Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Ten Tips For American Idol Wannabes

There are certain criteria for doing well on "American Idol." You'd think that, after two previous seasons, every single contender would know what they are. After watching last night's round of eight, the lamest group ever, it's obvious that they don't.

For them, and the next group, and anyone considering going on the show in the future, I hereby offer my Ten Tips For American Idol Wannabes:

1) You must be able to sing. This one should be painfully evident, but it's clear that it's not. Some of the so-called singers who made it to the final thirty-two couldn't find a note with a telescope. If they sang like that at the audition level, they would have been kicked out faster than Brian Dunkelman.

2) Choose the right song. If you have tattoos, piercings, spiky hair, and leather bracelets, do not sing a gentle Norah Jones song. You're a rocker, so pick something that rocks. Similarly, if your look and attitude say "hip hop," stick with that. Do not try to show the world how versatile you are.

3) This is a pop music competition. Along the same lines, no one wants to hear how well you sing another genre, like jazz or country. Do not try to outdo Patsy Cline with "Crazy." Don't even sing a country song that was recorded while you were alive. This ain't the Nashville Idol contest.

4) Perform songs everyone knows. This may be the only time you're ever on national television, let alone have an opportunity to show everyone what you're really capable of. Wait until after you're a huge star to perform your tribute to Nina Simone. Until then, emphasize your strengths and sing something the home viewer -- who will have to vote for you -- immediately recognizes and probably likes. It could be Motown, Nirvana, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow, or even a Huey Lewis hit you heard in kindergarten (these kids are all under 26!).

5) Do not pick iconic songs. While the song should be very well-known, it should not be so identified with one performer that, by comparison, you can't possibly look good singing it. For example, avoid "Imagine," "Wind Beneath Your Wings," "The Greatest Love of All," "What's Love Got To Do With It," and "I Feel Good."

5) Stop with the ballads. 'Nuff said.

6) Pick the right clothes. If you're at all plump, do not wear a midriff-baring shirt, or one that might show off your gut even a little when you raise your arms. This goes for men as well as women. While we're at it, no hats, either.

7) Don't overdo the vocal runs. There's no reason to insert extra syllables into a lyric just to show off how many different notes you can hit in the word "love."

8) Be humble in defeat. If your performance is terrible and Ryan asks you if you have anything to say to convince the viewers to vote for you, do not say, "It only gets better from here." It would have to, because you stank up the joint. But you also blew your shot. We don't want to hear you'll be better next week. You had this week to impress us, and since you didn't, you can become one of us on this side of the screen for next week's show. On the other hand, it will get better from here for the viewers, because you won't be on the show anymore.

9) Avoid controversy. No matter what you do, do not sing a Michael Jackson song. Seriously. You also probably want to stay away from Janet Jackson's catalog. And anything by R. Kelly, too. And just on principle, Courtney Love.

10) Don't pick a fight with Simon Cowell. Not only is he the real star of the show, but Randy Jackson is just as vicious! The teen girls who surround the stage (looking up at Ryan Seacrest, wishing they could just touch his hair for a second) seem to ignore Randy's brutally honest comments, but if Simon says anything at all negative, they boo him. Randy gets away with it by dropping in the word "dawg" three times in every sentence. Bottom line is that neither of them is dissing you just to be mean. If they say you sucked, you did. Moreover, if even Paula Abdul can't come up with something nice to say about you, you should seriously consider never singing again.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Legal Briefs Over A Breast

Blame Wayne Ritchie.

He's the attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee, who has filed a lawsuit against Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, CBS, MTV, and Viacom, over the Super Bowl halftime show. The plaintiff is 47-year-old Terri Carlin, who claims she suffered "outrage, anger, embarrassment, and serious injury" from viewing the event with her family.

You have a stake in this because Ritchie wants to include all of us as plaintiffs and make it a class action, saying we were defamed by the incident and suffered damage to our reputation as Americans.

The claims are ludicrous, of course, and that's why I tell you Ritchie's name. As the attorney who filed this nuisance suit, he should be ashamed, although he's probably incapable of such a feeling.

Wouldn't it be nice if other lawyers, and the state bar association, denounced attorneys behind garbage suits like this? Hopefully, the legal system will throw it out before it reaches court -- although there's no guarantee, considering that the eenie-meenie-mynie-moe case against Southwest Airlines went all the way to a jury -- but that's not enough.

