Auspicious Indifference

Guess what I’m doing Tuesday night?

Give up?

I’ll tell you.

Some laundry. Maybe clean the kitchen. Microdermabrase the old punim. Watch some TV. Casually. While flipping through a magazine.

Won’t go near the phone. Nope. Not once.

For the first time in a couple of years, I’m not emotionally or otherwise invested in American Idol. No passionate favorite. No frantic, furtive dialing for at least two hours after the show to cast my vote and show my support. For anyone.

And it’s rather refreshing, actually. To be a simple objective observer with a laissez faire attitude towards this seemingly benign television reality competition, after two consecutive years of total subjectivity. When I dialed like it was my job for Bo (oh, those leather pants) and worked the Cingular text message plan until it was inside out in my attempt to help Elliott.

That’s not to say that I don’t have contestants that I rather like -- I dig the class and silk-smooth vocals of Melinda (please oh please let her make a straight-up jazz album...) and the fresh self-confident hep creativity of Blake. But other than Idols Do Something Good For Humanity Night, I didn’t pick up the phone or cell to voice my opinion.

I actually watched with my eyes and my ears this year. Only. And what I witnessed was wild. And most of this craziness took place off the Idol stage.

News flash: this just isn’t a “singing” reality competition, regardless of what the producers try to spin. It’s a sporting event for the whole world. A water cooler conversation aqueduct . A cross-generational obsession. Fodder for speculation and odds making and commentary and gnashing of teeth and joy and sorrow and everything in between. Carried out in cyberspace, parking spaces and every other conceivable space you can think of.

And for what? Winning this contest means you become a household name, at least for the short term (Ruben who? Although it’s really not his fault that the runner-up in his year has eclipsed him famewise, due in no small part to a rabid, fanatical, well-financed fan base.) And then are tied contractually to a production company that has uber-control over the type of album you make. For many years. Sometimes this works -- see Underwood, Carrie. Sometimes this doesn’t -- see Hicks, Taylor. While my horse was Elliott last season, based solely on that attention-grabbing performance of “Moody’s Mood for Love,” I always liked Taylor. Somewhat. His pandering and theatrics grew tiresome as the weeks went on, but I still appreciate the fact that he’s a genuine musician with real talent and earnest passion. His post-Idol album frankly doesn’t showcase that to his best advantage. Same with the case of my beloved Bo. That’s not to say that these guys won’t have success, commercially and artistically, in the future. But I can’t help but think that their association with the AI machine and its incessant desire to make musical pabulum for the masses has stripped away what brought them to my attention in the first place. Originality. Creativity. Musicianship.

Maybe it’s my complete detachment from the process this season that has brought about this cynical, pensive hindsight. Although I was frankly pleased that the one contestant I connected with -- Melinda -- left early. Freeing her from the level of commitment that placing higher would invariably require some tight production handcuffs. And honestly, I would like to see Blake place second for this very reason as well. I’d hate to see what makes him so original whitewashed out by an over-produced, simplistic album.

So here I am -- armchair AI quarterback. For a season anyway. I honestly have no room to complain one way or another with the results this year, as I hold the same tenet to be true here as I do with government elections -- no vote, no right to bitch about the outcome. But that doesn’t stop me from at least editorializing.

Tomorrow night will be interesting. That’s a fact. Here’s hoping for at the very least, an entertaining show.

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