Skip to comments.New `Idol' Season Shows Mean Streak
Posted on 01/19/2007 10:41:36 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
NEW YORK (AP) - "Even the juggling was pathetic." With that cutting blow, Simon Cowell ended Jason Anderson's moment in the spotlight. Anderson, all of 16, stormed out of his "American Idol" audition into his family's arms, obscenities flowing as freely as the tears.
High school can be vicious enough. But not as nasty as Cowell, who also told the would-be singer/juggler that he "summed up Minneapolis, mate - useless."
The "American Idol" juggernaut has become ever more popular in this, its sixth season. But it sure seems meaner, too. At least that's the talk this week as the judges - not just the acerbic Cowell, but the usually genial Randy Jackson and the kind but loopy Paula Abdul - up the torture quotient, taking train-wreck TV viewing to a whole new level.
Young or old, pretty or ugly, male or female: No category of contestant has been spared in this week's audition coverage. The judges have even taken swipes at contestants behind their backs, making snide remarks after the singers have left. "Obnoxious," Cowell sniffed of one who'd just been voted into the next round. "What a strange guy," Jackson said of another.
And if you argue the contestants are asking for it by merely deciding to appear, consider the supportive boss of Dayna Dooley, who flew her and her sister to Minneapolis from California, so strongly did he believe in her singing. After panning her performance, the panel repeatedly insinuated to Dooley that she was inappropriately involved with her boss. Then they called the nice man in, told him his employee was "terrible," and proceeded to make the same insinuation to him - while his wife sat just outside the room.
"It just seems like they're being a lot meaner," says Jessica Rhode. She should know. After the 21-year-old makeup artist was given a thumbs-down by the panel, she collapsed to her knees and wept, begging the judges for some constructive advice. "It would take an hour," Cowell retorted. He told her to be happy: Now she could move on, knowing she'd never be a singer.
"That was the worst thing, in my opinion," Rhode said in a telephone interview. "I expected at least one of them to say something nice. I was like, is this really necessary?"
The cruelest moment undoubtedly came in Seattle, where a spirited young man named Kenneth Briggs, who liked to compare himself to Justin Timberlake, was told by Cowell: "You look a little odd ... you look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle, with those massive eyes ... a bush baby." Once he left, the three judges were shown cracking up hysterically at the "bush baby" remark.
Their behavior brought a rebuke from the hosts of ABC's "The View.""The whole thing, it's terribly sad to me," said moderator Rosie O'Donnell.
Even the doors were mean. In a malfunction that seemed expressly designed to deepen the humiliation, one side of the double doors to the Minneapolis tryout room was locked or jammed. That meant Cowell got to smirk or roll his eyes every time a poor soul - Rhode was one of them - knocked into the wrong one during a hasty exit.
At least Stephen Horst managed to pick the right door.
"That's what my sister told me after the show," Horst says. It was the best thing she could think of, after the pummeling the 28-year old vocal coach took from Jackson.
Horst, of New York City, is a positive thinker if there ever was one. "I believe everything happens for a reason," he says. "I had a dream, and I went after it. Life is short, and you have to enjoy every sandwich."
So Horst, on his own dime, traveled to Minneapolis and stayed at a hotel during the audition process. He chose to sing Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." Maybe it was the song choice, or the singing itself, which veered into a sudden falsetto, or the fact that he was a vocal coach. Jackson went on a rampage.
"I thought it was awful," he said. "You shouldn't be a vocal teacher. I wouldn't take vocal lessons from you, I wouldn't tell anybody to take vocal lessons from you." Cowell feigned indignation. "Are you going to take that, Stephen?" he baited Horst.
"I was stunned," Horst said. "Randy just didn't like me." He's moving ahead with his music career, and doesn't plan to watch the show anymore. "I need to create a new past," he says.
That's the kind of positive thinking that has helped Paris Bennett in her career. Bennett, unlike most of those at this week's auditions, was an "American Idol" success story, coming in fifth last year and eventually earning a record deal.
