EW's TV critic dares to bash ''American Idol.'' Taking the show off its pedestal, Ken Tucker contends that the songs are corny, the singing is forced, and the judges are phony
Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, ...
Credit: American Idol: Fox

EW’s TV critic dares to bash ”American Idol”

When Burt Bacharach turned up on ”American Idol” last week, all of my vague, unexamined instincts against this series suddenly came into focus: Aside from the string of hits he had with singer Dionne Warwick and lyricist Hal David, I’ve never had much use for Bacharach’s overwrought, all-chorus, no verse tunesmithing (yep, I listened to the Elvis Costello collaboration, too). If this was the guy the ”Idol” producers wanted their young minions to emulate — well, that cinched it: This show is too cornball by half, and the other half only masquerades as being tough and hard-boiled about making it in showbiz. Its run is just plain too long by a few weeks. How many more of those determinedly wacky ”Coca Cola moments” must we endure?

To judge by the reception it has received, ”Idol” has mass-hypnotized an awful lot of people into believing that the source of true stardom resides in vocalists who can belt out a melody with florid emotionalism and deploy melisma with absurd exaggeration — it’s as if the only singers these contestants have ever listened to are Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. (They sure as heck didn’t seem to know who Bacharach was, so I’m guessin’ that the kids know the great Warwick only as a psychic-hotline pitchperson.)

As for the judging itself — well, I’ll pass on the empty praise and tediously repetitious compliments that Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul ladle out like syrup, and say that the ascendancy of Simon Cowell goes to show that Americans remain, after all these centuries, unduly impressed by a British accent. Cowell’s catty little nastinesses wouldn’t make it past the editor of your average British reviewer for a sharp pop-music Brit publication like New Musical Express. And doesn’t anyone besides me find it hilarious that Cowell’s comments are designed to winnow down the contestants and influence phoners to yield a winner who’ll be groomed for hit-single stardom by a music organization of which…Simon Cowell is one of the profiteers? In other words, people who think Cowell is a tough, mean little scrapper are just playing into his game. He’s really just a music executive in a black muscle shirt instead of a black business suit, trying to gauge the crassest mass taste of the moment.

I know, I know — don’t watch it if I don’t like it, right? When I reviewed the series in Entertainment Weekly magazine, I gave its opening weeks a good grade and said it was ”addictive”; well, sometimes you get addicted to stuff you know is bad for you, and it’s a good idea to figure out why. So in addition to a professional duty to see precisely how this pop-culture phenomenon turns out, I want to make sure I catch every second of the remaining weeks, so that I’m not one of those snob dissenters who say, ”Well, I don’t actually watch the show, but…” Not me: I want to be able to know exactly how meretricious ”American Idol” is by watching every silly second of it.

Oh, and I hope Kelly wins — she’s the least affected of the bunch, and someday she’ll make a really good Shania Twain knock-off record, I’ll wager.

What about you? Are you suffering from ”American Idol” fatigue?

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

  • TV Show
  • 20