Simon: The Real Star Of American Idol

Bad singers, beware.  Simon Cowell has returned to bring you back down to Earth.  We all know what that means:  the return of American Idol.  And to think, this show nearly didn’t make it to the American airwaves.  Now, it’s heading into its sixth season.  Will its astonishing success continue?  I’m going to take a wild guess and say, “yes”.  The 2-hour season premiere airs January 16.
Back in 2002, the Fox series debuted during the summer and became the template for so many pale imitators.  Without question, there were two major reasons for its immediate breakthrough:  those godawful would-be warblers and Simon Cowell.  I remember seeing the original promos for AI on Fox and how badly I wanted to see it.  Stupidly, I forgot all about it until an old friend of the family mentioned how funny it was seeing this chiselled, British judge carving up all these dreadful vocalists with his comically acidic barbs.  By the time I started watching, the show had already aired its audition episodes and had moved on to the group stage.  It wouldn’t be until the following season that I would finally understand why those early shows are the most entertaining.
Simon:  The Real Star Of American Idol was originally a quickie tribute to the program’s best judge.  I wrote it with The Hamilton Spectator’s YourPlace page in mind but they rejected it.  It didn’t help that I got Simon’s last name wrong.  For some unknown reason, I thought it was “Mantle” instead of “Cowell”.  It has been corrected for its online debut.
The piece lists a number of funny Simon Cowell put-downs from that popular first season.  By this point, you could probably fill a book with all his brutal quips since there’s so many of them, although in recent years, he’s started to repeat himself and after a while, the same old insults get pretty boring. 
I’ve enjoyed American Idol through the years but last season, I finally reached my breaking point and stopped watching it during the final stages.  It’s bad enough Paula Abdul is still a judge on the show.  It’s also intolerable to put up with so much blatant karaoke.  But the fact that I would never own any albums by any of the performers on the show is the strongest reason to avoid it.  I also believe I’ve heard enough bad singing.  There’s a reason no one talks about William Hung anymore.  When the best TV gig you can get is a satellite sit-down with Tucker Carlson, you know it’s over.  Frankly, it’s time to bail.
One last thing.  It’s interesting that I make a reference to LaToya Jackson in this piece because, wouldn’t you know it, she’s participating in a reality show of her own.  Look for Armed And Famous, a show about celebrities training to be cops, on CBS starting January 10.
By Dennis Earl

Say what you will about the would-be singing sensations on American Idol. None of them are nearly as entertaining as Simon Cowell, the real breakout star of Fox’s latest ratings bonanza. Eternally quotable, the outspoken British judge is the only person on the program who keeps it real and continues to be the best reason to watch the show. While many feel he goes too far in his criticisms of the young singers, personally I find myself agreeing with him more and more. And as for his bluntness, just ask anybody who’s ever had to audition for anything in show business and they will tell you that there are no Paula Abduls rooting for you, only Simon Cowells telling you exactly where you stand.

Based on the hugely successful TV series Pop Idol in Britain (which was launched after the success of Popstars), American Idol is a nation-wide competition to find the next big solo performer in pop. Thousands of American citizens vied for a chance to audition for the program and win a chance at signing both a major-label recording contract (bring on the 8 cent royalty rates!) and a management deal (there goes your 8 cents!). What many of those celebrity hopefuls didn’t count on, though, were brutal criticisms from the judges. Simon, in particular.

On the American Idol website, there are a number of video and sound clips taken from actual shows where you are quickly reminded of just how blunt he is. Some of my favourites:

“There are only so many words I can drag out of my vocabulary to say how awful that was.”

“I think you just killed my favourite song of all time.”

“I can only describe your voice as ghastly.”

“Terrible. Abysmal. I’d say not a cat in hell’s chance.”

“In the last two episodes, two losers had been voted through for one reason and one reason only, it is the sympathy vote. It has nothing to do with talent.”

“I’m not gonna lie to these people just because it makes them feel good.”

“I think there’s a thin line between being cool and boring.”

“I think if you win this competition, we will have failed.”

“I think you’re a boring performer.”

“Your audition was horrendous.”

“My advice would be if you want to pursue a career in the music business, don’t.”

“If anyone was taking money [from] you for singing lessons, sue them.”

“That was terrible. I mean, seriously terrible.”

“I wish you hadn’t sung that song because every time anyone sings that song, it sounds like a karaoke. I hate it. I absolutely loath it.”

“Without being rude, we’ve heard enough.”

Naturally, the appalled singers who heard these comments regarding their auditions didn’t always take it too well. Some wept, some stormed out angry, others stared back in disbelief while the braver ones offered their own criticisms for Simon. But let’s face it, they needed to hear the truth. For every Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, there are a thousand LaToya Jacksons foolishly and desperately clinging to an impossible dream of music stardom. Impossible not because of the lack of courage or chutzpah, but certainly for the lack of talent. Thanks to an honest, music vet like Simon Cowell, they’re all too heartbroken to continue pursuing their lifelong dream of publicly singing out of tune.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 1, 2007
2:19 a.m.
Published in: on January 1, 2007 at 2:24 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Dennis Earl. How the heck are you? I don’t know exactly how I stumbled on this website. I think I was looking for a person I used to work with in Cornwall who is now doing freelance TV work in Kingston. Anyhow, a google search lead me to your page. Dude, waht have you been up to the last…10 years?!?!  I’m in Kingston, working for 98-3 FLY FM as an announcer and Community Events Co-ordinator. In my spare time I do theater, Toastmasters…and try to date, when there’s time, and prospective people are available. hehe. Hit me back, and we can chat. Would love to know what you’ve been up to!
    Carl Pissey(Carl Richards on FLY FM!)

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