Yet she, too, endured her share of negative comments. Cowell once told her that her speaking voice reminded him of Minnie Mouse. She was 17 at the time.
"You can let it knock you down, or you can take it as constructive criticism," Bennett said in a telephone interview. She said her grandmother and her mother, both singers, had taught her to look at the positive, not the negative.
"It all just depends on how you take it," she said. She obviously took it well. In March, her debut album comes out. The first single, "Ordinary Love," was released this week.
When there are 5,000 people looking to fill about 20 spots, you have to realize failure is highly likely unless you are extremely qualified.
The parents pare probably peeved that EVERYONE DOESN'T WIN!
It has been pretty brutal, but as far as I know, TVs still have on off switches and change channel buttons.
As in VIDEO recaps.
I don't think they are being any meaner than usual. It is pretty fascinating to see the tenous grip on reality of some of these contestants.
How can someone watch every episode then be surprised when Simon tries to dissuade them from pursuing a singing career?
Exactly. My wife and I were discussing that. I'm sure the judges are just sick to death of people who clearly have no singing ability whatsoever wasting the judges' time. I'd probably start to get a little nasty too.
Gawd, the kid DID look like a lemur.
And he walked in like he was the hottest stuff going.
The next kid, who had no talent but at least some humility, was treated much more gently by Simon and crew. IMO if your talent is not sufficient to properly fill up your ego, Simon will downsize your ego to accomodate such.
Exactly right! This is what happens when no one is allowed to keep score and everybody gets a trophy....
Although, the "Eye" comment by Simon might have been better said to himself than out-loud, even though he was right.
I agree with you. I have just been stunned at the number of people with absolutely no self-awareness. They have no talent, but they have the "attitude" of a superstar.
To me, the shows illustrate the collision of America's "everybody should feel good about themselves and believe they are great at everything, whether that is true or not" culture with reality.
I don't think he was casting aspersions at the town; it seemed like he was dissapointed in the selection of contestants.
I suggest you invest more thought in that.
Too funny! I had a spirited discussion with my 7 year-old son the other day about why not everybody deserved a trophy. He thinks just trying should be enough. I told him that if just claiming to try was enough then there was no incentive to really give it your all. I couldn't get him to agree.
I would say that I need to get him out of the public school system, but the Christian school is the same way. The basketball team does not keep score and everybody gets a trophy. What's worse is that everybody gets an individual merit award after each game. It's terrible!
Actually, I don't think I will. lol
Simon funds the "discovered" performer's career.
If they went into an executive's office and auditioned these acts, would they expect to be treated any better.
You seem awfully grumpy for someone who professes to delight in the Lord. lol
Nah, that's the way it works.
Most people audition for lower level producers, who are not particularly rude or helpfully constructive...and then they go home.
The producers specifically pick the best and near best to show the judges plus the most colorful, weirdest and worst.
The TV show is staged as if EVERYONE sings for the judges, and they are being "bombarded" by awful singers, when actually those people are being hand-picked because of their degree of self-delusion, or pity postcard stories, plus, of course, the real hopefuls who have gotten a chance to sing for the judges.
American Idol goes out of its way to NOT spotlight most of the singers who wind up in Hollywood.
I only watch the first few weeks of American Idol in order to witness the reaction of the judges and the slap of reality for the contestants. When there's only good people left, it's boring.
I also think those that are responsible for the pre-judging - the screeners who decide who should go through to Simon/Paula/Randy and who shouldn't - are purposely sending through really bad people, knowing that Simon will be fired up. It makes for good television.
That's true. It's ratings and what the people want to see.
It is part of the "15 minutes of fame" that everybody feels they are "owed".
Fame is exploitation. If you are willing to be exploited, you may become famous. But you'll have to give up anonymity and privacy. And there is no guaranty that you'll be rich or even able to make money just because you are famous.
Is there pre-judging? Or do they all go through and these are just the ones who get on the air?
A new feud? Rosie and Simon?
And just when the tabloids were looking for something new...
