Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why So Nasty?

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.


  1. I absolutely love reading what you have to say in your re-caps of the show...I guess I never really saw any of it as being mean or all that negative...just love your awesome humor, snarkiness, and opinions! It all keeps me coming back! :)

    Don't ever stop being YOU!

  2. Your snark regarding the actual singing is hilarious. I'll agree with that. Everyone has their own taste in music and that's why it's diverse. And Yes, the judges over praise. I just think that sometimes you are overly harsh and personal regarding their "Look". It is a singing competition.

  3. Karen Smith from HillsboroMarch 26, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    I've teased you before about maybe getting up on the wrong side of the bed, but it was my lame attempt at humor. I suppose if I truly did not want to giggle out loud at your writing style, I would simply not read it. You see, we are free to write what we want and free to read what we want. I can't wait to read the next installment, snark and all.

  4. Shari-someone has to honest about this season of Idol. I love the facts that you are honest and funny. I am a huge Country Music fan and I love the fact that in spite of it not being your favorite kind of music, at least you are willing to give it a chance-(Thank You, Mr.Casey James!!)Love reading your stuff-keep on keeping it real.

  5. Shari that was the best yet i have to admit,these people need to be chosen
    for their singing talent not their
    antics on stage.i've said it before
    Jlo please tone down your enthusium
    for Casey A.who would you spend your hard earned money on for a concert ticket or an
    album.these 3 you mentioned will not sell music.
    no more than Taylor Hicks,Lee Dwyze,and Rubin Studdard.theres no market for it.

  6. After attending the latest Idol night: "Casey James was mighty impressed with the level of talent that's on American Idol this year: "All of the singers are amazing. Everybody is really, really good. But what stuck out to me is that the judges were giving a lot of really good constructive criticism. Like 'Hey, maybe you should've hit that high note eight bars sooner.' [The contestants] can take that advice and really use it."

  7. Snark on Shari! I love reading it, even when I don't agree. I do think there's a difference between what reviewers/fans have to say and the official judges of American Idol.

    When I watched The Sing Off this winter, I was impressed by how positive and constructive the critiques were, even for those who didn't always shine. I remember hoping that the American Idol judges would be more like them. There is a way to get the point across without humiliating the contestants.

    Personally, I think Simon's nastiness was often as dishonest as his praise. I never bought into the "Simon is the only honest judge" because he wasn't. Simon was originally cast to be the nasty judge because that was the formula that worked for AI's precursors in the UK and Australia (according to Richard Rushfield's book). It's a role and the other judges and all the contestants are cast to play certain pre-assigned roles. It's a reality TV show before it's a talent show. They want a winner who will look good on the spreadsheet, looks like a sure thing with a certain demographic and will record the same cookie-cutter music that is all over top 40 and HAC. I personally believe that Lee was pushed because his "humble paint salesman" is the kind of story they think "America" likes on Idol. But I think Simon wanted a winner who would not be a big commercial success because that would make his eventual X-Factor winner shine by comparison.

    This season, I like the kinder, gentler flavor of the judging panel. Loopy Steven Tyler may not be able to criticize anyone harshly by why should he? Jennifer has been constructive without being nasty and Randy has stepped up (sorta) but is not the mean of Simon (and still name-drops and is prone to annoying hyperbole).

    So what happened? "America" made up its own mind. Casey Abrams was eliminated, and was saved by the judges for their own reasons. I hate the judges' save because it takes the decision out of America's hands, but I felt that way when they saved Michael and Matt ... and I ended up liking both of them on tour even if I didn't care for them on the show.

    After the way the judges cast Casey James as cougar bait and dismissed his appeal (just women and girls) I expect the judges to have some calculus about the contestants that escapes me. They probably use focus groups, and maybe the focus groups thought the former paint salesman looked looked the most appealing. Who knows?

    Of course, I've been cynical for years about the manipulations of the Powers-That-Be at AI. This year I think it feels somewhat more genuine, even if the judges are light on criticism.

    - MaryS-NJ

  8. As a judge, Randy is about as 2-faced as they come. The syrup that is dripping off his words this year makes me sick. After he was so critical last year, he is equally as sickening this year, only for his nauseating praise (when no praise is warranted). Last year, the judges would have massacred these AI10 performances---they are awful. Steven Tyler is useless. JLo tries... When C Abrams started singing "I don't need no doctor", it was like a bad joke. Thank God they stopped him! Just glad that season 10 now takes top honor of WORST season ever! So, Shari, keep telling it like it is. I believe you speak for the majority!

