with Lynne and Leslie
Tag Archives: American Idol

I Wish There Was A Show Called “American Do What You Love And Get Paid For It”

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

Leslie and I watch a lot of “American Idol”, and this is the last season, so they are talking a lot about their legacy and how awesome the show is, and want to talk about Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, its’ biggest stars, like all of the time. And I get that. Those ladies are the biggest stars that the show has produced, and the show also heavily touts hit-making alumni Phillip Phillips, Chris Daughtry, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. And that makes sense, because the show is called “American IDOL”, which means that they want to produce people who we literally want to be. But we have short attention spans, so the people who we were all nuts about last month kinda fall away to make space for the next new thing.  I was really happy when a few weeks ago, as part of their “You used to really love this show” extravaganza, the show brought back former contestants to sing duets with current ones. Some were ones who had several radio hits after the show, like Daughtry and Jordin Sparks and Fantasia, and some were ones who have had careers in other venues, like Tony-nominee Constantine Maroulis or Haley Reinhart, who has been featured in a bunch of videos by Postmodern Jukebox where they put pop songs to jazz beats. Watch her, She’s amazing. So I got all excited when the show said that these folks were coming back, because I wanted them to highlight that success doesn’t always look hit records. But no. While the show brought on a big display commemorating all of Daughtry’s platinum-selling accomplishments, what it basically did was have the others talk about what they learned from the show, for the show’s sake. And I get that. Talking about all the amazing things you birthed is awesome. But I think that the show missed a great opportunity to send a heartfelt message that could add to the well-being of the young people of America, which I know isn’t their top priority, as well as really secure their legacy as the springboard for greatness, which is their concern.

And that’s this.

As wonderful as it must be to be a mega-superstar, there is something to be said for being able to make a living doing what you love, even if it’s on a more modest level, and this is what “American Idol” has done for many of its former contestants, like Taylor Hicks and Kris Allen, who aren’t burning up the charts currently (although both each have had hits), but have used their time on the show to have, well, careers in music. As in people pay them to sing. As in they don’t have to have second jobs. Because enough people want to hear them that they can live pretty nice lifestyles doing exactly what they love to do. I am not hating on Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, because those ladies have earned the careers that they have. I admire them. But obviously, everybody can’t be at that level and sustain it, and it is bothersome that we chew people up and get over them so quickly, that in the public’s perception, if you aren’t selling out stadiums, you must be living in your mama’s basement cooking grilled cheese on a hot plate. There is a lot of space in between there, and “Idol” alums occupy every rung of that, with many of those folks occupying the higher rungs of that ladder, which means that they earn a living singing, and they appreciate the platform that they were afforded. Most working musicians, especially the ones who were gigging before their “Idol” days, recognize that a place in this show can make you in a big way, but that it can also be a springboard into playing bigger venues and having your own bus instead of taking the Greyhound. Leslie interviewed Phillip Phillips the year that he won the show, and he told her something that has stuck with me. He said that at first, he didn’t have his eye on the title of American Idol, which he went on to win. No, his initial goal was to make the Top 10, because those performers get to go on tour, and he knew that he would have a job for the summer. Don’t miss that. One of the biggest stars to come out of the show’s later years knew that having a well-paid job touring around was a huge blessing, because it offered you the visibility to work that into something more.

Most "Idol" alumsdon't have to play music in their mom's basement anymore, unlike my kid. He is only 3, though.

Most “Idol” alumsdon’t have to play music in their mom’s basement anymore, unlike my kid. He is only 3, though.

And many “Idol” contestants have done that, including the ones I mentioned above, as well as Allison Iraheta, who made it to the #4 spot the year that Adam Lambert and Kris Allen were on. She has her own band called Halo Circus, and also sings backup vocals on “Idol”. And I know that some people look at that and say, “You sing back-up? That must be a letdown. Too bad you aren’t famous.” But she has a job. Singing. And although she likes singing her own music, I am sure, her time on the show has given her a highly visible regular gig, one which many singers would love to have. That is an accomplishment. I am an actor, and the periods of my life where I was only acting were brilliant. I was never famous, but I was able to eat doing what I adored. And shoot, that is everything. That’s a good lesson for everybody, because if only famous people are successful, that means that there is no room for anyone else, which means that everyone else is unworthy, which I refuse to accept. Excelling is awesome, and making lots of money is, I am sure, a wonderful thing, but also living the dream of being JUST a performer is up there. And I honestly think that if “Idol” bragged on the careers that their less-famous alumni went on to, it would make the show look better in the long run, because they would be able to define what success looks like. But since they, and we, are so hung up on “Idol”-dom, they missed a chance to say that they produce people in the big leagues, meaning that they produced people with careers. In music. And to me, that is brag-worthy.


