allotted fifteen minutes? Hell no, they are not. Will our grandchildren remember them the same way we remember the Beatles or Dylan? No, I am sorry, but they will not. That's a frickin' guarantee.

The American Idol franchise is on life support as it stands anyway, and anyone with a brain knows it. Ratings magnet Simon is gone after this season, and just between you and me, I don't think that whoever they get to replace him — the smart money right now is on former U2 producer Steve Lillywhite — will reverse the downward spiral. The party is over, and for my money at least, thank God that it is happening before I go bemoaning this monstrosity into my own grave.

But that's just me…

The singers this year — save for the occasional breath of fresh original air like Lily Scott or Crystal Bowersox — mostly suck. The fact that my own money is on one of these two to win it all this year is largely moot.

We already know what happens to anybody with a remote streak of artistry or actual originality on Idol. Just ask Constantino (or whatever that guy's name was). Better yet, ask Adam Lambert — because his personal fifteen minutes are about to be up any second now. Gay glitter rock went out back in the seventies with Queen and Bowie, okay?

So put a fork in it kids, cause it's done and then some. And in my own humble opinion it couldn't come a second sooner. Hopefully, Lily or Crystal wins it all this year, and we can salvage something from what I am sure will be remembered for generations to come as the decade we all re-discovered our inner Pat Boone. And a none-too-begrudgingly hippy-hippy shake to that, okay?…

But it's done. Thank me later for saying so.

So in the interest of dancing on Idol's grave, I thought it might be fun to imagine how some of the greats from the past might fare in the "competition."

So what if? Let's take two:

Janis Joplin sings "Ball And Chain":

Randy: So listen up, dawg…oh,sorry, I meant "dawg-ette." You've got it on goin' on! It was a little pitchy in places…but man, I gotta' tell ya'… Dawg…I'm lovin' the whole look! You are hot, baby, hot!"

Ellen: Wow man, you were really wonderful, but I'm just not that comfortable with your song choice. So what was your phone number again?

Kara: Listen sweetheart, we loved you back in San Francisco, and I'm just wondering what happened to the sweet little girl we all fell in love with?

I'm a big fan, and I'm rooting for you…but this was a terrible song choice for you tonight…I'm really sorry. What we need to see is more of that country girl we all fell in love with back at the audition. Don't shout so much, honey, okay? More of that "Bobby McGee" thing, that's what we want to see…but I'm still your biggest fan."

Simon: Janis, I am just horribly disappointed here…(boos from audience)…Sorry, but that was utterly atrocious! I had faith in you based on the audition, but those wild shrieks of yours only had me reaching for my bottle of Excedrin! Your a very nice girl, but you simply belong back at the soda fountain where we found you (sorry….).

Bob Dylan sings "Like A Rolling Stone":

Randy:(Hilarious Shrieks Of Laughter)… Dawg! Dawg! Dawg! — you know I'm your biggest fan, right? But what is up with with that voice? You know I'm lovin' that whole guitar-and-harmonica thing, right, dawg? But I was just feeling the whole "Knockin' On Heavens Door" thing from your audition in Minnesota a whole lot more, dawg. I'm still a fan, but definitely not your best performance, dawg."

Ellen: Wow, Bobby, I just really don't know what to say here! Too wordy, for one thing. If I was at home vacuuming up cat fur from my carpet,  I'd much rather have visions of you laying across my big brass bed than having me scrounging for my next meal — ya' know what I mean? I'm still a fan, but this was definitely not your best performance.

Kara: Wow, Bob, that was just all over the place, okay? The vocal performance was just really pitchy, and it wasn't the best song choice, okay? Get with me after the show though, okay? Because man, have I got the song for you!

Simon: Look Bob, I like you. I really do. But that performance was absolutely the worst thing I have ever heard. Your voice sounded dreadful, and I could make absolutely no sense of the lyrics, because you seemed to be mumbling them to yourself. At this point, I doubt you will make it past this round…sorry…

(Boos)….Sorry, but were any of you hearing the same thing I just did? The worst performance I have heard so far this entire competition!

Have I made my point?

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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