Why They Let Kelly Win

Some guy at The Onion wrote "A shattered nation longs to care about stupid bullshit again," and while The Onion induces a short-lived chuckle only once in a great while nowadays, sometimes they get it right (while not being particularly funny).

At long last, we do, we really really do care about the smelliest, stickiest bullshit again, and it's all due to American Idol, that altar to the worst kind of pop-music consumerism, to which we'll sacrifice our first-born sons and daughters in utmost thanksgiving.

But before I go on analyzing this (for lack of a better word) "shit," harping on and on about the decline of originality in popular music...

...and decline it did over the course of this show, for who didn't recognize the implications when millions of viewers watched as the so-called "rocker girls" were forced by Top 40 Darwinism to attempt to become pop divas, thinking "change or die" all the while (with the judges rah-rahing their conversion at every step). Talk about your public declarations of the death of Rock n' Roll...

And before I cry and snot all over the place about American Idol's "hosts," radio d00d Ryan Seacrest (an all too desperate TV personality with an all too SoCal handle) and would-be funnyman Brian Dunkelman, who refused to cluck like a chicken but didn't care that he embarrassed himself on this show week after week, so that even the worst try-outs by the sickest of singers took second place to his biweekly presence on my television, thereby inching out his co-host to win the not-coveted "Worst TV Personality of the Year" award...

And before I, hanging from my consumer cross and bleeding taste and expletives, begin my harangue about the utter cynicism of the judges, who often pointed to their sacrificial lambs (doing their oh-so best to be their most generic popular selves) as "examples" to which all would-be sellout singers should aspire. Of course they're saying such shit -- two of the judges are music industry executives who need to control the sounds we hear on the radio in order to make a profit for their respective companies...

More than one person attempted to put Simon in his place, wondering aloud about this guy who had no musical talent of his own but had the wherewithal to "judge" performances so harshly. Simon simply shrugged and said it was "his job," never letting us know that his job consisted of being an executive at BMG -- the same corporation, by the way, that awards the winner of American Idol with a recording contract. Simon's protecting his employer's investment. Duh! But it's not good mojo if you know that, because you might wonder about the whole wicked process that creates bulk pop music, so instead he takes the abuse.

And before I proclaim the revelation of the Perpetual Marketing Machine, that holy grail of marketing agencies and departments, long sought after: the product that sells another product which then pushes the original product, ad infinitum...

Let me just say, thank god Kelly won tonight.

No, really. I was nervous Justin would take it. Sure, the kid's an alright guy -- a little cocky, but for all that he was the decent sort, and as much as I, by very nature, want to rip on him, I can't. Justin was earnest and really did what he could to win without being too much of an ass. But despite his stage presence, he couldn't match the strength or range of Kelly's voice (who, by the way, is hot and thus my girlfriend now).

But Justin had the preteen girl vote, the #1 target market of bulk pop music nowadays. And no matter what FOX says about the "public's vote," we all know that, had BMG simply wanted that preteen market, Justin would have won hands down.

But something happened over the summer, and American Idol became the #1 show of the summer, drawing millions of viewers and voters from all kinds of markets, er... backgrounds.

Why was Kelly allowed to win?

BMG, FOX and all the other players involved saw an opportunity to reach beyond their initial target market -- a fleeting, vacuous, one-hit wonder (and therefore hard to develop) market at best. They saw an opportunity to establish their Perpetual Marketing Machine upon a nation of people desperate to care for stupid bullshit again.

So here comes American Idol II, which will probably be here midwinter of this year. Then look out for American Idol: Hawaiian Adventure Luau, followed by American Idol: Boston Punk and American Idol: Christian Rock and American Idol in Space. This stuff will be around for at least three, maybe four years, AKA "forever" in TV Land.

(You know, BMG will probably snap up Justin and make big bucks off all those preteen girls' parents anyway. But I like my theory.)

Brent Johnson,
September 4, 2002

PS: Like pop? Check out PARTING GLANCE, an up and coming group out of San Francisco


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