Lynne and Leslie Ask Each Other Random Questions About Randomness

by SweetMidlife

Howdy! So, a few times before, Lynne and Leslie have done this thing where we ask each other random questions based on a theme, like Christmas, or New Years. Today, we are going wild and just writing about whatever the heck comes to mind. We hope you like it.

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

First, Lynne asks Leslie a bunch of stuff.

Lynne asks: “You went to the 30th Anniversary showing of ‘Pretty In Pink’ a few days ago. Was it as good as you remember? As cute as he was, wasn’t Blaine, even though he was played  by Andrew McCarthy, who was my fake boyfriend, a huge drip?”

Leslie answers: I plan to write more about this at length, because at length is what I do, but Blaine was honestly being a teenage boy, even though it was distracting that the same actor had played a 23-year-old college graduate in “St. Elmo’s Whiners Fire” the year before. If he looked younger you’d probably go “Yeah…he’s a jerk. He’s 18.”

Lynne asks: “What is your favorite thing to eat on a cold day? You live in Florida, so when I ask you about cold days, that means 50 degrees. But let’s play anyway.”

Leslie answers: The answer is always cheese grits.

Lynne asks: “What’s the funniest thing the toddler who lives with you has done lately?”

Leslie answers: He has become obsessed with the theme from “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” which reminds me that the Banana Splits were basically the Monkees. They even had dune buggies and a guy with a Southern accent. Sue them, Mike Nesmith. Sue them.

Lynne asks: “Who is your favorite ‘American Idol’ contestant and why? And wasn’t it lovely to see Ruben Studdard come back and sing last week? That dude is the real deal.

Leslie answers: Of all time? It’s between Fantasia and David Cook, because they both prove that talent and preparation are a baseline for success, whether you’re an illiterate single mom who feels the lyrics of a decades-old song because she approaches it as important, not just words, or a young guy who’s been gigging forever and has a vast musical knowledge he can draw on. There was joy in them. And that’s rare. Also, Ruben gets better. How is that possible?

Lynne asks: “Favorite 90’s love song?”

Leslie answers: There are so, so, so many. I have two answers – “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” by Bryan Adams is my favorite love song written in the ’90s, because it’s brilliant. But if you think of “90’s love song” as a genre, and I know that you do, it’s a tie between Backstreet Boys’ “Shape of My Heart,” which was actually recorded in 2000 but is the most 90s thing in the world; 4PM’s version of “Sukiyaki” which makes me weep, and “Now and Forever” by Richard Marx just because.

OK, so now Leslie asks Lynne some stuff and drinks her coffee and judges people. Silently through her coffee.

Leslie asks: “The Good Wife” is ending soon and it’s an attempt to clean up, in seven episodes, three seasons of crap done to a good show. What are, in your opinion, the best and worst show finales, in terms of wrapping up loose ends and telling the story that was meant to be told.

Lynne answers: Okay, it’s not the best or the worst, but it is actually an example of good and meh in one episode. I hope that saying this doesn’t get me banned from Gen-X membership, but the last episode of “Friends” was all over the place for me. When the show first started, I was crazy in love with it, because they were in their early-20s. and so were we, and I found so many things in common with them, like losing grandparents, and having the group dynamic of friends with good jobs who could order appetizers and dessert when you went out, and also having the friend (who I was one of) who drank water and made a meal off of the free bread. And as the show went on, the friends grew and went through things we all go through, like marriage and breakups and loss of jobs and being close to your friends and then not so close, and finding your way back and all of that. And by the last episode, I loved where most of them were, like Monica and Chandler adopting twins and moving to a bigger place, and Phoebe getting married, and Joey was headed off to his short-lived spin-off. But Ross and Rachel, the supposed great love story of the show, had, for me, become selfish people who had a daggone child together who you never saw. The show missed the perfect opportunity to show you how your life changes when you have kids, and that you can’t hang out like you used to, and how your friends have to adjust. But no, the show couldn’t break up the “6 people hanging out” aspect and baby Emma became a footnote. And that bugged me. And even though I am glad that Ross and Rachel were happy at the end, I also remember thinking that I really didn’t LIKE them as much because of all of the petty things they did to each other, and so it was a little bittersweet. Sorry, “Friends” fans.

