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'American Idol': Frankie Avalon reveals 'Idol''s true roots

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Frankie Avalon, brought on to the Idol stage for last night’s “songs from the year you were born” struck some folks as a head-scratcher. The reason is obvious, actually: Avalon’s 1959 hit “Venus” is two things: 1. exactly the kind of schlock the Idol aesthetic prizes (thus the standing-o he got from all four judges, because, y’know, it’s not art, but it’s the “whole package,” as the judges like to say; he “brings it,” dawg), and 2. exactly the kind of lousy pop music the Beatles, Motown and Stax Records, the electric Bob Dylan, and every other adventurous music act from the 1960s on through to today was meant to erase.

But thanks to Idol, this kind of junk continues to have its place. It also gets to the question I always ask of people who enjoy American Idol: What did you listen to or watch before this show debuted? Was it a steady diet of Tony Orlando and Dawn, or Debby Boone, or the Carpenters for you? Did (or do) you have to reach back into history to find the kind of “showmanship” and overwrought vocalizing you crave from Idol? If so, you must have to ignore everything that makes current pop music interesting, and love tracking down music from direct Idol precursors such as Pat Boone, Bobby Vee, and Fabian. Here, I’ll make you feel at home: