I understand the idea that Idol is supposed to be finding fresh-faced young talent that's undiscovered, but isn't the idea of that supposed to be that you give somebody a chance who's desperate to get one? If it is, I have to point out: you know who's more desperate for a chance than somebody who's never been given one? Somebody who's been given one and had it blow up miserably right in her face. Come on, what's more inspirational than a comeback tale from somebody who's already failed once? Isn't that the American dream, even more than being randomly discovered at a soda fountain? Can a serious case be made that discovery is any greater to see than rediscovery?
Unless you are enormously naive, which you are not, you know perfectly well that the fact that Carly Smithson flopped with her first album could -- and probably does -- have more to do with the fact that she was turned over to incompetent middle-managing nitwits who didn't know what to do with her talent than with the fact that she was untalented. Is that the story Fox is going to go with? Probably not. Is it inspirational for them to take potshots at the stupidity and short-sightedness of a music industry so fundamentally inept that it couldn't turn this beautiful, talented girl into someone capable of selling more than 378 copies of her album? Of course not.
The fact is that Carly Smithson is a more inspirational story than they're telling you. She is potentially being rescued by 19 Entertainment from...an experience very much like what people believe is the worst side of 19 Entertainment. Of course they're not going to present it this way, that one record company has already squandered her talent so royally that she wound up anonymous after $2.2 million was blown on marketing her. They're not hiding the fact that this is her history so you'll like her; they're hiding the fact that this is her history so you don't think about the fact that being the subject of a huge marketing push -- like Taylor Hicks was, like Katharine McPhee was, like Ruben Studdard was -- isn't enough to make you a star. The show's mythology is that a record company taking you under its wing is the same as becoming a star; her story proves that's not the case. Her previous failure to launch interferes not with the image anyone is trying to present of her, but the image they're trying to present of themselves.
This has nothing to do with "she's not undiscovered, and thus we've been snookered." This has to do with the fact that she is exactly the kind of person whose resurgence is so against-the-odds that it's much closer to the actual image of what this show is supposed to be able to accomplish than is the story of some spoiled brat who's been singing in county fairs up until now but has never seen the actual seedy parts of the music business.
When people questioned her teariness, I was stunned. Of course she's the most teary! She's the most shocked. She's the most keenly aware of the thin line between success and failure.How do you think it felt to have everyone counting on you, whispering in your ear that you were going to be a success, pouring money into your future greatness, and then selling 378 copies of your record? There is nobody in this competition, it seems to me, who's more equipped to know what it is to scrape the bottom of the hopeless barrel than this girl. This is potentially a great story. A great story. I saw her referred to somewhere, quite derisively, as "leftovers." Is it really true that the record industry is so good at capitalizing on talent that anyone who wasn't successfully marketed by one company and one company's marketing team can be dismissed as undesirable, somehow second-class and second-rate, for life?
There's no scandal here. She is undiscovered. She's undiscovered instead of non-discovered. First she was discovered, and then she was un-discovered, and her odds of ever being discovered again were a damn sight worse than the ones that were facing Katharine McPhee after she, per Wikipedia, had won a local L.A. theater award as a pretty young belter. There's nothing to complain about. Idol is fundamentally dishonest, yes, but not because of this. Here, they want you to believe that she -- like all the rest of the contestants -- is somebody who could really use a break, and it's exactly true.
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