Leslie asks: Onion rings or cheese fries?

Lynne answers: Onion rings covered in cheese

Leslie asks: I’ve been thinking a lot about history lately, and what to tell my kid and others about painful things in the past. What is the thing you are least looking forward to explaining to the toddler? (Deep, yes. But this coffee is good.)

Lynne answers: That’s deeper than I was thinking you were gonna go, twin sister. But there are so so many painful parts of history, and I think that the hardest ones will be where people are mean to each other. That’s so many ones. And I guess I will tell him that there are people in the world who do evil things, and I wish that they didn’t, but that I want him to be a person who doesn’t do those things, even when people tell you that it’s okay or warranted. That’s simple and hard at the same time.

Leslie asks: OK, so who is your favorite “American Idol” and why? Because it’s a good question I stole from you. Been caught stealing, once, when I was 44….

Lynne answers: LOVE THAT SONG. And I have several favorites. Fantasia, definitely, because she was just HER. She was polished but young, and polite and sweet, and had such a story filled with a lot of downs, but she made big ups from it, and even though she has had a bunch of ups and downs since then, she still seems like a real, genuine person who is still trying. And that voice is everything. My other all-time favorite is Kris Allen, and it’s not only because I think that he is just a great musician and a really nice guy, but also because he was SO not the favorite of the judges that year, as he was up against the AMAZING Adam Lambert and also Danny Gokey, who have both gone onto big careers, especially Mr. Lambert. And as you would point out, the judges would give Adam these huge production numbers with fire and stuff, and they would stick Kris out in the audience on a broken milk crate and a busted light bulb hanging overhead. And he would give these wonderful performances and the judges would be like “Are you still here?”, and he would take a a deep breath, because he knew what they were doing, and he would continue to knock out wonderful performances.

Leslie asks: Favorite karaoke song?

Lynne answers: It’s the former Disney-goddess combo of “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera, and “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. You can dance to them.. I went to a karaoke birthday party recently, and someone else selected the Britney for anyone to sing, and I got up and did it like “Wow, this song? Well, if no one else is I GUESS I will.”, and my bestie Johnette was like “You knew every word.” and I was like “Yeah, I may have practiced this before I left the house.” Because I did.

Work It.

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!!


Hey, are you watching the new season of “American Idol”? It’s fantastic, mostly due to the addition of music legend/funny guy/brutally honest Harry Connick, Jr. He was hired as a judge this year after last season offering one of the most open and direct coaching sessions that show has ever seen. Lots of times, celebrity coaches will come in and tell the contestants how cute they are, and that, well, they like them, but not offer really constructive criticism, as if all criticism is bad. Well, Harry didn’t play that, and he took singers to tasks for not knowing what the heck they were singing, or from doing so many vocal runs that the meaning of the actual song was lost. It was brilliant. And this year he is offering up that same honesty for auditioning people. And it is awesome. He will straight-up tell you that you have a nice voice, but that you don’t have what it takes. Or that you need work. Or that you did too many runs. And he does it not to be obnoxious, but to actually teach. Shoot, he and fellow judge Keith Urban let one half a set of singing twins through, while sending the other home. As a twin myself, that stung. The very best kind of way. It needed to happen (and I am going to write more on that later, if I get to it).

