The human slush pile

I’ve talked about American Idol before, but it was on last night, so it deserves a passing mention.

As I sit here and watch the people filter through, I just keep thinking of all the query letters agents receive, and wonder if American Idol is really just a human slush pile.

There are the truly clueless, the people who can’t sing worth a lick, who are barely sane, and who flip off the camera when the judges say it’s not for them.

There are the bad, the people who just don’t KNOW they’re bad, but they’re willing to get up there and face criticism. These are the guys and girls who slink off the stage, looking a little downtrodden, but not slinging the F-bomb at the judges.

There are the average. People who were probably in the choir in high school, and maybe their mom told them they could carry a tune. Nothing special, nothing bad. Average. But hey, this is a competition, and average isn’t going to get you anywhere. These people might have a shot, if they pay their dues.

There are the above average. Sometimes these people get to Hollywood. These are the people who have shiny hair, a nice smile, and a glimmer of talent hidden under some tarnish. They might make it, they might not.

There are the almost-professionals. The people who prove, again and again, that they deserve to be on that stage. They rise to the challenge. They take the criticism with an attitude of Bring it. And then they bring it. These are the people who end up competing for America’s vote.

Then there’s the winner.

What kind of singer are you?

What kind of writer?

The hell with a match. Hand me that flamethrower.

Let me preface this by saying I am not a reality TV junkie.

My husband, however, is. Blame him.

American Idol is the current show of choice in the Kemmerer household. This year, I’ve noticed several contestants singing a song made popular by someone of the opposite gender. A girl might sing that insufferable Jason Mraz song, I’m Yours. A guy might sing Bubbly by Colbie Callait.

You know what happens? It’s new. It’s fresh. It’s different.

And what’s amazing is that it’s effortless. It’s unexpected, so even a mediocre guy singer came across as being far more impressive than the seventeen year old blonde girl who sang Love Story by Taylor Swift. Poor imitation? Uh, yeah. When people call this a karaoke competition, that’s the kind of crap they’re talking about.

Writers talk a lot about finding something FRESH! and NEW! Well, there’s just not a whole lot of fresh and new running around. Especially when there’s a whole lot of tried-and-true sitting on the shelves in front of us. You can’t help but want to imitate. It’s human nature.

But no! We have to be innovative! We have to be original!

Then there’s the tendency to blow past all convention. Great? No. You get something way out there. No one can relate. It’s like the people who write their own bizarre songs and then sing them in the audition, or people who wear freakish outfits to get attention. No one gets it. It actually makes people uncomfortable.

“Fresh and new” really has nothing to do with “bigger and better.” It’s about tiny tweaks. Subtle shifts. Something unexpected about something very comfortable.

Like the average guy singing Bubbly. It just works.