American Idol racist?

Find my latest American Idol article here.

When I saw that the bottom two contestants on the stage were the only two black contestants left in the competition, I cringed.  I could hear the cries of racism in my mind.  When I got up this morning I did a quick Google search, and was disappointed to see that my suspicions were well founded.  I found people who thought American Idol was racist, America was racist, Simon was racist, and all of the above, due to the fact that Syesha and Chikezie were in the bottom two on last night’s Idol.

I want to say first, that I know there is racism in the US still to this day.  I have seen it on occasion, and as a white person, it makes me nauseous and embarrassed.  I once had a lady at a business ask me, “Do you know any women who might want a job…, you know white women?”  I felt as if I had been punched in the gut.  I had never been faced by this type of overt racism. It made me feel dirty, and I was offended that she thought she could include me in it.  I left as quickly as I could, but I regretted not saying something to her about it.

On another occasion, I was in a Wal-Mart with my wife (I do not tell this to disparage Wal-Mart, it just is the place where the event took place.  I personally love Wally World), and the lady running the fabric section was speaking to a lady customer from India (in traditional dress) as if she were a piece of trash.  I listened for a moment or two, and finally said, “If you don’t stop talking to her like that, I am going to get a manager.”  She stopped addressing her in the manner.  The Indian lady was so meek, that she thanked my wife for what I did, instead of me.  Two other customers who were standing there thanked me, and I still told the manager on the way out.  I felt pretty good about myself that day.  It was almost like I was part of one of those PSAs.  I brought all of this up to say that I know America still battles racism, but more and more it is a dying relic of another generation, and good riddance.  We’ll all be better when it’s gone.

What occurred on American Idol this week was not, however, an example of racism in America.  First of all, I think the American Idol audience deserves a little credit.  Many of the top contestants on Idol throughout the years have been black, and fully half of the winners have been black (Fantasia, Reuben, and Jordan). 

The problems that put Syesha and Chikezie in the bottom two had to do with them not racism.  As I have said before, I think that they both have two of the top voices in the competition, but their lack of success stems from elsewhere.

First, it should be noted that they both sang at the top of the show.  It is just a fact that a bad performance or a bad song choice at the beginning of the show can often be the death-knell for contestants.  While both sang well, they chose their songs poorly.  They were both boring and forgettable songs.  I stated in my last post that I do not believe the Motown love (or love-sick) song can win on Idol (look below for more information on this).  These songs come-off badly on Idol.  The only time they seem to work out for the contestant is when they are a Whitney or Aretha song with an incredible vocal, and then the contestants are playing with fire.  When Chikezie went away from this kind of music he did well, and Syesha seems to only shine when she is singing a Whitney song (which she does well).  I’ve said before that Syesha may have the best female voice in the competition, but she is also the most inconsistent person in the competition.

Personality is a big part of American Idol, and these two contestants have done little for themselves in this department.  Syesha seems detached and aloof from everything that is going on.  And that “baby cry” thing she has done twice may be the most irritating thing I’ve ever heard.  She does not emote well in her songs either.  All of these are reasons that she turns up in the bottom three from time to time, and some of the other contestants are so far ahead of her at this point in the personality department that the damage may be irreparable.

Chikezie, on the other hand, broke Idol rule number one: Do not argue with Simon, you will always look like an ass.  He argued with Simon on several occasions and at times came off angry or looked as if he were pouting.  These things do not go over with the Idol audience.  Self-effacing is the way to go, and David Archuleta is the poster-boy for this crowd-winning trait.  I will accept that there may be a cultural disconnect here.  It may not be appropriate to appear all self-effacing like Archuleta where Chikezie is from, and I can understand that, but it does not mean the audience is racist if there is a disconnect because of it.  Chikezie was a contestant, and it was his responsibility to win over the audience, not the audience’s responsibility to evaluate all of the cultural mores involved in the situation.

In the end these two found themselves in the bottom two because of personality, attitude and song choice.  Lighten up, not everything is about race.

Idol Results Show, March 26th

Find my latest American Idol article here.

I have had my say about the waste of time that the results show is on two other posts, so I will lay off griping about segments like “On the Air With Idol” this week.  My opinions have not changed, and if you would like to see them please see my other posts regarding the results show for the past two weeks (https://mycrocosmos.wordpress.com/2008/03/13/idol-wastes-another-hour-of-my-life/

and https://mycrocosmos.wordpress.com/2008/03/20/scatter-shooting-at-last-night%e2%80%99s-american-idol-results-show/ ).

On a positive note, the program started and ended on the hour, allowing my DVR to record without needless complications to other recordings, and the group song was the best this season, but that is not saying much considering the fact that I could see better down the road at Six Flags.  The iTunes sell-out was a little much with the eight brand mentions in about three minutes, but at least it was well produced.  And, the guest singer, Kimberly Locke (once again a former Idol contender) was very good.

We learned some things this week.  First, Carly, like Katharine MacPhee has had to endure the embarrassment of a pregnancy rumor while on the show.  This is not to say that pregnancy is embarrassing, but no woman wants to be accused of being pregnant when she is not, especially in front of all of America.  She handled it gracefully, though.  We also learned that the human skeleton, Dolly Parton will make her appearance next week (this may be a good time to have your remote handy in case you are forced to fast-forward or change channels).  Finally, Constantine Maroulis, from season four, once again proved that he is the creepiest contestant in the history of the show.  I would not let my daughter travel to any state if I knew he were in it.

The point of the show last night was to kick someone to the curb, and when I saw the last three, Chikezie, Syesha, and Jason Castro, I was mildly surprised.  My hopes for getting rid of Ramiele in short order were dashed.  If she can go first, sing that badly, and still not be in the bottom three, she will probably be there for a while.  She must have some charm, or those tears have bought her a lot of fans, but I just don’t get it.

I knew however, that this grouping did not bode well for Chikesie, and was proven right.  I still think he had one of the better voices in the competition.  I do not remember a wrong note by him this season, and his ability to sing a fast song, moving his voice up and down quickly while retaining great diction was unmatched this season.  His problems were two-fold, attitude (personality), and song choice.

Arguing with Simon aside (never, never, never argue with Simon if you seriously want to win the show, but he did), he would come across as pouting and surly.  Last night, at times he tried to force a smile on his face, but most of the time his faced betrayed his inner unhappiness.  I’m sure it is hard to hide these feeling, and I sympathize with him, but when you are on American Idol, you have to get by all of that if you want to win.  You are up against the Archuleta and White personality machines, and they will be difficult (if not impossible) to overcome.  Unfortunately the damage done by one surly look or snippy comment can be a contestant’s ticket home no matter how good they are.

I’ve always said that there is no way a true crooner can win on idol (thank goodness there is not one this season).  Their songs, by definition are not contemporary and they usually sound boring when placed against the songs of other contestants on the show.  I think the same may now be said for the soulful, Motown love song.  It may sound great when you are sitting on your couch at home in the evening with your lady, but the Venus Flytrap genre of music just will not help you to win American Idol.  I’m not saying that it is not good music.  It just does not work in the Idol atmosphere.