Five points from an outsider:
1) Logic would surely dictate that the standard of American Idol would be much better than that of its UK equivalents, The X Factor and Pop Idol. Roughly speaking, there are 309 million people in the US and just 60 million in the UK – surely a country with five times as many people will have five times as many brilliant singers, and ergo, would be five times as likely to have a seriously world-class talent? Apparently not; we shouldn’t forget that Leona Lewis was a complete fluke, but the fact remains that AI hasn’t even come close to producing anything on her level. Not even Kelly Clarkson is comparable; she survives by having great songwriters and producers, not a great voice. Even taking the average ability of the contestants into account, the only reason the US have the upper hand on the UK is because we, as a nation of cynical, hate-filled piss-takers, are obliged to field one complete joke every year. Take them out of the equation and we stack up. We probably shouldn’t.
2) I sure am thankful to be watching a singing competition that doesn’t have Jedward in it, mind.
3) What the hell is with all the guitars? Is there some sudden obsession with a pre-conceived notion ‘authenticity’ on this show, or has it always been this way? In the UK at least, the show has always been happy to embrace its gleefully vapid nature, but the US and their contestants are much more ambiguous about what they want to be. It’s not even as if any of them can really play the thing – the big fat one, especially, can’t even seem to change from one barre chord to another without stopping and looking down to make sure he’s doing it right. Even the haircuts scream ‘take me seriously!’ – the girls are more Ani DiFranco than Britney Spears. Is this a response to the show’s critics, or is America just one big dumb college chick who’s impressed by the sight of a guitar even if the douchebag frat boy holding it can’t play a note?
4) The celebrity mentors seem to have a much more hands-on role in the US – at first. Each contestant is shown rehearsing in front of the personality in question, and is then seen on the receiving end of some very specific, in-depth advice, which they then go on stage and completely ignore. Seriously. When it was Adam Lambert, that level of disrespect and dismissal was funny. When it was Alicia Keys, you’ve got to wonder what the whole point of the exercise was.
5) Does Ellen actually ever say anything bad about anybody? The way she treats each contestant like a sick puppy is actually pretty patronizing. What’s the point in her being there? Kara DioGuardi is a gem, mind; intelligent, forthright, confident, and likeable, she puts all our talent show judges to shame.