But see, the show found over the years that America likes people who can sing, and people who think they can but can’t. Very rarely did they show people with okay voices who were pleasant, but not enough to make it to the next round. Because that’s not sexy. Or funny. Or going to make YouTube and get played over and over. But by leaving out the auditions of talented folks who don’t thrown tantrums, or cuss at the camera, but also go home, the show has left out a powerful message: Not everybody makes it. And if you do, it’s not always on the first try. There is a value in learning and growing, but if you think that you don’t have to grow, then you are probably wrong. Everybody wants to be that person discovered on the street corner singing, and with no coaching at all, they become a major star. And rock on if that happens to you. But there is no shame in work. Even Kelly Clarkson, the first “American Idol”, was sold as a spunky waitress from Texas, but they didn’t really tell you that she had briefly lived in LA and tried to start a career, and moved back home out of necessity. She had put work into this. Even the kids who make it onto the show have to work hard. Ask the ones who can’t remember their lyrics. Their job is to learn those songs, and those steps, and to be prepared.

I have my own story about this: I was in a show when I was 23, and I had, at that point, gotten a lot of attention from people I knew about my singing voice. People at church, people in college, and people I was in shows with. And a musical director for the play I was in told me that I had a great voice, but I could really benefit from training. And young me said “Thank you”, but inside I thought “What? He’s saying I can’t sing!” I didn’t hear what he was trying to tell me, and that was that I had an instrument that was worth putting the work into if I really wanted to go further. I got that eventually. I trained, sometimes on the job, and I am the better for it.

All of this to say, there is no shame in having to work for something. It is an accomplishment. So, young and old folks of America: if someone tells you that they see potential in you that you aren’t fully realizing, take that as a gift. Don’t go slink away and cuss at a camera. Or think you are a failure at 16 because you didn’t get on a TV show right away. Use that as experience. Let it drive you. Get better. Automatic is awesome. Getting something you have to work a bit for can feel even better.


“American Idol” judges – You don’t get to be over it.

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Since I graduated from the University of Maryland 20 years ago (yikesy biscuits!) I have had four jobs – one of them a four-month gig selling hideous Gen-X grunge knockoffs at a mall, the other three at newspapers, including the one for which I currently work. At the previous three jobs, there inevitably came a moment where it was time to move on, because in each case I’d gotten a new position – which I’d applied for because it was just time to move on.

In all cases, I gave two weeks notice and then continued to come to work, as scheduled, until I turned in my ID card, turned off my computer for the last time and walked out the door. And in those two weeks, I continued to work as if I was not leaving, because I was still drawing a paycheck, and because it was not fair to the recipients of my work, whether they were readers or buyers of bad grunge fashion, to slack just because I was out of there.

In short, even if I was internally over my job, I never acted as if I were over it, because until the last word was typed, I still had a job.

Which brings me to Randy Jackson.

For some time, the lone original “American Idol” judge has been floating along on the strength of his production credits and that time he was in Journey, and the stream of many nonsense words that he uses to describe the performance he has just seen. Every once in a while he made some sense, which should not be shocking given his musical pedigree, but was nonetheless because of his seeming inability to just express a simple opinion in English. Or Spanish. Or even frigging Elvish.

Randy always sounded silly, but at least he seemed to be enthusiastic, even if it was enthusiasm that appeared to be directed by the Evil Emperor Nigel Lythgoe. But this season, especially since his announcement that he wouldn’t be returning next year, he’s seemed oddly disinterested in his critiques, as if he’s already mentally moved onto whatever thing he’s doing next and doesn’t have the time to be bothered.

Wrong. No. Nyet. I’m sorry, Mr. Jackson, are you for reallll?

I was making minimum wage pushing babydoll dresses and bike shorts on cool-obsessed teenagers, but I managed to act as if I gave a bleepity bloop. You are making millions of dollars to listen to people sing and act as if you care. Your job was easier. I don’t give a good happy if you’re over it. Candice Glover and Kree Harrison have worked very hard to get to the finals of “American Idol,” with the vocal demands, the scrutiny, having to sit there and listen to grown millionaires who are supposed to be talking to you take potshots at each other, and that time that the judges tried to convince the audience that competitors The Skinny Girls Angie and Amber were better than Candice and Kree, because they said so, even though their ears were like “Wait…what?”

