Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to sing the U.S. and Canadian national anthems before Game 3 of the NHL play-offs between the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers over the weekend, but his microphone malfunctioned. He couldn’t be heard.
The estimated crowd of 18000 took over, and sang both national anthems. They really belted out “The Star Spangled Banner” too. Now that’s being a good neighbor.
Would a US crowd so enthusiastically croon “O Canada”?
Way back in March, long before the 2011 edition of American Idol had winnowed its hopeful singers down to the final thirteen, 17-year-old Scotty McCreery earned an Ethics Hero here by bravely taking responsibility for the mistreatment of another contestant in the group segment of the audition process at a time when the judges seemed to be in the mood to make someone pay for it. The incident has been forgotten, but it showed Scott to be a young man of unusual integrity and courage. Little did Ethics Alarms realize that he was also the singer to beat, and nobody beat him. Last night, he was crowned the American Idol.
Fame and fortune changes people, as we all know, and too often for the worse. Still, McCreery’s prospects of holding on to his core values look strong, because his character looks strong, and everyone, whether or not they follow American Idol and whether or not they groove to Scotty’s milieu, Country-Western music, should applaud the entry of a talented and ethical young man into the popular culture.
Congratulations, Scotty. In March we knew you were good; we didn’t know you were this good.
“American Idol’s” group portion of its winnowing process always is the most fascinating chapter of its yearly saga, as the singing competition briefly shifts into full reality show mode. I’ve never been convinced that it was a fair method to judge aspiring singers who were competing as solo acts, as it frequently results in superior vocalists being dumped because they couldn’t sing harmony, learn choreography and lyrics under pressure, or play well with others. I know you have to get that mass of ambition and ego reduced to 24 people somehow, but group day is the equivalent of throwing darts at a dartboard.
It makes for great ethics scenarios, though. The format guarantees it, as the contestants have to form groups of four or five in a cruel process reminiscent of choosing sides for pick-up baseball games, guaranteeing that some people will end up feeling like the fat kid who always gets chosen last, if at all.
Last night there were several featured ethics dramas, with the judges, as they have been all season, being less than consistent in their responses to them. Continue reading →
Pop songbird Christina Aguilera has been ridiculed and condemned in every forum imaginable for botching the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl. The last time a performer got this kind of abuse for a National Anthem performance (not counting Roseanne Barr’s infamous crotch-grabbing, off-key screeching of the anthem to begin a San Diego Padres game, which was not so much a performance as a clinical demonstration of what boorishness looks and sounds like) was when the late Robert Goulet massacred the lyrics before a national radio audience to introduce the Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston Heavyweight Championship fight. The incident haunted Goulet the rest of his life, although he was a good sport about it.
As with Goulet (he was Canadian, for heaven’s sake!), the condemnation of Aguilera is not merely unfair, but ignorant. Continue reading →
The British show that launched “American Idol,” X-Factor, admitted that it had used Auto-Tune, an audio processor that corrects a singer’s pitch and tone. An 18-year-old contestant named Gamu Nhengu sang just a little too well in the show’s seventh season premiere, and fans and critics started hinting at conspiracy on the web, especially via the show’s Facebook page. Finally, a spokesman for “X-Factor” confessed that Auto-Tune was used to fix disruptions caused by the many microphones used on stage during the telecast, but that the judge’s decisions were definitely based on the actual, non-Auto-Tuned performances of contestants. The show’s producers, he assured the public, only used the processor to “deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers.”
I’m sure that is true. This is exactly the reason TV executives rigged the quiz shows in the 1950’s. It is the reason why TV reality shows are scripted, and why NBA stars get away with game fouls that referees call against lesser players. Any competition’s entertainment value is enhanced by better competitors and more suspenseful action. The problem is that once spectators know or suspect that they are being manipulated, they stop watching at all. The fact that Simon Cowell’s UK hit would use the device immediately roused “American Idol” conspiracy theorists, and Cowell to immediately announced an Auto-Tune ban. Continue reading →