Et tu, Mom?

My vacation is coming to an end; in a few days, it’ll be time to pack up and head back home to begin yet another five months of classes, papers, and practice. But I’ve enjoyed spending these few weeks with my parents, especially my mom, who (almost) shares my passion for all things American Idol. We sat in the family room tonight, munching on a casual dinner and enjoying those American Idol Rewind episodes (I’ve actually never seen the first season of the show). The New York auditions were being featured, and as seemed to be the theme of the first season, pretty girls with unremarkable vocals kept sailing through the audition process.

There was a respite from the parade of half-shirts and glitter eyeshadow for a moment, though. A young woman with a reddish pixie haircut and a large tattoo walked through the doors and began singing for the judges. Her voice didn’t blow me away; in fact, these days, she probably wouldn’t have even made it to Hollywood. But her voice was just as good, if not better, as any of the girls who Simon kept pronouncing as having “the look.” Predictably, she was not put through to the next round; the judges told her that they just weren’t sure what category she fit in to (snerk).

“Well, that sucks,” I said. “She was just as good as the rest of them.” That prompted an unusual response from my father, a man who prides himself on not even knowing the bare necessities of pop culture (“Tom Cruise had a baby? The guy from Forrest Gump?”), and who hasn’t really held American Idol in high esteem since Ruben beat out Clay. “Well, how far did she expect to get with that kind of look?”

“Yeah, but it’s a singing competition, though. So what if she’s got a tattoo? If she can sing as well as the rest of them, she should go through. If you don’t like her tattoo, don’t vote for her.”

“It’s not about that,” interjected my mom. Now, Mom’s a big Taylor Hicks supporter. About midway through the season (I’d call her from home halfway through each episode to make sure she was watching), she decided that Taylor was the only interesting and unique performer on the show, and threw all her support behind him. So what she had to say next was, needless to say, surprising. “The ‘American Idol’ is supposed to have a certain look. It’s about the total package.”

“Well, Taylor didn’t exactly have the total package,” I retorted. “He wasn’t a pretty boy, he wasn’t a beauty queen. He was kind of a schlubby guy with an unfortunate haircut and bad taste in menswear when he made the top 24.”

“He WAS the total package. He was sexy (Dad seemed mildly amused by this), he was interesting, he could sing, and he performed like no one else,” said Mom, kind of inadvertently proving my point for me. The conversation ended there, interrupted by our beagle’s unfortunate gastrointestinal reaction to some marinated steak he’d stolen off my father’s dinner plate. But I thought a lot about what my mom had said. Taylor was not “the total package” by mainstream standards. He had gray hair, a bit of a paunch, and crazy dance moves. Instead of muscle-hugging T-shirts, he favored blazers and untucked button-downs. His voice was distinct and gravelly, not clear yet bland. He certainly didn’t fit the traditional, mainstream-media idea of “the total package” the way Ace, Kellie or Lisa did (at least before their vocal shortcomings overcame their visual appeal), and certainly not the way Katharine seemed custom-made for it. And yet, he appealed to my mom. He connected with her (and with a bunch of other people who were willing to cast 63 million votes) despite TPTB constantly knocking him around, despite critics around the country lacking the ability to write a sentence about him without making an old-man joke, and despite other contestants bringing out their guns, so to speak, with low-cut dresses, hair extensions and flexed biceps. He was no one’s idea of what an Idol should look like, and yet so many people, Mom and myself included, simply didn’t care, because for us, he was the total package…just like Tattoo Girl might have been the total package for someone else (or a million someone elses willing to cast a whole bunch of votes), just as much as Ryan Starr and her killer abs or Tamyra Gray in her teeny-tiny handkerchief tops apparently represented the pinnacle of marketability to Simon and Nigel during the Season 1 auditions. And yet, my mom still isn’t able to separate her personal affection for a very unorthodox contestant from some kind of archetype of what an “American Idol” should look and sound like. It’ll be interesting to see if she has a favorite this coming season, and where they fit on the spectrum of “the total package.”

I’ll be watching next season too, of course, but not so much for the sheer entertainment value, or even for the snarkworthiness. Oh, I’ll probably pick a favorite (though only time will tell if I’ll get as invested this year as I did last year; I’d been watching Idol for four years, and Taylor was the first contestant I “fell for”), but I’ll be looking to see the inner workings of the show–who’s getting pimped, who’s not, who gets criticized for stepping out of their box, who gets criticized for not stepping out of their box, who the judges seem to think deserves to have their face slapped on an album cover versus who American seems to think should get the honor. I’ll be paying very specific attention to theme night choices and song selection this year, I think. But most importantly, I’m just awful curious to see if this show will let another Taylor Hicks grace its stage, let alone win the damn thing, or whether the Katharines and the Carries (not to detract from their talent)–pretty people with good but not necessarily distinctive voices–get an extra-strong push.

And, of course, I want to see who Mom roots for.

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2 Responses to “Et tu, Mom?”


  1. 1 Roar January 6, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Great blog! I will be checking back. I loved Taylor as well. Used to love Constantine… hate him now. Heh.

  2. 2 beachn January 7, 2007 at 8:24 am

    Glad to find your blog. I’ll be keeping up with you during this season. I’m an Idol junkie. And a Taylor fangirly old lady. I think Taylor is the total package because he’s so endearing. Once you see him you have to love him even if you want to hate him. He is also very easy on the eyes, can I say thud?
    I loved Kelly Clarkson from the moment I heard her. My husband kept saying she didn’t have the “it” factor (I think he meant in the looks, appeal department) but I kept telling him her huge talent would make up for that and boy was I correct there !!!! I have picked the winner every season not that that’s a big deal but I enjoy watching the “cream rise to the top” and I find it fascinating that America gets it right time after time.

    The one I just don’t get is Chris. I enjoyed his AI performances but I just don’t dig his album. It sounds like one continuous long song. I used to consider myself a rock n roll fan but if Chris’ music is what rock is today, I guess I’m not.

    In addition to Taylor and Kelly C, Carrie and Kellie P are also tops with me. They were both just born for success and I’m so glad they found AI to stsart their careers. I think they’ll be around for a while.

    Give you Mom a big wooooo for me and tell her I know how she feels. Taylor just gets with you and stays. Why?? I don’t question it, at my age, I just enjoy feeling this way again.

    I anxiously await Kat’s cd and don’t understand what they are trying to do with her – urban, hip hop?? Doesn’t translate for me so I’ll sit back and see how the radio and charts respond to her.


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What the kids are sayin’



"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."



"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."



"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "

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