Tommy can read, but he sure can’t sing Jacquie Brasher

by | January 26, 2005 12:00 am

Try as I might, I can’t seem to get away from some reality shows. I have books piling up on my side of the bed, unread and untouched, beseeching me to come to my senses. So, before all my brain cells completely fuse together into fudge, I’m going to write this thesis called “American Idol: Why Don’t Some Of These Kids Know They Can’t Sing?”

The fourth American Idol series premiered last week to huge ratings as usual. This time around, the producers have compiled 10 shows of unbelievably pathetic auditions by a vast array of tone-deaf contestants. I can only say that watching these auditions has strengthened my jawbone because my mouth is constantly falling open in mute horror. These clueless contestants have no idea that they can’t carry a single note. I don’t think they even know what “tone deaf” means. What’s even more appalling is that many of them insist to the judges that either their families or friends have told them that they sing beautifully. Which brings me to my first point:

Self-esteem. Apparently, a little of it goes a long way with American Idol contestants. They are practically oozing self-esteem from every pore. They were obviously raised to believe that they can carry a tune to please the delicate ears of angels from heaven, and woe betide anyone—especially a professional judge—who tells them that singing is not a talent they possess. And so, the question is, why are these people being told they can sing when they cannot? It would seem illogical that every person this contestant has come into contact with is tone deaf, so what is the explanation? Could it be that they have been—gasp—lied to all their lives? “Let’s pretend Tommy can sing. We don’t want to hurt his feelings, do we?” On to the next point:

Hurt feelings. To spare him his feelings, all of Tommy’s life he’s been told he sings like (insert name of every famous singer here) and is blissfully unaware. He hums off-key through life until one day, American Idol pops up and he thinks, “This is my big break. Hollywood, here I come!” Too bad for him, he doesn’t realize that the producers of this show are actually looking for musically-challenged people just like him to exploit for tons of money. Last year, William Hung managed to capitalize on his terrible singing voice and actually sold over 300,000 copies of his Christmas CD. Thing is, how many bad singers will we tolerate before the novelty wears off? Thankfully, Hung seems like a nice enough young man, which is more than I can say for some of these other off-key contestants who are obnoxious and arrogant. Next point:

Arrogance. So many of them come on the show exuding an arrogant self-confidence that renders them impossible to deal with. The Me-Generation has mutated into a monstrosity when it involves the attitudes of American Idol contestants. The truth is not what they want to hear. Their response to criticism is, more often than not, extreme anger, lashing out (usually at Simon, the caustic-tongued British judge) and a torrent of obscenities. Many of these contestants appear emotionally unstable and are deluded by their own perceived greatness. Which brings me to my next point:

Neuroses: I found the “Alderian theory” on the Internet, which fascinated me. Some of Alfred Adler’s theories (he lived from 1870-1937) have been incorporated into mainstream psychology. In Adler’s The Neurotic Character, he writes, “The general opinion (is) that the neurotic shows a number of sharply distinguished characteristics that are beyond what is normal. Great sensitivity, susceptibility, susceptible weakness, suggestibility, egoism, a tendency towards the fantastic and alienation from reality.” Sound familiar? He has also written, “The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge to conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation.” Which, wonder of wonders, accurately describes these contestants. And, ironically, brings the question back to self-esteem. If all their lives these contestants have been told they are gifted warblers, how are they now to believe they are not?

My only explanation is that their youth (contestants are as young as 16) and inexperience are to blame and that, hopefully, a little aging will do the trick. But, ultimately, my criticism is for the parents or guardians out there who are perpetuating the you-have-a-great-voice myth; they should wise up. If Tommy really can’t sing, tell him. And then gently steer him towards carpentry.—Jacquie Brasher is senior staff writer. She can be reached at

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