I don’t know about you but for some reason this was the most difficult season to tune into American Idol since their inception. The new judge, singer/songwriter/starmaker Kara DioGuardi, the wild card picks, the top twelve something or other – it seemed like a big tangly mess to me and I wasn’t going to spend any of my Tuesday nights watching it. But last week’s show has me hooked all over again. I finally figured out what it is about the show that makes people watch in the first place. It’s the talent.While most of the performers are gliding along on good looks, charm or both, every once in a while a truly talented performer squeaks through and in those moments there is nothing more entertaining than American Idol. This past week that person was Adam Lambert. Paula Abdul, looking a little worse for the wear, called it the best performance she’d ever seen at this stage of the game. But fans know that the early favorites rarely take home the record contract; it’s almost always someone who does better in the later episodes who wins the thing. So maybe the advice to Adam should be: don’t be so good. Lambert may become one of the show’s more talked about contestants, however. A Los Angeles Times article by Ann Powers talks about how Lambert could be one of the first “out” contestants the show’s producers couldn’t ignore. Powers also talks about how divisive it might become since one of the favorites to win is a faithful Christian. There is no doubt that Idol targets the mainstream in America but it remains to be seen whether the mainstream can deal with diversity or not. The most successful winner so far has been Carrie Underwood, queen of the bland, but a girl America loved. One of the most exciting years, though, was the Taylor Hicks reign and yet, Hicks isn’t really selling records. Their aim is to produce a potential “mcstar” who can be plugged in to the record industry, but the show’s aim to draw viewers. Therein lies the rub. American Idol took some blows this year because there were rumblings that it was over and done with. The ratings don’t reflect a drop, however. They are still the best of any show in prime time. Some of their gimmicks seemed to have paid off. The new judge certainly knows what she’s doing but she’s a tad irritating because there is nothing visibly wrong with DioGuardi. She’s just not crazy enough to sit at that table. It’s a strange time to be watching Idol because it feels like a strange time to be banking on a career at all, or even a paycheck. Nonetheless, there will always be a need for feel-good, escapist entertainment, especially when it involves upbeat pop songs of Michael Jackson. There is nothing more distracting than a group of hopefuls chasing down their dream.
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