And you owe it to them to feign some interest. Or – and this is a novel idea – actually having an interest. Since it’s your job and everything. Nicki Minaj, whose time on Idol is also reportedly at an end (Whoopie!!!!), once showed up more than 40 minutes into a live show because she was “stuck in traffic.” With the money she makes, there is no excuse for not making it through the same streets all the other judges, singers, producers, techs and musicians somehow braved. Unless she was being held captive by live monkeys or The Rock had to clear her path through a meteor shower that affected no one but her, there was no excuse not to be on time. Or early. It’s your job.

If I don’t show up to my job, I don’t expect to get paid. If I look bored , or yawn, or check my email while I’m supposed to be interviewing people, I should not get to have my job. And I don’t make Randy Jackson money. Doesn’t matter. If your job is too much for you, don’t have that job.

Apparently, Randy has reasons not to come back next year. Mazel Tov. But as he winds down his time on “Idol” tonight, he better be darned perky. That’s all I’m saying.

The Best Thing I Saw Last Week and Other Rambling Points

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!!

I am watching DVR’d TV while the baby sleeps, and I am catching up on this past week’s episode of the “Biggest Loser”. I love this show, because it’s about something many people can relate to, and that’s weight loss.   After having said baby,  I have some poundage to lose, so I can relate.  So, last year, the show took a little detour and got hijacked by very, very unlikable people who were more concerned with game play than losing weight, and bullied themselves to the finals.  SO while they may have “won”, the show had become almost un-watchable. The whole point was to be the biggest loser of weight, and  to inspire, not to act like a loser TO other people, therefore inspiring me to change the station.   So this year, the show remembered that viewers want to actually have people to root for, and the contestants are nicer. Leslie wrote about all of this really well in this article for her day job.

So anyhow, I thought I was gonna write about “American Idol” today, but I have so many thoughts on the new season that I don’t really know exactly how I feel about it but to say that so far: There is some real talent; I am a little in crush with Keith Urban; I am not interested in seeing rich women have diva fights , Miss Carey and Miss Minaj, because you are rich already and these children are getting their start; Randy is making good points; and hooray for Keith Urban.  Umm, I guess I said how I feel.

But back to the best thing I saw this week.  which was on “The Biggest Loser”, which is where I started.  So towards the end of each episode, all of the teams get on this big giant scale, one by one, to see their progress. The last one to go this week was a lady named Pam, who so far has been a little dramatic and very tear-prone, and trainer Jillian has been telling her to get off of it and all of that.   So, when it was Pam’s turn to weigh-in, everybody was all on pins and needles because her results could have sent her home BUT, it turned out, that she had the biggest percentage of weight loss for the week! And because of that, she did The Best Thing I Saw All Week.  She started dancing, and yelling, “How You Like Me Now?” and stuff like that. And she made me want to dance.  And it was happy. And why I watch this show.

So what was the best thing YOU saw this week?

Sometimes, you’re not awesome: Booing children on “American Idol”

by SweetMidlife

Oh, grow up.

Dear booing audience members on “American Idol”:

I know that many of you have been raised to believe that the only feedback you should ever listen to is the positive kind, and not to let the judgey-ness of others stop you from realizing your dream. And that’s very good advice.

Unless the person doing the judging is an actual judge…say, a very experienced one in a musical game show, who is being paid not to blow smoke up the beautiful backsides of your favorite singers, but to actually help them. By telling them when they need to sing better.

To review: Sometimes love is not letting someone believe everything they do is awesome when it’s not. Sometime it’s having the guts to tell them the truth. You don’t get better by forging ahead in your suckiness. You get better by owning your strengths and weaknesses and working on them.

Yet you, little audience members who boo anytime a judge tells a singer that they are pitchy, or didn’t give it 100 percent, or picked the wrong song, need to know the judges are not defaming them. They are not telling them that they are bad singers, and that they suck, and that they should drop the mic right now and run screaming away so that music doesn’t spontaneously burst into flames and kill itself.

They are trying to help them. Stop coddling them. People aren’t trying to kill you by giving you help. These kids are going into the roughest waters of show business. If they go into it as little sissy babies who can’t take criticism, they aren’t going to go far.

You are not helping them by trying to protect them from truth. You are hurting them. And annoying the crap out of me.

Love and stuff,

the Cranky Gen-Xer.

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