Goodbye, sweet Tim Urban, you smiling greyhound of a Beatles-coiffed contestant. I’m sad to see you go.
Who knew that I would ever love American Idol? I’m a reader, not a TV watcher. But, last year, when I started watching Idol with my youngest child, I was immediately hooked. I love the made-for-TV stories about these people who claw themselves up out of poverty, foster homes, gangs, etc. to sing for their suppers. I’m even more intrigued by the cultural phenom of this public flogging that passes for judging. I mean, wow. These people keep getting knocked down only to jump back up again.
Yes, Teflon Tim, I mean you. You’d make a better actor than singer. (I can see you joining Glee this season as Rachel’s boyfriend! You’re way hotter than that big dumb cluck, Finn!) You don’t have Mama Sox’s pipes, Casey’s rocker style, Aaron’s skinny Sinatra charm, Lee’s bar room gravel and bedroom eyes, Big Mike’s showmanship, or Siobhan’s range and butterfly costumes. But you do have something that I’ll sorely miss: Staying power.
When the judges skewered your performances, you smiled and took it on the chin. You didn’t break down. You didn’t argue your case. You didn’t whine. You didn’t even come out and bitch slap Simon. You just came back for more. And we can all learn from that – especially if we’re writers and artists.
I think all writers should watch Idol. We can relate to rejection. I once had an editor of a top magazine turn down one of my stories, saying that I was “too old to be called promising.” That was when I was 29! I have had editors write curt rejection notes for pieces I’ve slaved over for months, saying only, “This does not amuse,” or “We have too many stories on that topic.” Recently, a a book editor told me that my novel was a great read – she couldn’t put it down! – but “it’s not right for the current publishing climate.”
Watching Idol makes me realize how glad I am that we writers get rejected in the privacy of our own bedrooms, where we can weep and throw ourselves prostrate under our laptops without anyone watching. I can too easily believe that the preening Simon might say to me, “You don’t know who you are as an artist!” Or Randy shaking his big bullet of a head and sighing, “I just didn’t get it, dawg.” And what if I had to get up to read my last failed article or story just to prove, once more, why I got the fewest votes? Ouch!
The most important lesson of Idol is that the marketplace is fickle. I wasn’t surprised when Lily got sent home this season. Sure, she has a great voice, but she has white hair, and who likes the ukelele? I wasn’t shocked when Andrew and Paige got the boot ahead of Tim, either. They had better voices, but he has the looks and charm.
The Idol judges keep trying to pretend that “this is a singing competition,” but we all know differently. This TV show is really all about nailing what kind of pop star will turn on young, female viewers enough to get them to blow up their phones and buy iTunes with their parents’ credit cards. Witness last year’s debacle: Adam Lambert clearly has a better voice than Vanilla Allen, but Allen was way cute and mild, while Lambert was way gay and probably scared their hairbands off.
Last night, I comforted myself that Tim – like any Idol contestant who makes it into the top 10, or maybe even into the top 1,000 – probably has enough talent to carry on with his dream. I told myself that again today, when I got yet another rejection email.
And at least I don’t have to read my piece aloud on TV, while Simon and Kara fake flirt as I pretend I don’t care what they think.