FALSE IDOL: I don't want to talk too much about the performances on American Idol tonight -- Ruben and Kimberley were aces, as always; Clay was as good as we've seen him; Lashundra added Anna Mae Bullock to her list of impressions (okay, make that Trenyce and Tina Turner, fine); and Josh, well, if Josh remains next week, we as Americans have screwed up.
No, what I want to talk about is a more global critique I've had of the show which was in full force tonight: its relentless, pathological un-hipness.
American Idol purports to be a television program designed to select the next pop superstar. For today. 2003.
Why, then does the show so frequently ask its performers to perform in genres of the past? Tonight, the kids were singing Neil Sedaka songs. Neil Sedaka? What on earth does this have to do with finding a pop superstar for today? How does a successful rendition of the dreary "Where The Boys Are" identify a performer capable of a successful recording career for contemporary listeners?
This season, we've seen Billy Joel night, Neil Sedaka night, country-rock night, Motown, disco, and movie soundtrack night.
But where's the hip-hop night? How about modern dance music? new jack swing? alternarock? new wave?
(Please, tell me you wouldn't love to see Clay singing "Bizarre Love Triangle" and Ruben work his groove on the Human League's "Don't You Want Me?")
Kelly Clarkson's album was able to debut well in this crowded marketplace certainly because of the hype from her being on the show, but also because its first single, "Miss Independent", sounds like a Christina Aguilera song, sounds like the other things on the radio. It does not sound like Neil Sedaka.
What the show does well, even with its poor genre selections, is separate the better singers from the worse singers. But it does not do a good enough job to identify the performers and entertainers, and separate them from those who happen to have a good voice. (This means you, Lashundra.)
So, can we have some contemporary music on the show? Fill me with Neptunes, and stop building up the buttercups. Please?