In America, the land of opportunity, folks take every opportunity afforded them to prove that anyone can be in government. No matter if we’re in the process of electing one side and ejecting the other, or changing our minds every two-to-four years and glad-handing a jerk from the opposition into wrecking our lives via popular vote, we are still making a government for, and consequently, by the people. The problem is that the jerks we elect are us, and we’re not all that clever.
This is not, incidentally, another column on Democracy For Dummies. But I will incriminate us, the American public, on several counts of practicing democracy out of bounds. These charges are well documented by the sky-high ratings of American Idol. For four seasons, oodles of viewers have tuned in, week after week, as the programming get worse and worse, just to discover who gets voted the biggest tool on prime time.
For the record, American Idol is the only show I’ve heard of that succeeds where no one in their right mind would attempt: As the truly entertaining folks get booted off the show by the judges in the first few weeks, the ratings grow as the field narrows to exploit performers who never wanted to work too hard on their own careers before they were "discovered" by the voting public. Even if I grant that the finalists have better vocal chops than the clowns who limit their public embarrassment to three minutes during week one, they are in no permissible way intriguing enough to be "idolized". "Adulterated" perhaps, "sodomized" if I’ve been drunk in Vegas long enough, but "idolized", never. Except for my favorite, William "She Bangs" Hung. He may be the first American to cash in on ludicrously bad singing while ditching a promising career in porn. (Think Boogie Nights in reverse.) Not to mention that there is a real possibility that Hung is his given name, not a moniker derived from the porn-name-game.
For all of the hoopla surrounding American Idol, nobody has ever explained why anyone would want such attention. I certainly hope it’s not fame for fame’s sake. John Wayne Bobbitt and Tanya Harding are famous- almost impossible to forget by any standard- so it can’t be that. Coincidentally, both Bobbitt and Harding have starred in their own porno movies, although I think they could have doubled our pleasure (and cut my porn bill in half) by starring in the same one. Maybe they could get Mr. Hung to appear in the sequel: Even the Losers Get Lucky Sometimes.
As for all the supposed fame the Fox network has been shoving down my throat, everything I know about American Idol can be summarized in three parts: Clay is the gay one, Rueben is the fat one and I assume that Fantasia came from, (and quietly returned to) the world of porn. From all reports, Clay Aiken’s debut in gay porn, last year’s Measure of A Man, was a raving success. Once again, he could have parlayed his success with Billy Hung and followed suit in the Bobbitt/Harding model of porn and recruited Billy Hung to add a dose of silver screen drama as some kind of penis villain, as no one wants to see Reuben Studdard naked.
Which leaves us with Kelly Clarkston, also known as "the instantly forgettable one". To this I can attest. During the Wu’s stint as Carson Daly’s house band, Clarkston and her entourage stormed the NBC studios and held court as the lamest unit in rock music since Whitesnake. Although I stood five feet away from her during her performance on Last Call, I failed to catch the Clarkston Fever. I mean there she was, dressed in high heels and an ill fitting leather get-up, and for all her booty shaking, I couldn’t be bothered to pass the time mentally banging her in even the most garden variety sexual fantasy. Thanks Kelly, you get my vote for American Idle. Next!
Even her first foray into adult entertainment, When Justin Met Kelly, has been so thoroughly panned that when I googled the flick, nothing even close to a homepage came up. The first fifteen results referenced this piece of shit as the "Worst Movie Ever". (In fact, one page was a blog site that asked folks to relate a story about getting your wallet stolen. I guess seeing Justin not really ram Kelly in any meaningful way really pissed some viewers off.)
