Thursday, April 03, 2008

On AI and Shiz

Long post, beware.

I was never hooked on American Idol eventhough everybody's talking about it and I also don't understand why the show draws so many people to it. Perhaps it's the idea of regular joes making it big...

I've seen a couple of recent episodes and those from way back and I agree that there is talent. It just that the concept puts me off in a way that most people probably think fame is easier achieved if you make it to these shows, that in less than a couple of months you transform from a nobody to somebody. Although I've also got to hand it down to those people who made the cut from the hundreds or thousands who auditioned, they're fortunate to be among the hopefuls and I have nothing against them. I actually admire them for going after their dreams and doing whatever it takes to fulfill them, for looking out for and grabbing these opportunities.

It just doesn't take talent or skill to make it big in the music industry (or in most entertainment/artistic fields) so to speak and joining shows like AI is no guarantee. If you don't work hard enough, get good advisers and work with the right people, chances are you'd be forgotten as soon as a new season premieres. Maybe I'm just so not into it but I can barely recall AI winners who are still as big now as they were at the height of their AI stints. There are a handful and most of the rest just faded away. It was probably worth the ride or the 15 minutes of fame... but the goal is to not just make it big, it's to sustain it and it takes more than talent / skill or charisma to achieve that. I mean, there are the one hit wonders and there are those that last and most of the latter are the ones who worked really hard, started from scratch and climbed the ladder. Then again, there are those who are simply blessed to be born with it.

Music is art and to me, more than anything else, for people to become really successful, there has to be that intense desire to create, move others, put yourself out there and express who you really are. I guess this is what I don't see in AI. I find it most of the time unoriginal, add to the fact that some of them don't even do justice to the songs and I understand that -- those are just not their songs. Some of them even get credit for covering covers (imagine how many layers there are - a cover of a cover!).

Case in point: David Cook. He did a pretty good job interpreting the songs but most of the time, the audience were under the impression that the versions he did were his own only to find out eventually that they're not. Cook did admit that his version of Billie Jean was 'inspired' by former Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell's cover but that was after people began noticing the semblance between his versions and other artists' renditions of the songs. Prior to his Billie Jean performance, he also did a rock version of Lionel Richie's Hello which some people say was copied from Incubus, and of course, a cover of Eleanor Rigby which a band called Doxology claims was their version. Cornell remarked in one of his interviews relating to this incident that he thought Cook sang the song remarkably but he also found it unfortunate that Cook did a play-by-play of his version. I mean, c'mon. If you're really that good, you could have 'cooked' something up on your own. Although I'd have to disagree with critics on the "Hello" cover. I'm familiar with the Incubus version and it's nothing like David Cook's. Cook might have been inspired by it (the idea to do a rock version) but he didn't copy it.

On the flip side, there's nothing really wrong with covering a cover so long as you do it well because by imitating, you're actually acknowledging the great work that these musicians had done. After all, this is a contest of covers. It's just so much better if you acknowledged that you're doing someone else's version everytime you do it. After all, this is a competition that focuses on your singing talent over everything else so why sweat it, right? Singing wise, you'll still get the credit for doing a good job all to yourself because those that you mimicked are not competing with you. And you also get extra brownie points for researching and finding that these versions exist.

On another note, Reynaldo Lapus may fare even better than any of the hopefuls now. Sure he doesn't have so much to be proud of singing wise but the fact that he got so many people hooked on his original song says a lot.

I remember liking Rockstar INXS back then. I know it's somehow similar to AI but the difference was with R, viewers got to see the creative process and they were even encouraged, most of the time, to create their own save for specific challenges that would require otherwise. A lot of good interpretations/renditions came out of that show and I loved that JD won. Why? One of the reasons was because among the loot, he was the one who can create the best.

I believe in shared experiences in terms of expression and original composition. Somewhere out there, someone is also going through the things that you're going through. Someone will always understand and relate to you and nothing feels better than knowing that you're not alone in your troubles (or joys) so there's no reason why we should hold back expressing ourselves. It's just that some of us are good at it while some aren't.

This is probably why I'm drawn to music. If I can't let it out myself, I find that others can speak for me and express the sentiments that I couldn't. I know we all cherish lines from a favorite song (or poem/movie, etc), lines that hit home at specific situations. I anticipate those lines in a song and with right timing, I close my eyes and sing along.

I sound like a fucking cheeseball but hey it's my blog and if you don't like it, you can read someone else's. :-)