Thoughts on American Idol

May 31, 2007

art / culture / music

I’ve been thinking, recently, about why I dislike American Idol so much. I’ve wondered, “Is it just me being cynical?” “Is it me being afraid of user-generated content?” (what a geekish question to even ask) “Is it just because I don’t like the style of all the stuff they perform?” And so on. Today, though, it finally hit me.

Art – a creative discipline

First of all, I believe passionately that art should be done with creativity, or it shouldn’t be done at all. This includes music, film, design in all its manifestations, television, literature in all its manifestations, and so on and so on. Understandably, this means that I don’t like a lot of what culture puts out as art.

In American Idol’s case, you have a show. Its contestants are, in all likelihood, performing works that:

Mediocre Art

If one were to discuss American Idol with someone who is known for being a virtuoso vocalist, or a voice professor, or someone who understands music theory at all, it’s very likely that that person would not have a high view of the musical skills of the contestants, or of the musical knowledge of the American people.

And here, we get into one of the problems with MySpace. We have the general population creating “webpages,” when they’re not qualified to do so. On American Idol, we have the general population judging musical talents when they’re not qualified to do so. Logically, we’re going to end up with the musical equivalent of moving pink backgrounds with white text on top of them.

I’m all for user generated content, to an extent. I just feel like it should be generated by users that have some knowledge of what they’re generating. I think this is why niche sites like Digg and countless others end up with, on average, items that are more relevant and more intelligent to the people using them.

I think those are my major issues with the show. I could rant about the idea that this art is being performed for the wrong reasons, but that may occasionally not be the case. And even if it is, there’s a great deal of amazing art that’s been produced throughout the ages by people who really don’t have any interest in the subject matter they’re dealing with.