I’ve had anxiety and a sense of loss and abandonment for almost two years and Sunday night, that all changed because American Idol is back!!! Will it ever be the juggernaut it was in the mid-2000s on Fox? Will it ever overtake The Voice in popularity? Probably not, but for 10.3-million viewers, the most of any show on Sunday night, American Idol was exactly what we needed. We all missed the basic, raw, stripped down auditions and the story of someone coming from nowhere and launching themselves into stardom in a scant 2o weeks (I have no idea how long it will all take).
But, Don, aren’t there enough other singing competition shows? Yes, but none like Idol. On The Voice, a buncha experienced singers get coaching from established Pop- and Country stars. I suppose the performances are better, and they should be. On Idol, it’s every man for him/herself. Other shows? Well, nobody knows what’s happening on The Four (yes, that’s a singing show), and the only other place for singers to get a break is America’s Got Talent, but that’s not really a singing show.
Remember X-Factor? Right. Nobody does. ABC isn’t bringing that dumb show back to TV.
Sunday’s viewership for American Idol shows I’m not the only idiot who still loves this show. I’m happy they did very little to change the show, actually. We did smash four cities into a single night, albeit two hours, so that was a bit different. But we didn’t waste time watching crash and burn auditions and only a few times got to witness bonafide crazy (like Koby, the best singer in Colorado, who sings show tunes, spends hours each day on her craft, and screamed for 30-seconds in her audition). The ABC version of Idol brought back the heartfelt back-stories with high-quality, onsite production. And the new judges seemed fun, excited, and like they all three landed their dream job. Meaning, nobody wanted to sign-on and be seen as desperate and pleading on a dying show that ABC should’ve left in the past. Nope. Spread the word. Katy Perry is actually very cool. Lionel Richie is plastic. And Luke Bryan is too excited. That’s a great recipe in my book.
What about Ryan Seacrest? Let’s say this. It’s impressive that ABC can edit that entire two hours with minimal shots of Ryan and not take anything away from the entertainment value. It shows that (a) they surgically cut as much footage of Ryan as possible while the sexual harassment stuff with him passes or resolves itself and (b) he’s the luckiest man on the face of the earth because American Idol isn’t about him, was never about him, and I’m just as entertained without him. Sorry, Ryan. I’m here for the singing and the rags-to-riches story. You got your “riches” a decade ago. Maybe give us someone new, Idol.
Some highlights from last night included Catie Turner, an unabashed misfit, who was pretty much putting on a show – like that odd barista at your local coffee shop. The one you wish would stop talking to you and stop talking to everyone and just …make …coffee. I was hoping she’d be horrible, but she wasn’t. Once Catie sang, I kinda forgot how annoyed I was by her and then I Google’d her song “A Cog in the 21st Century Machine” because I missed the part where she said she was singing an original. Crap. I kinda liked her. She got a golden ticket. Which reminded me of one of my theories.
Theory #1: Sometimes Performers are Odd – “Normal” people don’t want to go up in front of people and sing, or make jokes, or do magic. And of those that do, only a few have a natural born ability to make us look and pay attention. It doesn’t apply to all singer-songwriters, but it applies to many. They are different. Often, I look at a performer and think, “there’s not another job on the planet they could’ve had for a living.” The odd behavior, the different worldview. This is what makes them want that attention. Sure, it often drives them crazy once they get the fame and fortune, but that’s because they weren’t normal to begin with. I’m not wishing that Catie Turner makes it big and then crumbles under the pressure of fame and turns to drugs to cope, but I like her quirkiness because it might make her unique, without trying.
We got a glimpse into the soul of Lionel Richie when he, at first, sent Ron Bultognez away because he wasn’t ready. I furrowed my brow at that, because I was more intrigued by Ron’s horrible relationship with his father, and of his backstory coming from a war zone in Africa. In my mind I’m thinking, “hey, that’s a sad story, give him a ticket,” but Katy Perry was having nun of it (see what I did there, used a pun to make reference to Katy Perry’s dispute with the Nun’s convent and then that Nun collapsing in the courtroom …clever, right?). However, Lionel didn’t like his first taste at being the “bad guy” and brought Ron back into the room. Maybe Lionel heard what I heard, and what brings me to my second theory.
Theory #2: Pain is Art – The epidemic of suicide with front-men from bands shows art comes from a tortured soul. I don’t love it. But nobody wants to hear Adele sing about a happy marriage and being in the P.T.A. Nobody wanted Chris Cornell and Kurt Cobain singing lyrics like you’d find in Katy Perry’s songs. The deeper the lyrics, and the more pain and anquish poured into a song, the better.
Theory #2 applies to Ron Bultognez. I won’t say he was great, but when he sang, he was pouring every bit of pain and desperation into each note and word. Lionel told him, “go away and come back as yourself.” If Ron figures that out, we might see him get past Hollywood week.
Do I even know if Hollywood week is going to be like in the past. No. I don’t. But I hope so.
We had a few more fun stories, like the girl that butchered the National Anthem when she was 11 …well, failure didn’t deter her and she was one of the best auditions of the night. We had 16-year-old Layla Spring (and her little sister) get a ticket, even though the machine of Hollywood is going to crush her (she’s such a simple, farm-grown child). And we had smokey-voiced Maddie Poppe wow us with her “Rainbow Connection”.
I’m missing a few of your favorites. I know. But there will be time. For now, let’s get our sea legs back. Let’s get to know the judges and let’s wonder how long it will take for that kid who kissed Katy Perry to ever be the same. He probably never will be. I wouldn’t be. And it gave Idol their first great reason to play Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” …I should’ve seen that coming.
Idol is back. I’m back. You’re back. The world is a little more normal again. See you tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @donkowalewski.