American Idol enters its 9th season, making it 8 too many

As American Idol rolls into its 9th season, America begins another quest for the next singing sensation. Airing its first season in June of 2002, American Idol has become one of the most popular television shows in America, frequently drawing more voters than the presidential election. American Idol has given us stars such as Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, and Jennifer Hudson, but let’s not forget that American Idol also gave us Taylor Hicks. American Idol ‘s judging panel has been increased this year to include comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who provides fresh humor and keeps the show cheerful despite the waterworks often unleashed by Simon Cowell’s dream crushing criticisms. DeGeneres also gives the contestants valuable advice on their personal presence, a factor that seems to be ever more important in American Idol. Take Sanjaya Malakar, season 6 contestant, for example. Bluntly put, Malakar was an awful singer. Week after week, though, America kept voting him back on the show, partly because of his outrageous fashion stunts (ponytail mohawk anyone?), and partly because his embarrassingly cheesy grin seemed to make him immune to criticism. The format of American Idol makes it hard for a truly original singer to win. In order to gain the largest number of votes, a contestant has to sing in a manner that pleases the most widespread audience possible. Singers that rock out just a little bit too much on stage are told by the judges that they risk alienating a select type of voters. Basically, contestants that have a distinctive style of singing tend to go on to commercial success, but are not versatile enough to win American Idol . American Idol is supposed to be a singing competition with a little popularity contest thrown in there, but popularity has definitely outweighed singing talent in a number of Idol winners. America likes the underdog, and for a good reason. There’s a sort of vindictive pleasure gained from seeing the look on Simon Cowell’s face after the contestant he ripped to shreds to previous week returns to sing again. America should really listen to Simon more often, though. Simon’s harsh but accurate criticisms tend to be spot on, and his condescending attitude is backed up by years of experience in the music industry. Taylor Hicks, the season 5 American Idol winner with the lowest selling album, was told by Simon that he would never make it to the finals. America found Hicks’ jerky dance moves endearing, however, and chose Hicks over a much more vocally talented Katherine McPhee. The season 9 finalists got off to a rocky start a few weeks ago, with dismally sour performances in both the men and the women. It probably didn’t help that original finalist Chris Golightly was booted off the show for having held a previous contract with a boy band, and his replacement, original reject Tim Urban, gave a performance worthy of his initial rejection. Tim Urban survived the first round of eliminations, however, along with several other contestants with likability factors that apparently outweighed their earsplitting performances. To borrow a line from Simon Cowell, I don’t mean to be rude, but please America, no more Taylor Hicks’.