Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Idol Thoughts: Not Even Steven

I've been shocked, nay, perplexed by the outcry of love from so many for Steven Tyler as an American Idol judge.  Not because of my own disdain for his judging skills (clearly stated here), but because so many of my friends who seem to enjoy what he brings to the table fail to see the irony and hypocrisy that is dancing wildly in front of their noses like a silk scarf tied to a flailing microphone stand.
Steven Tyler IS Paula Abdul.

Now before we get too deep into the deconstruction of this, it must be said that I have nothing personal against either Mr. Tyler or Miss Abdul.  For all I know they may be fine people and fine artists, but they are lousy reality show judges. So the fact that so many who carried pitchforks and torches in the ouster of Paula have traded them in for banners and palm branches for Steven has genuinely bedeviled me.  I mean the two are so alike I actually checked Steven Tyler's Wikipedia page to make sure he was never a Laker girl.

The facts:

1) Just like Paula, Steven is often in his own world.

You thought Paula was spacey?! Granted, Steveo has never denied the chemical processes he has put his brain through, but there is no doubt that any moment of airheadedness Paula ever showed on Idol would be perfectly at home in the Tyler repertoire.  Are you telling me you can't see him judging a performance that never happened, like Paula infamously did her last season?  Not only would he have judged it, I'm guessing he would have followed it up with a random rhyming comment about the sexual escapades of waterfowl.

2) Just like Paula, Steven wants to be the nice one.

Whether he's condemning Randy for a comment, or saying yes to people who clearly have no right making a trip to Hollywood, he is firmly in the camp of someone who wants to be the nice guy more than the honest guy.  Not that I have any problem with being nice, it's actually a fine hobby, one that I like to dabble in occasionally as well.  It's just that it was one of Paula's defining "weaknesses" so why, for him, is it a strength?

1) Just like Paula, Steven has very little of substance to say.

This is perhaps the most damning of the evidence to me.  I've yet to see him really instruct these auditions in any constructive way.  His comments are either about appearance (sound like anyone else we know?), emotion, or complete randomness.  He is the Bizarro Ben Folds, whose intelligent judging on "The Sing Off" was like watching Leonardo Paint, or watching Fred dance, or watching Bieber toss his golden locks.  With Ben you knew you were watching the best in the field, with Steven you wonder what field he thinks he's in and if there are daisies there.

So with the evidence clearly before us, what remains is to figure out why people are fawning over one when they were frowning over the other.

Why when he mumbles some insane phrase it is funny or quirky, but when she did it it was aloof or ignorant?

Why when he chastises Randy for a mean comment is it honorable and admirable but when she did it it was naive or out of touch?

And in the best example to date, why when he goes over to engage with a contestant's tragically brain damaged fiancée it's seen as touching and saintly, whereas had Paula done the same thing I can see it easily being interpreted as overly cloying and insincere?

The answer is at the same time obvious and uncomfortable.

The one major difference I can spot that might turn this disdain into distinction is simple, he's a dude.  Now, before you accuse me of stirring up a gender war over nothing, I'm completely open to hearing what else it could be.  A larger or more relevant fanbase for Aeorsmith?  Possible, but I doubt the beauty and musical intricacy of "Love in an Elevator" is bringing this attitude to fruition.  Mutual respect from his fellow judges?  Could be, but Randy and J Lo (who I'm on record as saying is the only good judge on the panel) give him plenty of guff for his insanity.  Editing?  Yes, it's true Idol needs a new star and they do seem to be playing him up, but to use a waterfowl cliche of my own, if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, its tough to edit it to be a Shetland Pony (maybe not a cliche, could just be something we say around here).   Point being, after applying Occam's well worn razor, I think it's fair to set gender as the likely reason for these discrepancies.  And why not?  Study after study apparently shows that women love to hate other women.  The fairer sex is said to be much less fair to their own sex.  It's the same reason you won't hear too many female artists back to back on the radio, and the same reason women who team together on Survivor almost invariably end up tearing each other apart (to be fair there is a lot of that going on in both genders on that show, but, wow, the women get vicious).   And who is the primary audience for American Idol?  Yup.  Women.

So, what does it mean?

I don't know, except that if you were a Paula hater who is now a Steven lover you may have some internal dialog to work out.  At the end of the day the cognitive dissonance you feel may end up making this blog post a straight up (yep, I know) defense of Paula Abdul more than just me cryin' (seriously, I can't help myself) about Steven Tyler.

Whatever the case, it doesn't matter to me as long as you realize they are the same person.

Even if he's never swung a gold and purple pom pom.


  1. Aaron I do not watch Idol anymore and I am neither an Abdul nor a Tyler fan, but I find myself INCREASINGLY an Aaron Dicer fan. I should have suspected you for a talented writer as well. It fits.

    And incidentally, I'm sure you're right in your assessment regarding the fickle female fan phenomenon. Women, young or old, almost invariably have that "mean girl" streak threaded through them unless or until they (we) allow Jesus to get in for serious deep-down cleaning.

    God Bless!

  2. Melanie, you are super kind. Anyone who can craft the phrase "fickle female fan phenomenon" is alright in my book!