Perhaps the most fitting punishment for the performers that subject themselves to the weekly insult of American Idol is the grand prize. Where other game shows see fit to reward those who have passed the challenges posed to the contestants with something they can use, like cold hard cash, American Idol gives them exactly what they deserve- a record contract. Not just any record contract, but a specially prepared contract where all of the legal parameters are set in stone like a concrete dildo to fuck the lucky winner. Unlike the surprises I’ve endured in legal boxing matches where I find out that "100% artistic creative control" means the exact opposite, there’s no reason to disguise the anal reaming Idols are sure to receive. Contractually speaking, the outlook isn’t too bright. The best an Idol can hope for will be that their shitty music is haphazardly slapped together by a producer that couldn’t possibly care before being delivered for promotion to a record company that resents everything about them.
Before you get out your hankies, why should anyone at a record company care what an Idol wants? It’s not as if the company pursued the Idol. The Idol did everything but suck dick get in the game. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the irony: Gone are the sure-fire ways to get noticed and promoted by people who make music happen for a living. Without creativity to get noticed, or at least the willingness to jump on the casting couch, where is the lust, the utter desire, to build a career in show business? I mean, who could fault Kelly Clarkston for swallowing Simon’s pride? It would have to make for more titillating viewing than When Justin Met Kelly.
The aftermath of America’s second-dumbest vote (Congressional elections still holds the #1 slot, 20,000 weeks running) comes to fruition when the winner begins to place misdirected faith into their victory and actually believes their own hype. The winners of American Idol, (if we want to call them "winners") receive several opportunities to perform on various TV programs, either as musical guests or interview chumps, depending on the program.
This is known in rock manager parlance as "making the rounds". To be fair, a musician would be either asinine or truly too cool to care if they didn’t accept an invitation to promote their own schtick. But to actually believe that Jay Leno or Letterman actually cares is nothing short of crazy. As if the ninnies from The View are going to validate an Idol’s existence as a viable grooving option on the iPod after a sneaking a couple hits off Paula Abdul’s joint.
Although I wanted to give Kelly Clarkston due credit for her success, I had to inquire with a production manager at the Daly Show- Will she sing live or is she going to make asses of us all and lip-sync? Technically, her production rider said "TBD" as in "To Be Determined", but she bellied up and sang her tune with her real-live voice… I think.
However, some "technical" difficulties sabotaged her first performance of whatever song we’re supposed to be in love with this week and she needed to do again for the camera. Imagine, if you will, Jerry stopping the Dead in the middle of a botched "Sugaree", only to ask Soldier Field if it’s okay to start over? To be too high to perform is to be shameful, but human. But to sing this crap while sober and hold the audience literally hostage, (the directors wouldn’t let anyone leave) is just too much.
As if this wasn’t enough, the best part was when the Daly Show’s line director told the audience to sustain their emotion and excitement for a second take. Screaming teenage Kelly fans aside, (and there were a few) the rest of the audience seemed a little peeved that they were being asked to endure the Idol’s not-quite rockin’ stylings a second time.
If anyone wants to know what’s hip and what stinks needs to look no further than what’s on front of any teenager’s shirt. Even the most cursory scan of my nephew’s black concert shirts indicates that the real status of "American Idol" actually belongs to Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Dead/Beatles/Who/Stones and Kurt Cobain, in no particular order. Never have my eyes viewed any of the FOX network’s versions of idolatry on the most reliable top-forty list available to those in the know, and with good reason: Who asks a girl to prom while wearing a Clay Aiken shirt? It’s hard enough to get laid in high school; No need to make it impossible.
In case you think I come across as a bitter asshole, let me say this: The music business is hard enough to get work in. So let us all join in prayer for all the musicians willing to put in the time, unless your Kelly’s guitar player, who spent his pre-show minutes messing up his hair in just the right way in front of the men’s room mirror. Again, I may be too old to understand this. I’m sure he would call this look "Rock Chic", but I call it "Hangover". No need to spend fifty dollars on Aveda’s latest rock star in a can hair jizz. That look comes naturally after one earns it the hard way: getting plowed all night and then showing up to the next gig with a screaming headache, two Vicodins, and a recalcitrant demand for a hair of the dog that destroyed you the night before. Kick some ass at that, and then you know what makes an American Idol, or at very least a Big Wu bass player with a hangover, two Vicodins and a double vodka tonic.
