We've gone through week two of "American Idol," with auditions from Milwaukee and Nashville, and it's pretty clear that the auditions are less about the singers right now than they are about us getting to know and like the judges. Some thoughts after the jump.
The singer portion of the show has fallen into its old routine: good singers, bad singers, intense personal stories (always at the end of a telecast), misleading editing. I am not denying that some of the gimmickery is effective; I was moved by Chris Medina's fiancee in the wheelchair, and tweeted at the time that Medina is almost certain to make top three: a nice, decent singer with a touching love story. Very Danny Gokey.
But even then, the thing that struck me most was how sweetly Steven Tyler talked to the fiancee. And throughout the process so far, we are being presented with ways the dynamics are very different with Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson. Jackson, for one, seems to be a little more willing to speak harshly to contestants, while Lopez is playing the singers' protector and has told both Jackson and Tyler not to be mean -- or at least not to spend too much time being mean.
But, as I've said before, I kind of like the way these three deal with each other. Yes, there are indications they are too easy on the contestants. There was one singer doing Marvin Gaye whose only skill seemed to be singing loudly -- he offered no sense of what the song was about, or realized that it was best done subtly -- and he still got through. The no-longer-a-couple couple was OK, though nothing extraordinary (and I thought she was better than he was); but I don't think the judges wanted to send the poor guy home while sending his ex to Hollywood -- and I am sure the producers are hoping some kind of drama will arise during Hollywood.
At the same time, I keep wondering what this would be like if Simon was on hand, and I don't think it would be better. He might keep some contestants out of Hollywood, but he would also make the whole process more dour. Can just see him scowling at the end of the table, putting a damper on the other judges. (Well, probably not Tyler.) These three seem relaxed with other, bantering more than bickering. And that bodes well for later in the show -- when we are supposed to focus more on the singers than the judges, since this should mean there isn't a lot of judge-related soap opera to distract.
But are the singers going to be good enough to make that happen? Certainly during the Nashville show, I did not hear anyone who made me go "Great Googly Moogly!" Or words to that effect. I heard OK singers, and some that might be better with some help, but nothing extraordinary. And if "Idol" is really going to rebound this season, we're going to need extraordinary.