Posts Tagged ‘Devendra Banhart’

Last week I had written post about American Idol, and how I was finally coming around on it after years of hating the very idea of it, reluctantly watching it to appease my wife, and/or guiltily enjoying it with a large dose of self-loathing.  I wrote that this season was different and offered some of the most creative and talented women to ever grace the stage (the men are still pretty boring though).  The show seemed to be embracing a wider palette of expression than ever before.  Then Lilly got voted off and I scraped the whole thing.  Lilly was really incredible- sort of a female version of Devendra Banhart- a truly unique talent and something completely different from the American Idol mold.  Last week she played mandolin and had an ultra-creative (by A.I. standards at least) arrangement of some sweet old-timey song.  But she was voted off, and I’m back to my primary criticism of American Idol- that it sucks any and all creative life blood from the contestants and pushes them to appease the largest American Idol-watching demographic, which seems to be teenage girls and senior citizens.

My frustration with American Idol allows me to identify, on some level, with liberals who wish our policy makers were less beholden to Middle America.  ‘Who cares what 60% of the country thinks- they’re all knuckle draggers anyway!’  I’m reminded that democracy sucks, except that it’s better than every other form of government.  I hate that Lilly went home, but I’d rather it be because of a million teenage girls than because of the whim of a Simon Cowell or Ellen Degeneres.  The only thing worse than the “uneducated” opinion of the masses is the “special” opinion of the “experts.”

Speaking of which, another frustration I have with the show that has really emerged this season is just how arbitrary the judges are.  Randy will say, ‘that just wasn’t a good song for you.’  Then Simon says ‘that was the perfect song for you.’  So who’s right?  What exactly are the criteria of a “good song” for a particular contestant?  What does that even mean?  If the song is too “good”, then there’s a danger that the contestant might be “playing it safe.”  Rarely, if ever, do the judges make a single objective and/or verifiable statement other than the occasional “it was a bit pitchy.”  Here’s another one: “it felt like karaoke.”  Well how so?  Last week one of the judges criticized a 16-year-old contestant for singing a song about a father calling his wife and kids- something he couldn’t really identify with.  Well I’m pretty sure he’s never had a girlfriend, sex, or a political opinion, so what do we want him to sing about?   Studying for his A.P. exams?

And yet, I’m holding out hope that America will surprise me and anoint Crystal Bowersox the winner.  If you haven’t seen Crystal perform then you owe yourself a viewing.  She looks like a hippy, has bad teeth, and is all around unpolished by pop standards.  Yet she sings incredibly, plays guitar really well and has a bit of a punk edge to her- sort of a streak of cockiness that is strangely refreshing.  I have zero confidence that she will win because of this demographic problem discussed earlier, but I’m stoked she’s made it this far.  I actually kind of hope she doesn’t win, so that she wont be forced into the American Idol recording mold.  She needs to form a band and get signed to an indie rock label.  There’s another girl that I really like- Siobhan Magnus.  She may not be as roundly talented as Crystal, but she’s kind of bizarre and unpredictable, and, as demonstrated with her version of Aretha Franklin’s “Think,” has some serious pipes.  All in all, there’s a lot of interest with the women, so I plan to continue to watch with great disappointment until all the interesting ones have been weeded out and we’re left with that insipid 17-year old girl as the winner.  I really can’t complain- I don’t vote.

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