Either way, I want to state for the record that I feel embarrassed for the way American Idols present themselves. It’s grossly unoriginal, and to make matters worse, they are strangely rewarded for being as banal as the voters demand. In fact, contestants on American Idol tend to resemble the worst of our democratic output- politicians. Our latest political version of American Idol reiterated George W. Bush as Clay Aiken and promoted Congress as the new William Hung. The objective of any American Idol or politician in the running is as sad as it is shared: To be as milquetoast as possible while toting zip-to-zero credibility as an exceptionally interesting personality. In other words: To suck.
Ironically, this isn’t the artist’s fault. The real blame falls not only on the audience that supports- if not emulates- the tampons and douche bags advertised during commercial breaks on American Idol, but on the process itself. Like any good American, I’m a big fan of democracy. But the freedom of choice backfires when folks are compelled to make choices about issues that don’t deserve to be decided upon. For example, the ninnies who feel that life’s most mundane inconveniences ought to be legislated for everyone’s own good usually force the conversion of opinion into agenda. Banning smoking in bars certainly falls under this umbrella of oligarchy, and so does the selection of our next American Idol.
This is because music is art, not policy. It’s as exempt from due process as it is from being help to reflect the twisted morality of Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition. What’s good for us as voters and taxpayers doesn’t necessarily parlay into kick ass rock. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: Good art requires the patron to be not only be opinionated, but rewards those who seek merit where the average Joe loses interest. To make my point: Jimi Hendrix would never have been voted the next American Idol, and Clay Aiken will never be half as meaningful as Hendrix. Ever.
Finally, like the results of our political elections, few of the participants actually want carry through with the decisions they made when they cast their vote. A few years ago, every vaguely environmentally conscience person (which is most of us, whether we admit it or not) wanted America to join the majority of the civilized world and sign the Kyoto Accord. And why not? Universal guidelines provided a uniform strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions across the globe. Not only would the benefits of a cleaner air promote healthy living conditions for populations around the globe, but generations of folks yet to be born. Sounds good, eh?
Unfortunately, the stipulations of the Kyoto Accord are not only impossible to put into practice, but fail to hold water in theory or practice. None of the countries that signed the accord have bothered to hold up their end of the bargain simply because it’s economically infeasible. The only nations that officially reduced their pollution enough to conform to the Kyoto Accord reside within the old Soviet Bloc. Unfortunately for you, me, and Ralph Nader alike is that the economies of all these nations collapsed, depriving the inhabitants of Who-Gives-A-Fuckistan a future, and Al Gore a reason to pester voters.
Besides, I’ve been to Kyoto. I was there last year. And let me tell you, the place is a dump. The stench emitting from the streets exceeds both Manhattan and Philthidalphia in general grossness, and the smog hanging in the air easily out-chokes Los Angeles during its hazy heyday in the late eighties before emission checkpoints. As it turns out, signing the Kyoto accord is the worst thing for you. Perhaps the authors of Kyoto Accord should have named their prized document after a place someone would want to live in, like, you know, somewhere that’s clean: Somewhere in America.
If you’re a fan of clan air and dirty rock-n-roll don’t be disappointed; the path to Kyoto is paved with good intentions. So is participating in the American Idol democracy. But if the countries that proudly signed the accord can so easily ignore their commitments, what percent of Kelly Clarkston’s faithful will drive to the record store and slap down $16.95 for her CD?
This month’s Old Style Zealot is none other Than Tony Santosaprano, one half of our new management team. Although he doesn’t have an ice cold Old Style lager in the picture, he fits the bill in so many other ways: He’s a Chicago White Sox/Cubs fan (where Old Style is the official beer), loves to drink, cook and tend to his dogs, Knuckles and Lefty. Not to mention ladies, Tony’s single and an Aries, which means his birthday is coming up on April 11th- Give as good as you get!