Terry Hazlett: ‘Idol’ seems determined to self-destruct
Latest moves have set the stage for decline of ‘American Idol’
At top, from left, are Angie Miller, Kree Harrison, Janelle Arthur, Devin Velez, Amber Holcomb, Burnell Taylor and Candice Glover. In front, from left, are Curtis Finch Jr., Lazaro Arbos and Paul Jolley. The “American Idol” finalists were attending a publicity event Thursday in Los Angeles.
“American Idol” is still television’s top talent show, but it may not hold that title for long. The quick ascension of “The Voice” notwithstanding, “Idol” seems to be determined to self-destruct.
In its attempt to reinvent itself this year, “Idol” has sacrificed its integrity. We’re not referring to hiring off-the-wall Nicki Minaj as a judge – her wackiness is offset at least partly by another freshman judge, Keith Urban, who has emerged as perhaps the most honest and precise panelist on any reality show.
The changes in rules, I suspect, aren’t going to result in massive tune-outs, either. Having the public vote out 10 of the top 20 finalists over the course of one short week, for instance, cuts to the chase quickly – and should give the finalists more air time.
But is there any “Idol” viewer in America who doesn’t think the fix is in for ensuring a female “Idol” winner this year? From the outset, “Idol” has proclaimed it the year of the female contestant and it has embellished that thought through every episode so far. Editing can create any perception, and it certainly has cast male contestants in a negative light all season.
Judges also seemed to move the weaker male candidates forward while cutting some that seemed to be locks for the Top 20. Last week, voters had to pick 10 finalists and frankly, at least eight of them should have been women. But rules dictate that the finalists are evenly divided, so there are at least three male vocalists still competing who would have gone home any other year. They, of course, will be fan fodder the first few weeks of the finals, as the female contestants become all that more familiar to viewers. At that point, the two remaining men – my guess is that they will be Curtis Finch Jr. and Burnell Taylor – will be up against five extremely strong, familiar and presumably likeable female contestants, any of whom could pull off a win.
Yes, you say, but the public has the final vote. True, but the public vote has almost always been swayed by judge’s comments. And the judges very much seem to want the winner to be a female.
It’s early in the competition, but I suspect the four finalists will be Finch, Angela Miller, Candice Glover and Janelle Arthur, with the girls pummeling Finch in the final few voting rounds.
How many viewers are still around by then remains to be seen.
If it smells like a skunk…
At this year’s Grammy Awards “In Memoriam” tribute, photos of the late Donna Summer, Robin Gibb (Bee Gees) and Davy Jones (Monkees) deservedly prompted appreciative rounds of applause. Unfortunately, that same appreciation was not extended to Andy Williams, Earl Scruggs or Kitty Wells – the sparse response would have barely moved the arm on an applause meter. The same sad smattering of noise was given to Patty Andrews (Andrew Sisters), Dorothy McGuire (McGuire Sisters), Herb Reed (The Platters) and Joe South.
And when an image of Patti Page singing “Tennessee Waltz” appeared, the silence was deafening. It most likely wasn’t done out of respect as much as it was a collective shrugging of the shoulders, as in “Who is she?”
In contrast, the loudest ovation – by far – was given to the late Adam Yaugh of the Beastie Boys.
Given the average age of the crowd at the Grammys, perhaps that response was to be expected. The music of Yaugh, who was instrumental in the early success of rap, certainly resonated more with the current crop of music talent than Ms. Page.
Still, it is disconcerting that Patti Page was so easily forgotten. After all, she pioneered the recording of multi-track vocals, a process that remains popular today. She also scored nearly 50 hits over a 15-year period – plateaus that most current artists have no chance of achieving. Moreover, at least three of her recordings – “Old Cape Cod,” “Allegheny Moon” and “Tennessee Waltz” – have stood the test of time.
Page also hosted her own popular television variety show – as did Andy Williams, whose lack of recognition by the Grammy crowd was truly astonishing. Not only did Williams have dozens of hit records, including the durable “Moon River,” he also was a longstanding host of the Grammys. I’m not, by the way, insinuating that today’s music stars – Mumford and Sons, fun., Bruno Mars and Rihanna, to mention a few – won’t eventually have careers that measure up to Page, Williams and the other “seasoned” stars who seemed to be forgotten at the awards ceremony.
I am suggesting, however, that half a century from now, those currently unstoppable superstars might wish the talent of 2063 would understand and acknowledge their own “roots.” A “Who is she?” for Rihanna might seem to be preposterous now, but it could happen. Just ask the relatives of Patti Page.