American Idol: Some lessons for Jessica

Posted at 03/30/2012 10:34 AM

How many times can you ask a single rhetorical question in a single night? In the case of the American Idol judges on the evening of March 28, seven times too many. Randy Jackson isn’t even funny when he acts the befuddled elder, wondering why his nine remaining wards are doing the musical equivalent of the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Punch-line crazy Filipinos were probably screaming at their television sets, “kailangan pa bang imemorize yan?!”. That’s a cultural pun that won’t survive translation, so here’s a simpler reply for our friend. Because, Dawg, they’re singing their songs. They’re performing songs that captivate them, not the anthems of people they’ve never heard of.

Oh, sure, asking “Billy Who?” is shameful. But we can’t all be walking music encyclopedias. It takes some experience – more than a teenager can be expected to have – to take one look at notes and lyrics and immediately grasp context and the things that lie between the lines.

Now, liking a song and knowing what suits you do not always go together. But the Idol contestants are not ordinary kids. They know the kind of artists they want to be. The danger is on the other end. Great want amid the absence of creativity can bring down a web of delusions. And 18-year-old fossils get ground to dust fast inHollywood.

Redemption songs

On the night they’re singing songs of their Idols, the contestants are blessed with one of the most perceptive mentors to grace that seat beside Jimmy Iovine.

Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac fame, knows what’s it like to be young and more than a little wild. She’s a wonderful, equal-opportunity flirt, drawing out the kids and treating the cantankerous Iovine like some sweet pet.

Nicks she gives the contestants a great lesson: “Never forget you’re telling a story”.

Because, really, in the end that’s what makes an idol – the ability to make people believe a tale, the capacity to understand what it is that moves men and women to cry into their beds at night or to skip and swirl in the sun-flecked lanes.

Who manages to captivate the audience? Whose tale falls flat? And who break out of their shells and private hells and propel judges and audience to their feet?