Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An AI Rant

So I was reading a blog entry about AI here, (American Idol Butchers the Beatles - Part Deux ) and I left him a comment, and then he sent me a message, and then I responded to that and...whew. I was going to write more in my response to his response, but it got long, as my responses are wont to do. Then I thought, hey, I can make a whole blog post and get my snark on at the same time, and, well, a post was born.
I've been watching AI from the start (first season), and will likely follow the show until it goes down in a hail of rotten fruit. I usually pick a favorite male and female, and they usually make it to the top five or so, but I don't vote - I am not paying them to ignore me.

I've actually had friends tell me I should go audition. I asked them why they hate me. I honestly don't know why anyone would put themselves through that mess, besides notoriety. It is obviously not about real talent or any sort of musicality.

My roommate won't watch without me - just because I can be that evil. I have called Simon a...umm...female body part...on more than one occasion for not having the stones to say what's needed. They really wouldn't want me to be a judge...

The funny thing is, I encourage people to sing, even if it's off-key. I think everyone should give voice to their song, should be allowed to find joy in musical expression. If someone tells me "oh, I can't sing", I usually respond that if they can speak, they can sing. So what if you can't carry a tune? I can't draw for shite, but that doesn't stop me from buying colored pencils and playing with them. Can't sculpt, but I play with polymer clay all the time. Just because you can't do a thing well doesn't mean you should have to give it up.

Just don't stand in front of me and put yourself in a position to be judged and get upset when I do. Now, I admit that sometimes I am a bit...harsh. I try to always give constructive criticism, but sometimes those kids aren't interested in learning - they want the fast track to big-bucks, and they have no idea what that takes. They think it's "sing a few songs on AI and make it big." How many AI winners, or even top ten placers, have you heard from recently?

You want an example of someone who thinks they're all that, just fine, a winner before they even start? Remember that weepy kid who lives in his car? The one who cried every time the wind shifted or the camera was near him? He got cocky - told the band to leave, he would sing on his own. Don't for a moment think he was just going for a style, a sound, or whatever. He thought he was that good, and he was being snotty. Rather, he was all over the place, so awful I would have thrown a shoe at him to make him stop. And then he wanted another chance. Hell, no! There are almost no second chances in show business. Seen or heard from him lately? Do you even remember his name? I don't. All I remember about him is his stupid assumption that he was that good. When someone offers you a top class band to back you, you take it. Milk it for all it's worth. Hell, go buy them drinks after hours and ask their advice. I bet that band could give some fantastic tips - they manage to keep up with the worst of these kids without so much as blinking, and if you think keeping time with an off-tempo, off-key vocalist is easy, well...you've never made the effort. Those kids have to learn one song a week - the band learns them all, note perfect and off-book every time.

I will hear every wrong note, every off tempo note, every missed, muddled, or altered lyric sung, and if I'm asked to critique, I will point them all out. I would want the same from anyone I asked the favor of. After all, the point is to learn, to correct, to grow. If a body isn't prepared to hear it, they'd best not ask. I try to temper my honesty with compassion, when it's someone I know or I can see they're really trying, but give me the attitude and all bets are off.

They have no idea how hard even bottom-tier musicians work to get gigs and keep them, to find an audience, to make it anywhere. I have seven CDs out with my band, am working on my eighth with a friend, have guest tracks on two more and one of my songs on another two, and no one knows who I am - and we've sold thousands of CDs. Granted, we have a tiny niche market (no, really, it's a niche so small, I'm amazed we all fit in it!) and I am OK with that, but still...we're a common example of a decent (yeah, I'm biased, get over it) group who won't get national play. You need a common sound, a new sound, or a gimmick and a huge break or a national label pushing you to get air time, to be seen, and there are always people breathing down your neck, waiting for you to screw up so they can take your place.

These kids on AI, they don't realize that they're stuck in a performance contract for as long as AI wants them. They're doing all the advertising and publicity for nothing more than a little exposure, and there's no guarantee beyond the first album or so. They have to do the tour, and never mind family or a life of any sort outside the AI cash machine. The only one who's made anything of herself is Carrie Underwood, and honestly she lucked into the country scene or she would have faded away, too.

One of the things that I find really sad is, some of these kids really do have a lick of talent. I get pissed off at Randy and his useless slang-laced idiocy (does he ever actually say anything??), Paula and her drunken, drug-addled, mush-mouthed rambling, and even Simon sometimes when he's a pansy-ass. They blow smoke up these kids' asses to boost ratings, but aside from Simon's occasional insight, they don't really do much to help these kids learn how to perform. They don't help them figure out stage presence, musicality, the difference between stylistic changes in a piece and completely raping it in the name of "new arrangement" or "making it theirs". If they're going to live in a fishbowl, open their lives up to investigation, gossip, intense scrutiny, the least the show's creators, producers, and participants can do is give them something worth their part in the spectacle. In the end, most of them have to reconcile themselves to a life of anonymity, maybe getting a bar gig or a theme park show once in a while and the occasional "Hey, weren't you the one in the Hefty Bag dress on AI?" to sustain them.

The show, as far as I can tell, has a primary purpose of making money - raking it in - and a secondary purpose of entertaining the viewers. Actually making a singer, a performer, out of one of those children isn't even an afterthought. Yeah, I watch anyway, because sometimes I need to let the Bitch out for air, and what better outlet? This makes me a part of the problem, I know, because without viewers the show would fold...but it's like a train wreck, isn't it? You know you shouldn't watch, but you can't look away...and once in a while, you do get a little nugget of pure, sweet music that almost makes up for the rest.


Becky said...

I got into AI last season when a friend of mine was on it, and now I'm hooked.

Paula offers absolutely nothing of any use, save from being weirdly sweet.

Blondie said...

I can't contribute anything to this conversation because I think AI is leading up to lead to the decline of society as we know it! I tried to get into it, but just couldn't follow-through. I don't have the stomach for it.

Blondie said...

Obviously I haven't mastered the English language yet, sorry for the typos.

foolery said...

WHEW! Am I glad I kept reading. For a minute there I thought you were ranting about ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION. Then I decided it had to be ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (which, for many, is the same as the other).

Never seen the show. I'm frightened, Auntie Em.

Also? Have tagged you for a meme -- it's an easy one so don't get anxious! You can do one answer or many, it's your choice. Happy Vernal Equinox!

Kyddryn said...

Becky, I had an acquaintance try out for this season, and I was frankly glad she didn't make it. She's much too talented.

Blondie - I don't know why I watch, except maybe for the train-wreck factor and because once in a while, the music wins. And no worries, I speak fluent typo.

And Foolery, you're probably better off not watching. It's a guilty not-really-secret of mine. I should probably go for a walk instead!