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American Idol: Accidentally Telling the Truth

It’s not about whether you hit the notes or not, if the passion is there. —Steven Tyler, giving away the game in a rare (semi-) honest review of Phillip Phillips’ singing.

In a moment of perhaps unintentional candor, American Idol judge Steven Tyler committed a gaffe, defined as accidentally telling the truth. Phillip Phillips’ performance of an overblown 1970s power ballad, Bob Seger’s "We've Got Tonight," proved, as usual, that he can’t sing. He sat, inert, on his stool, straining and struggling to hit even the limited high notes in this song. The performance was so boring that, at one point, I thought he was going to fall into a deep sleep and topple off the stool. On the final note, he grimaced and strained as his voice wandered around like a drunk trying to hit the urinal, finally settling on more or less the right spot but not before leaving a mess all over the floor. He’d been assigned the song by mentor-in-chief Jimmy Iovine, and at first I though that he’d been sabotaged, given a song that was sure to sink him.

And then what happened? The judges gave him a standing ovation. What!? Did they hear the same performance I did? They lauded him for his passion. Passion? He slept-walked through it. They said he’d had a “moment”—whatever that is. (I’ve had similar “moments” after a night of heavy drinking.) And then came Tyler’s bit of truth-telling. Yeah, you didn’t hit the notes. You rarely do. But, hey, this is only a singing competition. Let’s make up some bogus excuse about “passion” to make sure this year’s American Idol ends like so many others, with a mediocre WGWG (White Guy With Guitar) beating out some truly talented singers. On results night, the only suspense was whether Jessica Sanchez or Joshua Ledet would be the sacrificial lamb. Alas, it was Joshua.