SHE SAID: American Idol

January 25, 2010

So it’s that time again. My television watching is getting interrupted with shooting stars, giddy teenagers holding microphones and the affected singing of overly gelled and highly scripted “singing sensations.” American Idol. It’s back. Apparently FOX is trying to one up the Halloween franchise and make more sequels to a mediocre original than ever before.

There isn’t one thing about this show I like.  These kids often times can’t hit the notes, screw up the song, sing too affectedly, or at the very best, give an overwhelmingly uninspired performance that is celebrated. Seems about right for FOX programming. If I wanted to hear bad renditions of songs I like, I would teleport back to college and attend more a Capella concerts (as a viewer, because yes, I was in an a Capella group*). And I certainly don’t want to hear bad renditions of songs I don’t like. That is just torture. And yet a lot of people I know and respect subject themselves to this week after week, season after season.

And then the judging. Paula Abdul (entertaining as hell because who doesn’t like to watch a heavily medicated, drunk train wreck try to come off as genuine and intelligent about the topic at hand but I’m sorry, when did the singer of Opposites Attract become an informed music critic?) paired up with Randy (annoying – strop trying so hard to come across as an in-touch black man and you might come across as an in-touch black man) and Simon (of course America villanizes the one person on the show who knows something about music and performing who is willing to tell the vast majority of applicants that they are not as amazing as they would like to be and to go home and figure out some other options) make up the trifecta that leads the American audience through the nightmare that is AI. I guess it’s better than Paris, Britney and Celine-things could be worse.

I hate that there are actual people out there trying to make it in the music industry while these instant gratification addicts audition image and talent (both rated equally on American Idol) and completely alter themselves as the stylist recommends a few weeks into the show and sell out to whatever genre needs a new star that year.  The industry is already awash with fraudulent entertainers trying to pass themselves off as the hippest definition of cool to whatever target audience they are trying to appeal to … do we need fourteen year-olds with an entourage of salaried FOX employees telling them how to cut their hair and what color eye liner to apply in addition?  Then, cue the seasonal fade to oblivion as America moves on like the fickle audience we are until the promotion of the next season or the obligatory record release brings the forgotten face to our screens in a heartfelt, falling star filled montage once again.

I hope once Simon quits this show it shrivels up without it’s villain or pill popping bobble head idiot. The world will be a better place without it.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I was also in the hand-bell choir while in college. White gloves and all. Look up “cool college student” in the dictionary and you’ll see me.

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SHE SAID: Karaoke

October 26, 2009

I don’t know how it happened, but I ended up at a dive bar with an elaborate karaoke set up on Saturday night.  It wasn’t the karaoke that lead us there, and it wasn’t the karaoke that kept us there, but it is what I remember from the night.

There were the obvious characters at the bar who are all worthy of mention.  One man was, coincidentally enough, wearing exactly what my friend is planning on her son wearing when he dresses up as a pirate for Halloween.  Only he wasn’t dressing up.

Another was a weathered guy in a Yankees T-shirt (the first sign we weren’t going to be friends), and it wasn’t so much what he was wearing, but more that he insisted on following me around for a large part of the evening claiming to have sung with Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Poison.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he hadn’t, but he kept warning me that when he went up, he was going to blow me away.  His name was Seven, another dubious claim, and I never did get to hear his singing.

Then there was the requisite birthday party of mid-thirties women who were well on their way to hammered and the main partakers in the Karaoke.

Add to this picture a few scattered, worn looking regulars and you have the scene.

The astounding thing about Karaoke is the song choice and the amazing surprises that come your way when you think you’ve stereo-typed someone.

I expected Madonna and Alanis Morisette from the women … and they delivered, complete with some raunchy dance moves (Shoop – Salt ‘n Peppa) accompanied by some self-conscious giggling.

I expected Johnny Cash from the worn looking, mullet donning man.  No go.  Instead was some obscure love song, so genuinely delivered that it made up for the terrible rendition of a terrible song (You Oughta Know).  And all of a sudden, karaoke stopped being such a joke and started to become something else.

Hokey and super lame, I know, but there is something so heart wrenching about a person up on stage singing their heart out with eyes closed not giving a rat’s arse about who is listening, but doing it for the sake of doing it and not to impress some girl or make friends laugh.  And maybe I’m making something beautiful out of a drunk loner who doesn’t even remember that he was at a karaoke bar, much less singing.  And I realize that this possibility is very likely, but I like to think in spite of the drunk, repressed women and the group I was with (also drunk and repressed), a moment of beauty occurred.  Or a few.


HE SAID: Karaoke

October 26, 2009

Most of you think I’m probably about to rip Nifer a new one for taking a seemingly fun and drunken night out and turning it into some sort of introspective look at drunken culture. However, I have to admit it, I get it. I see her point, I just hadn’t thought about it in that light before. That being said, I still think you might have been reading a bit too much into JP’s Karaoke scene. While I agree that there is something a bit depressing about CERTAIN karaoke performances, most karaokeing falls into three categories: self-serving, entertaining, and downright shitty.

The issue with self-serving people is that they are not singing to entertain the crowd; instead they are simply trying to wow you with their singing prowess. Believe you me, I am not at a Karaoke bar on a Friday night to see some choir couple gush into each other’s eyes while belting out “I Got You Babe.” If you have a great voice, by all means use it…just make sure you’re not obviously trying to show off, do your best to make sure your performance falls into…

Entertaining. These performances are what makes a karaoke night fun. Some people get up there with great voices, sing a fun song (note: Only the Good Die Young does not qualify as a good karaoke song, and hasn’t since the Wall was still up), and really get the crowd into it. Others get up there with a relatively crappy voice, but still manage to be entertaining. This latter category, I’m proud to say, is the one I fall into.

I have actually only performed actual karaoke twice. First time I was with a few guys on Spring Break down in Turks & Caicos. While my song selection was somewhat cheesy – “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” – the fact that my buddy and me performed the whole Top Gun scene leading up to the song really revved up the crowd and we didn’t buy a drink the rest of the night (that last part is probably a lie, but I like to remember it that way).

The second time was here in Stowe, and I wasn’t even inebriated. I just felt like having a good time. Even if that good time meant singing “Keep on Lovin’ You” by REO Speedwagon. People clapped and sang along, so I felt somewhat accomplished. Finally, this isn’t really karaoke, but I am not ashamed to admit that this is me. I promise, if you click on the link, you will be entertained.

The last category is perhaps the most painful. These people suck at singing (and many times think they are good), pick lame songs, and don’t engage with the crowd at all. These folks are probably up there singing something along the lines of “Like A Prayer” because they either A. think it’s cool or B. lost their virginity to it while in the back of their Mom’s Buick Skylark in 1989. Often times these people will cause such discomfort amongst fellow bar patrons, a cigarette break or bathroom run is the only hope of respite. But then again, I look at this guy and am completely confounded. He is awful, I want to break a bottle of Bud over his head, but yet I can’t look away, and have a feeling I’d probably be cheering him if I was there…