As the season 11 auditions for American Idol begin, I am left wondering about whether the show has now run its natural course. There is no question that the national talent competition has turned up some great singing talent in the past, but as many people including Sting have pointed out, in its current format, the odds are very low for discovering really great writing or creative talent.
In fact, if Bob Dylan had ever appeared on American Idol, I don’t think he would have managed to get the golden ticket to Hollywood. I can imagine the discussion between the judges as the final chord, following his rendition of Tambourine Man, fades into the background.
Simon Cowle turns to Randy inviting comments and the discussion then goes something like this:
“OK, OK … now listen … I don’t know dawg … it was a little pitchy for me. I mean it was good in parts, but really … I mean … I’m not sure man. I don’t know.“
“As an artist, I admire your honesty and your integrity, but the guitar playing was lacking a little in terms of rythm and your harmonica playing was a little off. Though I did like the tonal ambiguity in the internal resonances of the song, I’m not sure this competition is really for you.”
Paul and Randy both look toward Simon as he glances heavenward for a moment while he simultaneously takes in a breath before exhaling noisily, making a palms-upward gesture and looking a little bewildered.
“OK, well … er … as the others have said, it was pretty bad. This is a singing contest and you obviously can’t sing. In addition, your choice of material is appaulling. Did you write that song yourself?”
“I thought so. It completely lacks any coherence or meaning. The idea of playing a song on a tambourine is complete and utter nonsense. You can’t get a note out of a tambourine, let alone a whole song.”
Randy then feels inclined to make his decision.
“Yeah dawg … that’s what I was sayin man … I mean, it was good in parts, but basically it was not what we are looking for.”
Dylan shrugs as Cowle continues.
“And your name, Dylan, is that your real name?”
“No, my real name is Robert Zimmermann.”
“OK, well I can see why you would want to change it but, that name has too many literary associations and your songs have no literary quality. Actually, they have no quality, so it just doesn’t work for me.”
He pulls a face and turns again to Randy.
“Well, now it’s time to vote. Randy?”
“It’s a no from me dawg – sorry.”
“Hmmm. Nnnno. I don’t think this competition is quite ready for you.”
“And it’s a no from me. Don’t give up the day job. Goodbye.”
Dylan walks out of the audition area, his guitar under his arm and his head drooped as Ryan Seacrest attempts to intercept him to see if he can provoke a reaction and get a few cheap laughs for when the show goes out on the air. After a brief discussion, Bob finally walks away muttering that probably, he should have sung Blowin in the Wind.
So remember that the experts are not always right. Yes, it’s true that they get to see a lot of people and most of them have been told that they are good (probably by their mums) when they, in fact, turn out to be quite bad. But occasionally, they fail to see true talent as the recording company (I think it was Decca) who turned down The Beatles understands only too well.
Sometimes, you just have to believe in yourself.