If you’re anything like me, the only reason you ever watched something like American Idol is the fact that it practically begs you to form irrational opinions of complete strangers for a few hours a week, and to brew the ridiculous opinions for months until they boil over and you flip back over to complete and total apathy by the time the finale comes around. If, however, you’re unfortunate enough to be like me and you’ve managed to watch entire seasons of Idol, then I’m sorry, because it hasn’t been that fun, until now. This season, one man’s ridiculous antics brought a tired show out of the doldrums of its old age and unleashed an element of pure fun that was missing in the first place.
As you can probably guess, I’m not a ridiculously dedicated Idol fan. I like the contestants and I’ve enjoyed the journey, but I certainly view it as an entertainment experience, rather than a serious vehicle to fuel my veracious need to form opinions about people I will probably never actually meet. And now, I’m inching closer to becoming an actual fan. How did this happen? I think I have an idea. And now, to mark the fact that the season is coming to a close, here is the breakdown of how I learned to enjoy American Idol and why Steven Tyler is completely responsible for that almost incomprehensible fact.
1. Animalistic screaming may erupt at any given moment
Tyler is a bit of a wake-up call on a show that I don’t think held up much without at least a little personality to carry it because he’s constantly having fun and we know it. When he hears something he loves, it’s obvious because he starts screeching or yodeling like Xena: Warrior Princess, and often times it’s his reaction that’s more entertaining than the singers themselves.
2. Out with the mean, in with the crazy
Another thing I love about Idol’s favorite rock star is that he’s completely nuts. When Idol made the announcement that Simon Cowell would not be returning this season, I too thought the show was going to nose-dive into obscurity. I thought we needed Simon to help reinforce our harsh opinions of the singers we didn’t like and that we needed his presence to heckle when criticisms were hurled at our favorites, but now that we’ve entered the age of Tyler, I can see the error of my ways. We were confusing being harsh with providing entertainment. Tyler’s brand of insanity is simply entertainment and for me, when I’m watching a show like Idol, the less gravity, the better.
3. He gets us with those insane one-liners
The only reason I made it through the audition process, which usually gets old for me right around midway through, is because Tyler added something hilarious to every set of contestants and most of the time, it doesn’t make any sense. Rather than describe the sorts of things he said, I’ll just give you a few of my favorites:
“Well, hellfire, save matches, fuck a duck and see what hatches.”“That’s the goop great stuff is made from.”“I’ve never heard anybody squeeze that song, but you squeezed it so slow it sound liked vanilla fudge singing ‘Eleanor Rigby.’”“You don’t look a day over fabulous.”“One hand clapping!”“Coach, did you ever paddle his ass?”“Dawg’s gonna turn into a pussy cat here.”“What’s with those joo-joo-bies on your oo-oo-bies.”“You oughta be arrested for that voice…you have handcuffs?”
4. He’s basically the full embodiment of the little voice in my head at any given moment
I honestly think Steven Tyler has no inner monologue. He just says exactly what he’s thinking. As I’m sitting on the couch, watching auditions or performances and thinking something awful or snarky, he comes out with something like, “Your outfit was slamming and I really liked your voice….JOKING,” and I die laughing because someone actually said it. Sure, it’s not nice, but when has American Idol ever been nice?
5. He makes uninformed technical comments and probably has no business judging this competition, but most of us don’t care anyway
He latches on to musical-sounding words like “musicality” or “melodic sensibilities” or the completely Tylerian “isms and wasms” and uses them in all the most nonsensical ways, yet we still get where he’s coming from. That’s because for the most part, the average viewer doesn’t know about these technical issues. Most viewers know what they like. They don’t pick up a Rihanna album because they’ve analyzed her pitch and tone and they’ve decided that she’s worth listening to. They pick her because they like her. That’s why when Steven says someone’s “isms” are amazing and it essentially means nothing, a lot of us are on board, because when it comes down to it, we just need to know that something about that was awesome and we want to hear more.
6. His scandalous and uncomfortable commentary keeps it interesting
Okay, so I know some parents are probably not stoked about this bit. I get that. Idol is a family show and when Steven lets loose telling 16 year old girls they’re showing the right amount of skin and letting one contestant know how attractive her lips are or spewing double entendre or flat-out cursing on television, people get upset. I, however, found this little game of waiting to see when Steven would say something he shouldn’t wildly entertaining and it is supposed to be an entertaining television show, isn’t it?
7. Steven makes it okay for the judges to be useless
Tyler either loves everything, hates it vehemently, or does this little dance around the piece that doesn’t work for him. Essentially, he doesn’t really have a point of view; he’s just all over the place. So how is his commentary helpful? Well, in truth it isn’t actually helpful in developing an opinion, but that is exactly how it aids the show. The mundane commentary from Jennifer and Randy combined with Tyler’s infinitely entertaining insanity allows us to ignore the judges completely. It helps us find a place where the judges are little more than fun little lampposts in between performances. They’re like that jar of coffee beans they hand you in perfume shops to cleanse your palate before you sniff the next fragrance. Randy and Jennifer lull you sleep, then Tyler is like a swift kick that preps you for the next voice, but they have no real bearing on our opinions and I think that makes the competition a lot more interesting, considering that our opinions are the ones that matter and most of us were never listening to the judges anyway.
8. It’s hard not to love him
It really is. On that note, let’s end on one of my favorite Steven moments featuring one of our finalists, Lauren Alaina.