Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Confession of an American Idol fan

Confession: I am a middle-aged man who, I believe, possesses reasonably good taste, and I like American Idol. Not in a campy way, like I once liked Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood or The Anna Nicole Show, but genuinely. I earnestly like American Idol. I get worked up over it, a little. Granted, this confession is not as embarrassing as, say, admitting I liked Dick Cheney, wine coolers, or Bill O'Reilly, but, after smugly escaping American Idol in its first several seasons (Clay who? Fantasia what?), I inexplicably began watching last season, the season of Sanjaya. 

I fell prey to the heartwarming life stories and tearful dismissals, the entire cheesy spectacle. (Except perhaps for the exuberant Ford commercials; one must draw the line somewhere.) Once the season was over, I wondered why I felt such a stake in who won. After all, I never called in my vote, and I can honestly say that I'll probably never buy any music any American Idol ever puts out (though I'll admit to singing along, badly, to Kelly Clarkson songs in the car), unless one pulls a Marianne Faithfull and hits bottom only to rise from the ashes damaged but suddenly interesting. 

When I hear Jordin Sparks' bland first single on the radio, I wonder if this is truly the fresh-voiced girl I rooted on (along with effortlessly talented Melinda Doolittle) just a year ago? Now, as the newly anointed 24 (but not for long) emerge from the wreckage of the auditions and Hollywood week, any thoughts of Chris or Blake or Sanjaya or what-were-the-other-names? have long-since evaporated like so much stage fog. Now, it's all about this season! Last year's competition is ancient, ancient history. 

And, this season, even while I'm still sorting out my favorites and learning names, as on the first day of school, the attachments are forming. Not for the music, which usually sucks, but for the personality showmanship and sparkles of talent that manage to shine through the cheesiness. Oh, and for Paula's loopiness and Simon's pithiness, both of which should be getting old at this point, yet I soak them up. As for Randy's "Yo Dawg," that got old after the first thousand times I heard it. (Plus, his taste-meter was way off last night!) And Ryan, dear wee Ryan. I can only say that I think he is the perfect host for the show (damning with faint praise?), and I particularly adore him when he stands next to the big black girls who could pick him up with one hand and toss him directly to Santa's Workshop.

So much to look forward to in the next few weeks! Will gaydar across the nation explode after getting to know the male finalists? Will adorably puppyish Danny set more hearts aflutter than mature, Jim-Morrison-y (without the bloat) Michael? Will any celebrity mentor be as bad as Gwen Stefani? How many times will Simon and Ryan call each other gay, wink-wink? Will Paula make sense and ruin everything? Only time will tell . . . 

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