  9. I don't think this years contestants are awful at all,I think if anything they're picking the
    wrong songs.i read something about one of last years contestants {can't think of her name}long dark hair young girl whatever her name is wished she would have been on this years show,well i don't think she would have made to the tour had she been she is a very talented for Steven Tyler he does tend to follow the other judges calls on performances.I would still love to see Pia and Thia loosen up abit.voices are awesome move away from the disney songs Thia and Pia move awaay from the Celine music.Stefano is so forgettable i'm tired of him looking like he's making out with the mic,or audience just sing and step it up.James D.don't change anything,Paul,Casey A.Jacob l.just go away!!!!!!

  10. Since I am not yelling at the TV this year when the judges comment, I guess that must be a good thing? Hm.

    Last year's judges gave contradictory advice, or no advice, or spent all their time slobbering all over the chosen one. I will forever be flummoxed by the Lee love. Nice guy. Sings with marbles in his mouth. Charisma of a turnip. And this is your American Idol? Really? Ah, Simon. You are a smart one.

    This year it has been largely a love fest, though JLo is stepping up her game. The result? Everyone on that stage seems to believe they are God's gift to the music industry and it is just a matter of months before they will be plantinum selling artists.

    Ah. News flash. Jazz artists don't usually sell a lot of records, Casey A. Thia, I don't remember the last Disney princess who sold a lot of records. Stefano - lovely voice.. sometimes.. what kind of music is your music? Not a clue. Pia - Celine, et al is no longer top 40. Jacob, the church choir is waiting for you. James - I think Adam does a better Adam than you do so I think I will probably buy his second record instead of yours. Haley - hell, girl, what is it you are singing? Blues maybe? How is this marketable? Lauren - your karoake talent is outstanding. You have shown me little else. I hold out faint hope. Scotty - keep going at it - you've got about 10 years before country is going to accept you. I mean, can you imagine a 17 year old singing "I need you now?" No. Naima - you are interesting to watch and I have faint hope for you also. But the pop industry is heavily into agism and that makes me worried for you. Last. Paul. Who I think will actually have some success. In the indie market.

    So as I scan this BEST TALENT EVAH group... I must say they've bought into this garbage the judges/producers/media are spewing and have, at this point, not upped their game. They do not have to be creative. They do not have to show what kind of artist they will be after the show ends. They do not have to have "moments." I have no connection to any of them and that has not happened in all the years I've watched the show. Maybe it's a Casey James hangover. Meh. I don't know.

    I wish them all the best, but my guess is they will have a rude awakening after the show. I don't think that's mean or snarky. I think that's my opinion and reality.

  11. you absolutely had me going all the way to the end carolyn,until you said it,that god aweful dreaded name PAUL ugh!he's horrible staggers all over the stage what are you thinking?i'm so hoping that Pia and Thia show us something different this week,but my guess is they re thinking the songs have gotten this far so why change.please do change these people are killing me with there support for Paul,Casey,and Jacob.I don't even like Lauren or Scotty anymore but I still like Naima and James

  12. Anon 12:37

    I'm not saying I think Paul is talented, I'm saying from the his previous vids with his band, his savvy use of media to promote himself AND his band... he really doesn't have to win. I think he's built up enough of a following to be a "success" in indie terms. I'm actually a bit impressed with how he's played his cards in the competition.

  13. But can anybody seriously say that they would pay money to see this group, or buy any of their music post-AI? They would have to undergo a huge transformation. Better to save money to see someone who can rock your socks...hmmm Casey James, maybe?

  14. i'm almost looking forward to hearing Casey A.butcher one Elton Johns songs tonite.eek,and yuk all in one.maybe the save wouldn't have done any good afterall.

  15. Really?! You think Paul is one of the holy three? Nahhh ... I don't think so. He's just there and the judges 'get' him, but for sure there are others they fawn over. Pia, don't you think? And Lauren?! While Paul's been my favorite since the beginning, I'll concede your critique above is probably accurate. Even objective. Jennifer told him this week in no uncertain terms he needed to up his game. She phrased it sweetly with, 'there's more to you than you're showing.' (or something like that.) There are bloggers out there who have indicated that they don't think Paul is in it for the win but rather just for the publicity for his group and their music, hinting that now that he's gotten that, he'd just as soon call it a night and go home. Maybe. But in the meantime, I'm enjoying him ... me and 44,000 other Twitter friends.