Posted by: chance47 | 01/14/2010

This is…American Idol…possibly…maybe…eh? no…no it isn’t…

So the American pop-culture/car-accident juggernaut “American Idol” has returned to my regular tivo program.  It used to be the show I would rush home to.  It provided me the perfect escapism.  Schadenfreude in the early audition rounds.  Genuine intrigue during the cut-throat Hollywood rounds.  Finally, equal parts anticipation and ire during the performance rounds.  I could throw my remote at the television when the “wrong” person got voted off or throw my remote at myself when my favorite made it through another week.

Viewing the show now has become a bit bittersweet.  You see…there are times in my life when I fancy myself a vocalist.  Or did.  Or do. Can’t decide.  Regardless, occasionally I like to get down with the get down and croon some hot notes.  I am not quite at the post videos of myself singing on youtube level; though I now have a webcam and the…urge…to open…myself…up for…public scrutiny is…rising, but I won’t (not at least for a couple of months).  So at some point, for whatever ungodly reason (see: take a day off of work), I decided to audition for American Idol this past summer.  I was of a certain age (see:  28) and it was my last possible year to audition for the show.  Plus it was in my city.   It all added up to a big…”Why not?”

I had no grand ideas of stardom.  I did not honestly think I would ‘make it” or “have it”…but the strangest thing happened.  Everyone in my life who knew I was auditioning, became convinced that I could do it.  My loved ones were ecstatic and I think many of them legitimately thought I would be getting a golden ticket to Hollywood (that or I am truly dense and most of my friends were just patting my head to mollify me…and…AND…AND…if that is the case…don’t tell me otherwise because my ego is on a particular precipice and I can’t handle my friends taking their focus off of me anytime soon).

So I went (with an amazing group of vocalist friends), and waited in the rain.  Sat amongst a group of burgeoning stars and crossed my fingers in hopes that yes…even I…just might…get that chance to sleep with Ryan Seacrest.

Eight hours later…I was standing in front of random judge #47 and singing my damn fool heart out.  She was smiling and even cocked her head to side with one of those wry, “Yeah…that’s the ticket” smiles (that or…”ow…ow…i think this botox is actually motor oil and my face feels heavy”).  I finished my first song and she asked,  “Can you sing something else?”   It was at this moment I saw it perfectly.   Me…on television…singing for votes.  Voted through by the wildcard round (because it took a while for America to truly warm up to all of my charms and unique singing style).  Me…singing theme week after theme week (seriously…i did an amazing cover of “Running Up that Hill” by Kate Bush for British Invasion Week…and don’t EVEN get me started on my soul-crushing reimagining of Mike + The Mechanics “The Living Years” that left the judges in tears and even had me choking up as I tried to flash my number finger hands to let America know they should be calling 1 866 Idols 04).  Me…bowing out in my respectable third place finish…not the winner…but nowhere near the loser…for once.  I finished my second song and smiled.  I saw that golden piece of paper (I suppose now…I should mention that there are like 19 producer rounds or like two rather before you have to come back for a second day to meet Simon Cowell) and I knew it would be mine.  #47 smiled a bit and tilted her head back the other direction (perhaps…unequal amounts of motor botox was applied to her face) and said,  “Listen…you were great.  I loved your song choice.  And you are cute.  Great voice.  You are just…not what we are looking for this season.  But come back next year. ”

Wait…great voice?  Cute?  Song choice?  But no?  Why did all of these 24 year old skinny brunette girls with Taylor Swift sound-alike voices get through and not me?   Why did all of these latino guys with smooth tones and hot looks get through and not me?  I put on my bravest face when facing my friends (none of them made it either…which is an even bigger travesty), but honestly…it stung.  Suddenly I was 23 years old again and standing at the callbacks for Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding (seriously…don’t ask) in a room full of gorgeous muscled Italian-American men and being cut first (for obvious reasons).  I was back in gym class being picked last for the team (unless it was football…because honestly…who didn’t want the porker to be their lineman).  I was back at any time I ever had to compare myself to person next to me and admitting to myself (deservedly or no) that I cannot make the cut.  But this was American Idol?  This is where white trash becomes white gold.  This is where illiterate mothers prove they are worth more than they seem.  This is where small country boys and girls honestly get recognized for what they have…drive, heart, decent looks, and a modicum of talent.  I walked out of the United Center obliterated…devastated.   But my face (at least i hope to the people i was with) none the wiser.  Mostly I felt foolish.  Really Ben?  Of all the things you can honestly accomplish…you thought this was one of them?

That self pity only lasted until the second margarita and then I was able to take the day’s events for what they were.  An experience.  An attempt.   I put myself out there…I honestly did well and even though I never pictured myself a legitimate rock star…I didn’t fall on my face.   And honestly…people don’t give themselves enough credit for not breaking their faces.  It’s no small task.

But ego is a funny thing, isn’t it?   I am sitting here now, watching the early rounds…knowing that the Chicago episode is coming up next week…and I am enjoying not getting those sour grapes.

“Better than her.”

“Better than him.”

“I could do that.”

“Are you kidding me???”

But then…a young guy walks into the room.  Raised by his sickly mother, singing in his church choir and does amazing things to Joan Osbourne and I think, “Yep.  That’s it.   That’s what it is about.”

The show is beyond rusty.  Constantly shrill.  But every so often, amidst the dreck, an amazing display of equal parts talent and determination humbles you.  Reminds you that anyone can be a star.  Just takes the right day, the right timing, and the right note.

A moment of Idol brilliance:

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