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Canadian Idol – The Real Truth

September 2005
As newly minted Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil begins her career as a future member of the “where-are-the-now-file”, I would like to chime in with my opinion on this whole manufactured super-stardom machine. I’ve never been a fan of Canadian Idol or it’s American counterpart. I have watched a couple of episodes of American Idol from the second season, just to watch the horribly pathetic attempts by some people (some of whom I find it hard to believe they were serious), but I have pretty much avoided it.

Being a fan of music, I do have an appreciation for what the show could be, yet refuses to do (so far anyway): be the springboard for musicians and songwriters who are truly serious about music for its art, not just the glitz and glam. I’ve never felt that the Idol franchise is really interested in developing artists; only getting as many hits on the charts as they can before the next Idol competition begins.

One good thing the Idol franchise has done is demonstrate just how many truly talented singers are out there, as well by default, demonstrating just how many “singers” there are currently on the radio/Much Music who really can’t sing. But that leads to another point: with the focus so strongly on singing ability, those with strong talents as musicians or songwriters are left in the dust. Just think: if the ability to sing was the only measure of whether a musician would be successful, most of the artists currently recording music today would be out of work.

Anyone who has listened to Neil Young knows the man couldn’t sing to save his life, yet he has written some of the greatest songs of all time. As a musical phenomenon Neil Young also, perhaps unwittingly, started the grunge rock genre. He was credited as the Godfather of Grunge and embraced by one of the biggest bands of the Grunge era, Pearl Jam.

Robert Plant is truly one of Rock’s greatest vocalists, but similarly can’t sing. How about Eric Clapton, or Jimmy Page? Would they be picked to be the next Idol? I could go on, but you get the point. There are a lot of hard working bands and solo artists out there, slogging it out in the clubs of Canada and America. Just check out the bars in Barrie on any weekend and you’ll see a lot of talented artists out there, some of whom write and perform their own music.

Now I don’t consider the Idol competitions completely irrelevant. Kelly Clarkson seems to be doing quite well, and possibly will have a long career ahead of her. While I don’t know that much about previous Canadian Idol winner Calen Porter, I do know that he is a classically trained violinist, and does play violin on some of his songs, which suggests to me that he is having some influence on his music.

I’m sure that not all those who try out for the Idol competitions are dreaming only about stardom; that some truly want to make good, lasting music, and see this as yet another avenue to achieve that. But what the Idol judges will never be able to pick are the performers the public will ultimately like and buy their records. Although Ruben Stoddard won the second American Idol competition, his career also seems dead in the water.

And while we are talking about dead in the water, although they weren’t Idol contestants, does anybody know what Sugar Jones or Velvet Empire are currently doing?

Need further proof of how fickle the music buying public can be? How is it that Kim Mitchell and the Tragically Hip can be such big stars in Canada, yet not be the superstars they should be in America?

I think it would add more credibility to the show if for the next Idol competition, the producers to invited song-writing musicians, whether they are a band or solo artist, to compete on the show, performing their own music with their own instruments.

Besides, does anybody know what Justin Guarini is up to these days?

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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