What do American Idol and poetry slam have in common?
A little bit of irony to set it up first.
As a kid, I was notorious for always being late. Not a few minutes late, either, but often an hour or more. Because my mother was pretty strict, I knew 5 minutes was as bad as 5 hours and so always pushed it past its limits. After I became too old for the belt, I spent a lot of time on punishment. One of the more extreme came two days before I was supposed to take my road test for my license and my punishment was waiting another year. At 16, living in the suburbs, the only thing worse than spending a year longer than your friends without a license was explaining that it was because you'd come home a couple of hours later than you were supposed to.
Tonight, my mother was supposed to be back by 6pm, in time for me to get over to Acentos. By 7pm, still not having heard from her, I left her a playfully annoyed message about a stolen car. By 8pm, I was getting worried and left her another message. When she finally called back, at 8:45pm, she was fine, hanging out in Westchester and expecting to be home by 10:30pm. Night, meet ruined.
As a result, I ended up catching most of American Idol and had a minor revelation on why the show has lost a lot of its appeal. In the first two seasons, there was a certain innocence to the singers. Many of them weren't very good, several pretty terrible, but some of them had real potential. More importantly, they were genuinely appreciative of the opportunity and took nothing for granted.
Fast forward to this season, where the instantly-rejected William Hung has had more success than season one runner-up Justin Guarini, and the nominal favorite, Latoya London goes through the motions, pointing out that at this point, "we're all winners. We all have careers ahead of us after this." Excepting Fantasia Barino and, in recent weeks, Diana DeGarmo, they've all delivered safe, uninspired performances, the hunger and energy dissipating with each passing week. The sense of entitlement and the ego that goes along with it, however, grows ever larger.
Totally reminds me of the evolution of the poetry slam over the past seven years as the stakes have been raised and "careers" can be made via a National Poetry Slam Finals appearance. What was once vibrant and edgy can now be easily classified; the once unpredictable, now painfully so.