It may be a bit late in the "Tuning In" series to reveal this, but, like some music critics, I watch Fox's American Idol. I still follow it even though the past few seasons have been lackluster. I caught the end of the first season, which Kelly Clarkson deservedly won (cue "Since U Been Gone" and rock out), but remained a hold-out for a few years until my partner got me following Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice's season four tête-à-tête.
However, I have a love-hate relationship with the program. Many of the contestants bore or irritate me and the winner is often not who I'd choose. It also frustrates me that the competition can seem a bit racist. The wrongful ousting of Tamrya Gray and Jennifer Hudson make this evident, as did Jordin Sparks's season six win, which came after darker-skinned contestants LaKisha Jones and Melinda Doolittle were voted off.
In addition, I think the show needs to end. Simon Cowell is leaving. Episode premises and possibilities for new mentors have been stretched. Idol Gives Back continues to bloat on its own self-importance despite its purported altruistic intentions. I've also seen far too many Ford music videos (though I did perk up when last season's group did a rendition of Lykki Li's "I'm Good, I'm Gone," as my synapses fire when indie and mainstream music culture coalesce).
This season has left me with little to latch onto. In a season that's been defined by artists packaging themselves as hipster- or indie-friendly, the majority of these contestants have demonstrated for me how disappointing it can be when underground music is co-opted by the mainstream. That many of these bland artists were pretty white women with little staying power is even more disheartening. Ellen DeGeneres has offered some perceptive advice. There have been a few noteworthy guest performances, including Lady Gaga's pared-down "Alejandro" and Rihanna's "Rock Star," which made me want to teach her how to actually play the guitar. Beyond that, there's the lone female contestant in the top three who I hope takes over the title on May 26th.