Look. The truth is, I try to ignore American Idol. I lot of people I respect like it, and while I think that it’s essentially a ‘roided up version of Star Search that’s only produced two even marginally interesting musicians — Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson — in seven years.
So I try to ignore the early rounds, which seem to be about feeling superior to talentless retards who just Want to Be on Television. I try to ignore the later rounds, which seem to be about singerbots performing soulless — but technically perfect! — versions of Other People’s Songs.
But the greater truth is that I live in the middle of the popular culture, and since Idol is the biggest thing in today’s Long Tail culture — 10% of the country watches it every week! — I am inundated with it on both the radio and the TV.
Which means that I get assaulted with things like some douchebag’s version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire:”
Wow. Not only is this abomination this week’s Worst Thing I’ve Ever Heard In My Entire Life, Ever and — by default — the Worst Cover Version of All Time, it’s also the absolute epitome of American Idol.
Idol, of course, isn’t so much about musical expression, per se, — which is why I love music — as it is about outdoing the other person. Just as Baseball players as naturally great as Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez compelled to do steroids because that was the culture, or Nadia Suleman “wins” because she had eight babies at one time, this version of “Ring of Fire” epitomizes the Idol culture of “the more notes you sing, the better it is.”
BTW, this isn’t because the douchebag somehow destroyed the sacrosanct “Ring of Fire,” with an “experimental” version. Why should I care which song he destroyed when he so obviously didn’t? Also, in the early 80’s, Wall of Voodoo did an amazing deconstruction of exactly the same song:
So it’s not about the fact that he gutted “Ring of Fire,” it’s the fact that it didn’t matter what the song was. It could have been any song, and he would have done the same exact thing. The song didn’t matter. The words didn’t matter. The melody didn’t matter.
“Ring of Fire” was simply a platform upon which the douchebag could sing his notes upon notes upon notes not for any kind of musical expression or connection to the actual song he was supposed to be singing, but rather in a desperate attempt to stay in the competition at all costs.
Really? It might be entertainment, but it doesn’t have any kind of connection to, you know, music. I’d love for my Idol-watching friends to defend this, but really, they deserve it.