April 4, 2012 at 11:13 AM ET
Our long national nightmare is over. Heejun Han was voted off “American Idol” last week, thus restoring the show to the super-serious competition that it should be.
At least that was one message communicated on the show over the past few weeks, as the judges and mentor Jimmy Iovine were visibly irritated at Han’s irreverence. It was all capped off on Billy Joel week, when Han apparently disrespected “My Life.”
Of course, it's not like “My Life” is a soulful power ballad or song with a great deal of meaning. It’s hard to see how a song like that would require the need for seriousness. (Although it’s possible that’s what Steven Tyler thought, since he didn’t seem all that familiar with the Billy Joel songbook).
But the implication was clear. Han wasn't giving the competition the proper gravitas, and though he corrected himself last week, it was too late to save his “Idol” chances.
This feedback, of course, came from judges who are all about the quips. Tyler, who was the most obviously offended, has replaced Simon Cowell as the king of the one-liners. For example, when he told Joe Magrane that things were “hot, humid and happening … just like your daughter,” it seems unlikely Magrane got the impression that his teenaged daughter, Shannon, would be in a competition with something akin to the atmosphere at Julliard. Not exactly an example of a judge taking his role seriously.
He’s not the only judge to show some irreverence -- just look at how Randy Jackson dresses, for goodness sake. Nor is the “Idol” brand serious when the judges are silent. Look at the Ford music videos that air every week. Do those clips look like they're done by serious minds?
Han definitely was a comic-singer hybrid. “Idol” gave him that storyline, based on all the audition footage of him cutting down one of his group-mates and being self-deprecating on camera. He was smart to keep that up as long as he could, since he had a better shot of winning by being funny and likable than he did for his vocals.
And it’s no injustice that he got voted off when he did. To suddenly criticize him for his jokes, however, is a double standard. First, because that’s how “Idol” sold him initially, and second, because that’s how everyone else around him was acting.
It's not hard to see why Iovine wasn’t a fan. He’s quick with the cracks himself, but he has to sell the winner’s records and get radio play. It’s understandable that he would skewer someone he thought could only contend by being funny instead of singing well, since personality may not translate in the recording studio.
But the judges? Come on. They might say that it’s a singing competition, but that’s not entirely correct. It’s a TV show. It’s all about entertaining the audience. If it were just about musical ability, the show wouldn’t spend so much time reminding us that Phillip Phillips worked in a pawn shop and Skylar Laine is a country girl who shoots things.
And the judges and Ryan Seacrest know that. They keep things light when they can because the audience likes to laugh -- depending on the performer -- more than they like to actually hear the vocals.
There were plenty of reasons for Han to go. But not taking it seriously? Really? The judges should look in the mirror and recognize the double standard there.
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