Reality Rocks - Archive

Kanye West, Auto-Tunes Idol

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

When Ilearned that Kanye West would be on AmericanIdol this week, my mind boggled. I was more confused by this prospect thanPaula Abdul is when she mixes up her medications. Was Kanye actually going tobe a mentor? Past celebrity mentorson various genre-specific themed episodes of Idol have included Dolly Parton, Burt Bacharach, Barry Gibb, NeilDiamond, Gwen Stefani, and Stevie Wonder, so 'Yewould certainly be in good company if that were the case...but then again, allof those people can, you know, actually SING. Kanye giving vocal pointers tothis season's American Idol hopefuls would only be appropriate, really, if thisweek's theme was Auto-Tunes Night.

As itturned out, Kanye merely performed on Wednesday'sresults show, "singing" (and I use that term loosely) his latestsingle, "Heartless." And it seemed richly ironic that after hours of ratherheartless critiques this season from the judges--during which they've berated the contestants for their pitchiness andwonky notes, and constantly reminded all participants and voters that"this is a singing competition"--a man would take the stage whosounded so very, very bad even WHEN PERFORMING TO TRACK, or even WHEN LIP-SYNCHING.

Let's face it, Kanye may have appeared as the marqueeguest on Idol this week, but if undervery different circumstances he'dentered Simon Cowell's audition roomas a no-name nobody and delivered this sort of vocal, the only way he wouldhave ended up on American Idol would've been in a bad-audition blooper-reel montage.

Of course,in an era when the vocoder-dependent (or is that voco-dependent?) T-Pain topsthe charts and Britney Spears lip-synchs her entire Circus Tour show and no oneis even bothered, Kanye's atonal vocalstyle doesn't even seem that out of stepwith the times. In fact, the importance the judges so earnestly place on the American Idol contestants' actual singing capabilities--minor stuff like theirability to hit high notes, not run out of breath, stay in key, stay on thebeat, etc., etc.--almost seems downright quaint,and not a little archaic.

Why don't the Idol producersjust get on with it, and pick the contestant with the most marketable face/body/haircutand A-list star quality? Because surely if that contestant can't,you know, sing all that well, that's nothing Timbaland or one of the Neptunescan't fix with ProTools, right?

Anyway,that being said, this week on AmIdolKanye--always a thrilling performer, this much is true--did exhibit plenty of A-list star quality. He hopped up on thejudges' podium, he droppeddramatically to his knees, he wore some really cool sunglasses, and overall hewas more exciting than most of the amateurs competing on this show. (I'd rather watch him sing badly than watch ScottMcIntyre sing badly, for instance.)

But it's probably a good thing that Kanye wasn't a mentor after all, because NO ONE else on American Idol would get away with aperformance like this:

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