Monday, October 1, 2012

American Idol Expectations


"American Idol" and "Survivor" were certainly not the source of the concept but we can recognize that they have contributed to a sense of quick and easy fame in our culture. These television programs and many more "reality" shows have made household names out of ordinary people. Generations ago, if a person desired to become a great musician or a virtuoso singer, they would embark on years of training and disciplined practise. They would seek out one of the best schools, attach themselves to a great teacher/mentor while working hard to achieve a level of competency in their field. Today, the next "big super-star" is just as likely to come from a YouTube video, "reality show," or talent contest. Even business leaders may come from television shows like "The Apprentice" or "Dragons' Den."

What impact might this be having on our culture in general and young people in specific? Can we expect people to throw themselves into long educational or apprenticeship programs that may or may not lead to wealth and fame while someone else stays at home generating YouTube videos and gets "discovered" by Usher? If it seems equally as likely that music school or one of the "Idol" programs might make you a star, isn't it better to simply show up at the long line-up for auditions and take your chances with all of the other hopefuls? Indeed, there appears to be a trend in some of the reality shows in which people who have worked hard at their craft and have been employed in the field for many years, without being noticed, are now turning to these shows as the next stage in their professional development. Thus, we see back-ground singers for Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga or former "Mouseketeers" like Tony Lucca showing up on "The Voice." These seasoned professionals take their chances right alongside people without formal training or experience; and it would seem that the professional or the novice stands an equal chance of achieving fame and fortune.

What does this do to our collective psyche? Does it not, at least to some extent, create a lottery mentality about success? It suggests that one person's chances are as good as the next person's when it comes to "being discovered." It suggests that we can take the easier route and take our place amongst those recognized as something special. Who knows, I might be one of the ones who can turn my "fifteen minutes of fame" into a lifetime of celebritism.

With a certain degree of irony, I draw your attention to a song written by Mike Charko and Keith Shields about achieving success and notoriety "just like that." It is a tongue-in-cheek story of one person's expectations of fame.

Just Like That (Listen to this song here)
(Words and Music by Mike Charko and Keith Shields - SOCAN 2011)

I sat down on my front step
And I strummed my old guitar
I wrote a song to make you laugh
I knew it would go far

Usher saw me playing there
He said, "You're gonna be a star."
He signed me up to play The Bowl
And gave me a new car

Well I know you might think I'm a fool
Or maybe it's not true
But it all really happened just like that
In my mind

I climbed up on my white horse
And I went to ride the range
A pretty woman in distress
So I galloped to her aid

The bad guys tried to get away
But I wouldn't let them run
My draw was quick and my aim was true
And they lowered down their guns

Well I know you might think I'm a fool
Or maybe it's not true
But it all really happened just like that
In my mind

Spiderman and the Man of Steel
They are some friends of mine
They call me up wanna buy me drinks
But I haven't got the time

Paparazzi follow me
Cause they think that I'm so fine
I'd like to pose for one or two
But Jagger's on the line

Well I know you might think I'm a fool
Or maybe it's not true
But it all really happened just like that
In my mind

Who knows where I'll go from here
Movie star or the West Wing
Movie star or the West Wing
Movie star or the West Wing

Well I know you might think I'm a fool
Or maybe it's not true
But it all really happened just like that
In my mind
In my mind
In my mind

Going back a few years earlier we might also note the "Forrest Gump" effect on our culture. Forrest was the kind of person who just happened to be at the right places at the right times to achieve recognition. I will leave it to the reader to decide if such fables as "Forrest Gump" or "Just Like That" could happen in our contemporary times. Perhaps the present nobody-to-celebrity culture is just a passing fad, much like the wild colour schemes of the 1970s when colour television was first introduced. Perhaps our culture will return to a time when hard work and true excellence in the field will once again be recognized for what it is worth and the concept of becoming famous because everyone is looking at us will decline. Regardless of fame, fortune, success, and recognition, one thing will always be true: becoming truly good at something always takes disciplined effort and much practise.

1 comment:

  1. To further compound the problem so few people understand all the work that goes into being "discovered". As you say, half the people on the reality show circut are professionals who have been working and training for years and very few YouTube stars come out of nowhere. Most of them have been working and finessing YouTube skills for years.

    Not to mention if you look at Carly Rae Jepson or the mighty Beiber himself; there is PILES of time/money and offline work that goes in on the front end. Walk Off The Earth has been gigging and YouTube-ing for a LONG time.

    Have you watched the Justin Beiber movie "Never Say Never" perhaps surprisingly I reccomend it. It shows a few things about his rise, and it also shows how hard he and his team hustle to make any of it happen.

    If you are a true flash in the pan...a full 15 min is incredibly lucky.

    Have you heard the new one from Rebbecca Black? No, I don't even know if there is one...no one really cares.

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