I’ve made no secret that I find talent shows like “American Idol,” “The Voice,” and now “X Factor” endlessly fascinating. Part of it is the delusional nature of many of the contestants. A larger part is the time-honored theme of regular people chasing their dreams. It’s the stuff books and movies are made of. I’m not sold on “X Factor” by any means. It’s too derivative. But I like the idea that it gives older folks what may be their final shot. (I guess it hits close to home. Ya think?)
That being said, I recognize the flaws in the formats. Tops on my list is how the judges and producers seek the safest, most homogenized winners. I maintain that the more interesting, even daring, performers never make it into the top 12 (or 24 or 100) at all.
I’m sure I’m not the first one to say this, but I believe some of the most iconic performers in the history of show biz would have been laughed off the stage. The exchanges might have gone like this:
Simon: Mr. Zimmerman is it?
Simon: What did your father do with the money?
Zimmerman: What money?
Simon: The money he saved on singing lessons. (Audience laughs)
Zimmerman: Screw you, man.
Simon: There you go. You have a terrible attitude. You need a complete makeover. And you look like you smell. You might be the worst singer in the history of this competition.
Paula: What was your name again?
Vedder (looking at shoes): Eddie.
Paula: Eddie, a word of advice. You seem like a nice person. But you can’t perform with your back to the audience. I’m not feeling any kind of emotional connection. And your voice is very pitchy.
Paula: You’re not ready for this show. Work on your stage presence and try again next year.
Randy: Did you say you’re some kind of doctor?
John: Dr. John.
Randy: What’s your specialty?
John: Music and love. And gumbo.
Randy (rolling his eyes): Yo dawg, you’re not in it to win it. You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
You can add Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, Leon Russell, Louis Armstrong, Leonard Cohen, Stevie Nicks, John Hiatt, Bonnie Raitt and, of course, Tom Waits to the list, along with dozens of others. All original, all authentic, all drawing from a deep well of life experiences. Give me a good rasp (and a great lyric) over Josh Groban and Michael Buble any day.