The only complaint I have about the first two episodes was Fox's decision to air the audition of the kid who, to me, had a clear mental disability. The large blonde kid on the second night is the one of whom I speak. While I apprecaited that the judges were not cruel to him, I couldn't watch the audition itself - it made me too sad.
I would like to see a bit more discretion on the part of the producers in terms of who they choose to air from the awful auditions. Someone who is clearly deluded about their own talent or who is looking for a chance to tell Simon off makes for good TV - that is the 'train wreck' that keeps us glued to the audition episodes. On the other hand, airing someone who is clearly 'special', regardless of how polite the judges are to them, is to me a bit outside the lines of good taste. For the record I will say again that I don't think the judges were overly rude and recognized the situation for what it was. But they have hours upon hours of tape - they could have filled that 5 minutes with something else
I do, however, particularly enjoy watching the kids who've never been told no or given an honest assessment of their talent. They whine to the judges, then storm out swearing, then go crying into mommy's arms and she tells them how they will be famous someday. Very few seem to learn anything in the way of a lesson from the judges critiques. The whining is hilarious - [sarcasm]clearly the people responsible for numerous #1 records, millions upon millions of records sold, and breath taking TV ratings know nothing about the business...[/sarcasm] Sheesh.
It's boring because at that point it becomes about grooming a show pony.
It's like watching sausage being made. They get wardrobe consulation, learn to sing Abba, make a goofy group music video, etc. All so they can become the next homogenized middle of the road performer for the industry to hype.
thank you. I was unable to catch it this week. I love watching them crash & burn. I don't watch much after auditions until there are about 8 left.
What makes me feel the most air-headed though is discussing a show that has a cultural half-life measured in nanoseconds.
I hear you. I get embarrassed for people too.
Sometimes it's hard to know who's pulling your leg to get on TV and who is really, as you said, "special."
I also heard a quote from Simon that went something like: I always knew there were a lot of great singers in America, and this year proved it. He said this year was the best talent collection for the show they have seen.
Brenda Lee tried to get the Beatles signed in 1958 but the industry didn't want rock and roll. Eventually the Beatles were signed to 5 different labels in America before the suits in the States decided that they could make money of this group in 1964.
Just because someone has the top office doesn't mean they have a finger on the public's taste or a performer's potential.
I was involved in many casting sessions when I working in Hollywood and believe me....what is said on 'American Idol' is NOTHING compared to what is said in casting sessions which are also taped and viewed by many decision-making type people. It is assumed if one wants to be in front of the camera then, one wants to be famous and in turn, one will be degraded and criticized...period.
I am not here to say if it is right or wrong.....just saying...that is how it is....
American Idol is not just about "can you sing". It is about whether you can be a pop star. Poise, appearance, voice, etc will all figure into this.
Mama Cass would not be in the running. Neither would Joey Ramone or Bob Dylan. But all left big footprints on the music world.
Even talented singers are turned away and take offense when they are told "you can sing but...".
After enough seasons, it would appear that those who ARE right for the show know how to present themselves in the audition.
..."I was stunned," Horst said. "Randy just didn't like me." He's moving ahead with his music career, and doesn't plan to watch the show anymore. "I need to create a new past," he says.
Yes, all the contestants go through screeners responsible for deciding who will make it in front of the 3 judges. There may even be several layers of this.
They purposely choose people who are horrendous, for the viewers to laugh at.
You aren't trying to say that the Idol people don't have their pulse on what will sell are you?
The Beatle's - please. That was 43 years ago - get over it.
1958 - when music was changing - is not an appropriate analogy to a soloist pop competition. It's not just the suits. You have one suit, one accomplished performer and producer, and one former pop icon. Like it or not, like THEM or not, but these people know music, they know voices, and they continue to turn out stars. Most of the people who walk away cussing are completely deluded about their own talents and abilities - not all, but most.
I never heard of Simon Cowell before this show. He's pretty snippy for someone whose career has peaked as, essentially, a game show host.
Definitely looked more like a lemur.
Either way, Simon was right. A bit cruel, but right. :-)