Share ideas that inspire. FALLON PLANNERS (and co-conspirators) are freely invited to post trends, commentary, obscure ephemera and insightful rants regarding the experience of branding.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The fraud of American Idol

Anthropologist Grant McCracken has an interesting take on AI:

"After all, there are moments when watching AI where I find myself wondering what decade this is. No one has chosen a song penned in the 21st century. Indeed, as Randy, Paula, and Simon are often moved to observe, clothing and makeup choices often seem to harken back to another time. This is my way of saying that American Idol is a lie and perhaps even a conspiracy. It appears to be crafted to give the impression that American culture remains a mass culture, that happy time when every thing was known to everyone (see the post on the "death of destination television).

This is the "big brand" approach to contemporary music. Covington is an Eagles imitator. Daughtry is a road house rocker. Ace does Motown. My favorite, Elliott Yamin, a guy who looks endearingly like George C. Scott, covers Stevie. The girls, generally, are anyone anyone wants them to be as long as it leaves them several decades out of date.

As we have noted here before, the great fluorescence of cultural invention that is taking place at the moment has certain structural effects, some of them predictable, some not. Predictably, it drives a plenitude of musical production, a fragmentation of consumer taste and profusion of long tail markets. Unpredictably, it creates a flight to the higher ground of broader choice.

So much for the notion that the center will not hold. The fluorescence of our culture at one end is forcing a new coherence at the other. There are several benefits of this development. One of these is that we are left with an impression that really this a mass society, that nothing has changed. And it's a very veritable impression. Forty million viewers. God in heaven.

I can think of several institutions that will buy the lie. The business schools will say, "listen, American Idol is proof that we do not have to let contemporary culture into the curriculum. It is business (school) as usual." Several brands, famous for the cluelessness, will also insist that American Idol is a license for complacency."

No comments: