PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

American Idol 2

Kirsten Markson

During the first episodes this season, Cowell was, in his own words, 'bored,' which made him rather boring to watch.


American Idol 2

Airtime: Tuesdays 8pm ET and Wednesdays 8:30pm ET
Cast: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest (host)
Network: Fox
Creator: Freemantle Media
Amazon

"You're fat, you're plain, and you're an ass." Such were the judgments leveled by one rejected contestant, lashing out at the three American Idol 2 judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. Following the tremendous popularity of the first version of Idol, the judges are again selecting a limited number of Idol wannabes out of the thousands who have braved cold and sleeplessness in hopes of getting to Hollywood and the next round of auditions.

A copy of the British Pop Idol, which also spawned identical programs in South Africa and Poland, American Idol follows a simple format: thousands of contestants, ages 16-24, vie for a possible recording contract and the chance to sing in front of millions. Once the judges winnow down the field, viewers vote for their favorite contestants. The high stakes are evidenced by the teary elation of those lucky enough to move to the next round.

The judges appear to take their responsibility a little too seriously, and the show is shot through with a sense of pompous melodrama. The first season gained notoriety because of Simon Cowell's merciless critiques of the young contenders. Cowell, who starred in the British version of the show, has reportedly been given free rein to humiliate the youth of America in this second season. Simon may have been mean last season. Now he's meaner.

During the first episodes this season, Cowell was, in his own words, "bored," which made him rather boring to watch. The worst that he came up with in the first few weeks of the show was the rather tame accusation, made repeatedly, that an appalling performer is "the worst singer in [insert city name here]." But when the regional winners arrived in Hollywood for their next round of auditions on the 29 January episode, Simon was back to form. Looking more energetic, he's been accusing some contestants of being "a disgrace to the program." Apparently, he has an investment in the show, if not any particular U.S. city.

The show appears to have a similar investment in itself. At the start of this season, the first try-outs segment was followed by a "Where Are They Now?" special, revealing that all the meanness has led to happy endings. Several of last year's Idol top-tenners actually broke into show biz. Idol alums have appeared on Old Navy commercials and Boston Public, and a few are making plans to soon release records. The previous winner, Kelly Clarkson, released a hit single soon after the final show and is now completing a film with Justin, the Sideshow Bob look-alike who was first runner up. How nice for them.

The contestants from this season face even greater difficulties. The concept isn't new anymore, and the competition is stiffer. As well, the diversity of the new contestants promises to add new interest to the competition. So far, the finalists include two plus-size singers (Frenchie Davis and Kimberley Locke), a "rocker" who doesn't fit the pop mold (Patrick Lake), and a punky Latina with a Mohawk (Vanessa Olivarez).

These initial changes seem to be paying off. So far, the numbers for season two are huge: 26 million viewers tuned in for the 29 January installment, a total that included the series' all-time high among adults 18-49. The success of the show seems to be that it delivers both humiliation (as on most "reality shows," say, Fear Factor) and variations on "wholesomeness."

For the first, the judges are rude on cue and some of the contestants this season have been arguing back. Where the first season featured only Simon's catty remarks, this season, Fox has granted losers access to a "confessional" room, where they can vent to the camera, if they haven't already done so on stage, to the judges in person. As well, the producers appear to be trying to brew up a rivalry between perky Julia DeMato and sultry Kimberly Caldwell, whose catfights provided a story arc in a recent episode. Although the two are now competing against each other in the first group of eight contestants, they had made up by the end of the show. On Idol, unlike Survivor, playing nice is an essential part of the pop star persona.

(So is honesty: after last Wednesday's show, one of the 32 finalists -- Jaered Andrews -- was disqualified after a background check revealed he was a former member of a Ohio-based hip-hop act, Ordinary Peoples. Another contestant will take Andrews' place.)

Maybe this emphasis on good sportsmanship by winners means that humiliation tv is on a downturn. Ratings for The Bachelorette 2, The Osbournes, and The Anna Nicole Smith Show are down, while Star Search has been revived and American Idol 2 is thriving. American Idol 2appeals to the desire to see fellow humans degraded, but it also presents the audience with an earnestness absent in both other reality shows and primetime sitcoms.

With this earnestness, American Idol makes celebrity look both accessible and entirely selective. That is, it challenges the idea that anyone, especially the idiotic or self-embarrassing, can be a star. Rejected candidates might get a quick few seconds of notoriety, but finalists get a shot at becoming more respected stars. Combining the dream of pop stardom and the brutal smackdown of the talentless, American Idol rewards the fresh-faced youth of America and viewers seeking someone to cheer on.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.