American Idol: entertainment or evil?

Idol worship: Brooke White

Detractors tell you American Idol is ruining pop music. Alarmists go even further, reminding us that American Idol is pop music evil incarnate, having secretly replaced the rich taste of The Beatles, Elton John, Michael Jackson, and U2 that we used to enjoy with the sound of Davids Cook and Archuleta covering them. Who is right? And are we really safer now than when we were voting Sanjaya Malakar off the face of the Earth a year ago?

Hard to argue with these Smithsonian-worthy facts.

1. Minus William Hung ringtones, Idol by-product has placed 85 songs in the U.S. Top 100 in six years, less time than it took Al-Qaeda to figure out the wrong way and the right way to blow up the World Trade Center.

2. Idol ruined us as a nation by giving us winners, winners who turn out to be losers, and losers that wind up better off than winners. The whole winning/losing paradigm is screwed when you award record deals as though it's the non-competitive Olympics and everyone gets the gold. Wouldn't it be more American to leave for dead all of the runners-up on the same island on which they ditched all the former Menudo members?

3. Idol made a better star out of Paula Abdul. Every season, she makes news for slurring and darting in and out of consciousness on some morning talk show. Abdul prepared years for this role — when she was a choreographer, she instructed Val Kilmer on how to move around like a drunk and stoned Jim Morrison for The Doors movie.

4. The "in your face" shelf life of most Idol grads is two years after the show. That's all we tolerated of Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, Mario Vazquez, and Katherine McPhee even without the ability to vote them off with anything but our indifference.

5. The big exceptions have been Clay Aiken, whose Claymates still won't listen to reason after five years, Carrie Underwood (the first country Idol), and Kelly Clarkson, whose singles always charted high until last year, when mentor Clive Davis rejected her goth-rock My December album because he didn't hear any hits. Underwhelming sales vindicated him, and with a canceled tour and no bargaining position, Clarkson wound up making a country duet with Reba McEntire, like Uncle Clive probably wanted all along. Rock on, grrrl!

6. Biggest question for Season 7? Will former Phoenix male stripper David Hernandez bare his wares for a Glendale homecoming? Suggested number? "Do I Make You Proud?," of course!

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Gila River Arena

9400 W. Maryland Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85305


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