His colleagues in the legal community should take some sort of punitive action against any lawyer who files such a claim. After all, it is people like Wayne Ritchie and Terri Carlin who damage their reputation as attorneys.

Come to think of it, they do damage to our reputation as Americans. Maybe I should file a lawsuit on behalf of all of us -- against them!
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Followup: on Monday, February 9th, 2004, Ritchie and Carlin withdrew the lawsuit, with Carlin saying she believes she made her point. If her point was that there are people in this country with no life and nothing better to do than waste the court's time, then she's right. The notice of dismissal claims that she got calls and mail from supportive parents from across the country who wanted to join the class action suit. I doubt that's true, but if it is, shame on all of them. At least now the legal system has one less nuisance suit gumming up the works -- but the bar association should still take action against Ritchie for filing it in the first place.
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Naturally, The Smoking Gun has the legal paperwork for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, February 02, 2004

The Breast Super Bowl Ever

There's a scene in "Casablanca" where Claude Rains, the chief of police, tells Humphrey Bogart that his cafe is being closed immediately. When Bogart asks why, Reins replies, "I'm shocked, shocked to find out that gambling is going on in here!" It's at that point that a roulette croupier appears, hands Rains a wad of money, and says, "Your winnings, sir!"

It's a classic moment of hypocrisy.

So was the response by CBS, MTV, and the NFL to the controversy over Janet Jackson's breast being exposed during the Super Bowl halftime show.

The NFL released a statement, saying it was "extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show." Well, sure, when you go with an outfit like MTV, you expect to get nothing but class, right?

As for MTV, they're the ones who promised, in a press release just days before the big event, that the halftime show would include "shocking moments." Now they're shocked -- shocked, I say! -- to discover a breast was bared! That doesn't meet the sophisticated entertainment level MTV is known for.

CBS claimed that it had seen the rehearsals for the halftime show all week and had no idea such an outrageous thing would happen. Funny, they didn't seem to mind all the bumping and grinding by the half-dressed dancers and the crotch-grabbing by Nelly and others. That was CBS's way of making sure you didn't tune away to the Lingerie Bowl (which, ironically, contained less nudity than the Super Bowl!).

At least CBS had a fallback. They could have cut away to a spot for Levitra, the erectile dysfunction pill. Or Cialis, the competition, whose commercial included this remarkable line in its fine-print voiceover: "erections lasting longer than 4 hours, though rare, require immediate medical help."

Four hours? That's a long time, even if you are Sting. No man has gotten that excited for that long since Karl Rove dreamt that the Democratic ticket would be Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton. It's nice that the pharmaceutical company decided on a reasonable limit there. Two consecutive hours of arousal is nothing, you whiner. At three hours, check for your shadow. If you see it, it means six more weeks of winter.

Other Super Bowl moments lowered the bar, too. Anheuser-Busch, which in the past has produced some of the best and most clever advertising, should be ashamed of its 2004 effort. The commercial with the dog biting the man in the crotch was among the first to air during the game, and helped set the tone for the evening. Later, there was the farting horse, complete with gaseous sound effect. This is crude, cheap comedy, and it was unnecessary.

I'm not a prude by any means, but this was not appropriate for my nine-year-old daughter, who was watching with me. When her judgement is more mature than the adults producing so-called family entertainment, there's something amiss.

It wasn't just the makers of Budweiser caught in this avalanche of the lowbrow. Chevy showed kids getting their mouths washed out with soap for saying "Holy Sh*t!" The network cameras routinely returned from commercial breaks with obligatory sideline shots of skimpily-dressed cheerleaders dancing like strippers.

So, who raised the bar? Beyonce Knowles, for one. Her rendition of the national anthem was simply beautiful, the best since Whitney Houston. The shock was seeing Beyonce fully dressed, a departure from her usual fashion choice whenever TV cameras are pointed her way.

To no one's surprise, the makers of Tivo say that the Janet Jackson breast-exposure was the most-replayed part of the Super Bowl broadcast. It's been scrutinized more than the Zapruder film. If you examine the footage closely enough, over and over again, you can see her nipple going back and to the left.

Even the FCC is getting involved, calling for an investigation into how such an outrage could have been broadcast. It was merely coincidental that this announcement was made on the same day President Bush reluctantly agreed to appoint an independent commission looking into intelligence failures before the war with Iraq.

Janet Jackson's breasts have just been named Weapons of Mass Distraction.

Your winnings, sir!