The age range for contestants is 16 to 28; that means most aren’t very mature and there’s lots of drama. Put a camera in front of someone who’s just gotten shot down (often deservedly so) and they dig the hole deeper. Exit speeches from no-talent egomaniacs are great fun. Brilliant!
The auditions take place in major cities across the US. Tens of thousands of hopefuls show up, most on a whim. When you see the interviews, you’ll hear “this is my life’s dream.” Come on: life’s dream? You heard about this two days ago, you’ve never sung a lick in front of anyone, you’re most likely tone deaf, but you’re so self-obsessed you convince yourself that you can be on TV just because you’re you. I say this because I’m totally self-obsessed, and I’ve headed to auditions in New York on a total whim, completely unprepared but convinced there was something special about me that the casting director, or intern, would see in me. They didn't. Yet.
People love to hate Simon Cowell. I love Simon Cowell. He can be mean (which I find entertaining), but usually he’s just honest and direct. If you really aren’t very good, and you don’t find out from anyone with an objective opinion (meaning, not your mom) before you head to the auditions, you get what’s coming to you. And I laugh. Hard.
However, there are also people with true talent. And they have found the courage to finally pursue something big. Waiting for hours in the heat or the rain just for a shot. Face it, most people in their late teens or early 20s are still unsure of themselves. Even with a voice and an ear for music, they've convinced themselves it's impractical. It takes courage to get up in front of people. And getting in front of three celebrity judges, wearing a wireless mic, surrounded by TV cameras, singing a cappella has got to be frightening.
But I root for those with talent, and a shot at something huge. As the show progresses and they weed out the wanna-bes, I really get hooked. I get caught up in the contestants’ lives, and pull for most of them. Some of them are narcissists (who often get put in their place) and others are pure and genuine. The human interest stories abound (music teachers, single parents, former foster children, small-town folks). Once the show gets down to the final 12, they’ve all got a great chance at continuing with a music career regardless of the contest outcome, and they get to work with huge songwriters like Elton John or Barry Manilow. It's nice to see someone do a major song justice, with the songwriter watching along with several million viewers.
At 42, I’m hoping for a Senior American Idol, but I won’t hold my breath. Off you go.