Sunday, February 24, 2008

Deus Ex American Idol

Once upon a time, there was a myth upon the land.

This story was laid that there would come a television show borrowed from the realm of Britannia where great music talent was going overlooked.  Overlooked and unappreciated because the mighty corporate behemoths locked away in their best last defense against the great stain of evil brought by the many unwashed college students blighting the land with their demands for digital downloads.

The need for a show that would bring the great unknown talent forth was heard and American Idol was sprung upon the land.  "Yea is good," sayeth the Fox masterminds, this show will shower us with popularity and advertising dollars.  It will also bring great new talent forth and in cooperation with the production company, Clive Davis, and once famous musicians... many riches shall spring forth.

New undiscovered talent will be given the fairest of chances to delight an audience of Americans.  And in so doing, new talent, television, music, and all will be delighted and enriched.

Bullshit.  It is all unmitigated bullshit. (apologies to the kids, but the myth of American Idol is revealed in absolute stark terms this season for all to see, if we just open our eyes to it)

 We all know the myth:  American Idol is supposed to be a show about giving the unknown and undiscovered singers, wannabes, and the occasional musician a fair chance to be heard by millions of Americans.  With the tantalizing offer of a record contract, professional development, promotion, opportunities to appear on television in front of a large audience (and I am sure much more).

As Lyndsey Parker, makes all to clear on her Reality Rocks blog, it is all untrue.  The myth is nothing more than an illusion.  The hopefuls this year are not undiscovered at all.  Several of them have had records released, been signed to record labels, been in popular regional bands.  The illusion that new and imaginative or just simply plain old undiscovered talent is being uncovered by American Idol is false!

In fact, some of the most popular "singers" thus far in the "competition" are distorting and misrepresenting their backgrounds.  Some of them are scrubbing and cleaning the Internet of past information about themselves and their careers.  Several competitors who did not get to "Hollywood" were actually undiscovered but repeatedly these individuals were cast aside for folks who already had records, contracts to record, toured, made videos, and more... and in some cases all too close relationships with the production company that runs American Idol with an iron hand.  And perhaps, iron ears.

As Parker points out:  Undiscovered apparently does not mean the same thing to those us outside of FOX and American Idol:

As in, artists who have not had record deals yet. Artists who need a show like this to GET a record deal in the first place. Artists who have not already had major labels waste millions of dollars unsuccessfully trying to mold them into next big things.

What's my point? Well, last night the visa-challenged Irish artist formerly known as Carly Hennessy--but now conveniently going under her new married name, Carly Smithson--made it into American Idol's top 24, despite having had a flop album out on MCA Records nearly seven years ago. An album that sold only hundreds of copies, despite the fact that MCA spent millions of dollars trying to promote it.

It gets better when Parker describes Hennessy's career:

"Ultimate High was released in stores nationwide three months ago. So far, it has sold only 378 copies--amounting to about $4,900 at its suggested retail price....The story of MCA and Ms. Hennessy shows the dysfunctional economics of the music industry at work. MCA, one of Universal Music's major labels, initially hooked up with the spunky teenager three years ago because it was trying to get a piece of the great success competitors enjoyed with young pop artists like Britney Spears and 'N Sync. Ms. Hennessy, a native of Dublin, had released her debut musical effort, Carly's Christmas Album, in Ireland at age 10, after performing all over Europe as Little Cosette in Les Miserables. At 13, she was named the Irish national spokesmodel for the Denny sausage brand. Soon, she and her family began hoping for much more, and Ms. Hennessy dropped out of high school....

Does this sound like an undiscovered singer to anyone?  Anyone?

You can check out her videos on YouTube.

It even gets better.

As the folks at Vote for the Worst makes clear, Carly Hennessy is not the only American Idol contestant with industry connections and actual careers:

Thanks to sources like JoesPlace, Vote for the Worst has been checking out the contestants who have allegedly made it to the top 24 of American Idol 7 and there's a disturbing trend. To try to combat Sanjaya fever from last year, American Idol producers have gone out of their way to place people into the top 24 who already had a shot at stardom in the past.

It seems like a good idea at first- they’re stacking the deck with professionals to try to prevent a Vote for the Worst takeover. But then you realize- if these people didn’t make it big before, it’s highly unlikely that people will care any more about them now. And if all of these people with industry connections made it to the top 50, what about the average Joes who are looking for their shot at stardom? Were they just cast aside this year to make way for the plants?

It’s likely that if you tried out for the show and failed, or if a friend with an amazing voice tried out and was turned away, it was to make room for the established professionals. This is not to say that these ringers are any less deserving of stardom, or any less decent or nice, but that the days of everyday people becoming the next American Idol are over.

The days of the myth -- if anyone really believed them -- are over.  American Idol is a sham.  Tell it to all of your friends around the water cooler who want to talk about how cool American Idol is or how it really is a "contest" among "unknowns."  Let everyone know it is not real, perhaps never has been in the first place.  One has to wonder if this is false advertising?  But in the end all of the created excitement and purpose of the show...

'Tis a lie.

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