"American Idol": Don't Feel Sorry for the Rejects, Feel Sorry for the Winners


You know the scene in Anchorman where ron Burgundy says, "We've been coming to the same party for twelve years now, and in no way is that depressing"? Welcome to another season of American Idol! The judges? Meaner than ever! The ratings? Higher than ever! The formula? Exactly the same! Simon stays classy, Randy exudes dorkiness even by ex-Journey-bassist standards, and Paula keeps trying to Rollerblade up the iceberg of coherence. The opening weeks are always the best of the season, as far as soul-killing squirm porn goes. Sometimes it gets hard to tell the difference between the deluded ego freaks, the autistics and the wake-and-bake stoners who have a bong named Ruben and a one-hitter named Clay.

But don't feel sorry for the rejects -- feel sorry for the winners. Even the most humiliated Simon-slaughter carcass is better off than Taylor Hicks, who has to spend the rest of his life singing "Do I Make You Proud." The rejects know they're going to get treated like dirt and then Web-searched. So we can all read along as the girl who calls herself "the Hotness" predicts, "My Vibrant and Colorful Range of Emotions and Messages Will Be Heard and Felt by Every Audience." Burn on, Hotness. The only innovation this season is they keep locking the door that leads out of the audition room. So all the rejects pause, utter their dramatic and-I-am-telling-you-I'm-not-blowing exit line, then push desperately against a door that doesn't open. Brilliant!

Some of the contestants are clearly plants from morning-zoo shows. And some are the Hotness. But at least they all get more humane treatment than Jewel. You can see it in her eyes: "I'm so glad to be here for Jewel Week! Can't wait to hear which finalist does 'Hands'! Who gets to sing the one where I was riding a horse in the video? Wait -- this is audition week?! I'm here to watch a guy in an Uncle Sam suit do 'Fly Me to the Moon'? Bullshit!" Sorry, Jewel, but it's like spacey contestant Seattle Red says: "Sing it! Don't bring it!" No, wait -- maybe he said, "Bring it, don't sing it." Who cares? Idol is back, and in no way is that depressing.

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Rob Sheffield

Rob Sheffield is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where he writes about music, TV and pop culture. He is the author of two books, Talking To Girls About Duran Duran and Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.

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