Random Thoughts: No need for an ‘Idol’

Great music can be found far from the realm of TV singing contests

For millions of viewers, this Wednesday and Thursday night was a second Christmas. Their most-anticipated present, a new season of "American Idol”, rolled out.

You know the drill by now. A couple of weeks of showing additions, the standouts lauded and the amateurs exposed, followed by months of whittling down the remainders until the winner is revealed, just in time for the end of May sweeps - with literally thousands of product placements along the way.

It’s been a decade since ‘Idol’ hit American shores, Simon Cowell and all, and it’s lasted long enough to outlast Simon and ingrain itself as the place where casual fans turn for their music fix.

And I’m not the least bit interested.

Aside from proving a cash cow, what ‘Idol’ (and for that matter, ‘The Voice’, ‘X Factor’ and other spin-offs and rip-offs) does is turn music one-dimensional. Bands, rhythms, grooves, melodies and instruments are immaterial. Guys and gals with a mike get the glory. Nothing else counts.

The whole irony of the ‘Idol’ era is that it coincided with my rediscovery of music, sort of a second education where learning was found not in textbooks, but in something where, like with literature, the more you study, the more you pick up.

Above all, the primary lesson I got was that, when it came to the performers I cared about, no matter the genre, those that put the music first always won out. That meant avoiding most things mass-produced, and anything ‘Idol’, and searching for something deeper.

Maybe the epitome of his mindset is a band I just recently started listening to intently. Two guys from Akron, Ohio, named Dan Auerbach (singer, guitars) and Patrick Carney (drummer) that bill themselves as the Black Keys.

For a decade, the Keys have been busy bringing back real rock and roll. It’s not about volume. It’s about killer backbeats, instantly memorable guitar riffs, droll lyrics, attitude and, best of all, a real appreciation for music’s roots, especially the blues.

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