I've been getting two categories of responses to my American Idol posts this season -- "I agree with you, love the snark," and "Why are you so mean." In effect, we all are in agreement that this season's posts are heavy on the negative and that the only question is a personal preference for or against sarcasm and mean-spirited humor.
So let me explain what has motivated the fangs to come out this year. Last year was the nastiest in American Idol history. I will not rehash here all the offenses committed by the judges' last year. I don't know what motivated their assassinations of some of the girl contestants early on, nor their mad love for Lee DeWyze, but as a viewer, it was nearly impossible to watch without wanting to come to many of the mistreated contestants' defense.
This year, we have the exact opposite situation. The judges seem almost incapable of saying anything if it might hint as negative. They are heaping praise on contestants like a Pre-Kindergarten teacher judging students' artwork. Every scribble, every blot, every wrinkled up piece of paper is treated like the Mona Lisa. That's fine if the goal is to develop early self-esteem and to keep from obstructing the kids' burgeoning creativity. But this is a voluntarily entered-into reality TV game show for a million dollars. They are competing for a huge record contract and dependent on viewers' votes to win that prize.
As dishonest as the judges were last year in their unwarranted critiques of some of the contestants, that is how dishonest their virtually unqualified praise is this year. Jennifer Lopez admitted as much in Thursday night's results show when she for the first time told Casey Abrams that there was something about his performances that -- gasp -- might need to change. Had she or the other judges said anything like this to him over the past few weeks, perhaps I might not have felt such a deep loathing for his every moment on stage. Had they just once told him to tone it down, reel it in, pull it back, perhaps I wouldn't have felt the need to spend my Wednesday nights pointing out just how bad his performances actually were.
The same goes for Jacob Lusk and Paul McDonald. The judges need to tell Jacob, just once, that his Liza Minelli shtick is off-putting, that he has got to stop over-singing, that he treats songs as well as Chris Brown treated Rihanna. They need to let Paul know that his voice, that may be quirky cool on old YouTube videos, comes off as croaky and strained and really unpleasant to listen to on the show. But they don't. So I do.
Meanwhile, I have supported Scotty and Lauren, despite the fact that they sing that country music I've heard so much about but have never actually bought, and Naima, even though she's leaning in the R&B/Pop direction which is also not a favorite of mine. I think Pia and Thia have beautiful, pristine, crystal clear voices and can appreciate Stefano's nice tone, even if I'm less appreciative of his DUI. I love James, even if he does occasionally channel Adam Lambert. My support of these underappreciated contestants has, apparently, gone unnoticed because I've spent so much time going after the holy trinity of this year -- Casey, Jacob and Paul.
If the goal of this show is to sign someone to a contract, then whether the contestant would be a successful, viable recording artists should be the only criterion that is used to judge. While I might joke about not liking country music, I really don't hate it all and recognize that it is a very successful genre. But Casey Abrams sings jazz and, Esperanza Spalding not withstanding, jazz is not current or popular and for this show to spend its efforts promoting a winner in such an antiquated and moribund musical style is a waste of its time and mine. It's cute that he loves this type of music, but to my ears it is worse than nails on a chalkboard. That ten seconds of his "I Don't Need No Doctor" was, to me, like a bad SNL skit.
I have six or seven contestants who I enjoy on the show and three who I think are terribly overrated (I'm neutral on Haley). I hope you don't just focus on the my negative comments and ignore the fact that there are quite a few that I praise. Again, this is just one record-buyer's opinion. And I always appreciate hearing yours.