As you may have heard over the weekend, Nicki Minaj is the newly crowned winner of American Idol.
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Did that sentence make sense? No, of course it didn't. Because, let's face it, (1) Nicki Minaj could never win the competition and (2) because Nicki Minaj is actually an American Idol judge, not the winner. Honestly, though: Could you ever see her winning the competition? Honestly? Before I hear anger and rage for making this blog primarily about bashing Ms. Minaj, let me just say, that isn't the point. Personally, I believe she is a very talented lyricist. However, to say she is well-prepped to be one of the judges of a singing competition is an overstatement.
First off, let's just put the American Idol show in context. It is a televised competition displaying the most-talented, undiscovered singers fighting to be crowned the "best singer in the nation"—the American Idol, if you will. So my question is, in a competition that's known for pitting the most-talented singers in the country against each other, does Nicki Minaj have any right to judge any of them?
Ms. Minaj is not the first in the line of confusing American Idol judges. Joining her are the likes of both Paula Abdul and the one and only Ellen DeGeneres, who literally looked even more confused in front of the camera than the country felt watching her. Ellen had an exception, however; both Abdul and Minaj get the chance to give each contestant a vote to move on to the next level of competition, while, when Ellen came along, she only had to throw in her 2 cents and let the country decide whether to keep the singers in the competition.
But does Nicki Minaj have any sort of right to crush a singer's dream of becoming a star? It's not that Minaj has no talent; as I said, she's a very talented lyricist. However, that isn't enough; past judges of the initial auditions all had something to contribute to the critiquing of each contestant. Let's list them all:
1. Simon Cowell—Simon had been a music producer for a long time before he did Idol, not to mention he created the British X-Factor and produced both X-Factor and the American Idol competitions.
2. Randy Jackson—Randy is also a music producer, not to mention he's been in the music business for years, even going on the road with the band Journey.
3. Paula Abdul—Although it could be argued that Minaj is in the same light as Ms. Abdul, the circumstances are different, as Abdul has 30-plus years working as a singer, producer, and dancer in the industry. Even if Abdul weren't the most talented of singers, she knew what she was talking about when it came to stage presence and putting on a show. Ms. Minaj tries, but she's so new in the industry she's never really had a mind-blowing live performance.
4. Kara DioGuardi—DioGuardi is a singer-songwriter, record producer, music publisher, and a composer. Although she may not have a lot of experience with stage presence, she definitely had enough behind-the-scenes technology to know what the industry is looking for in a fledgling performer.
5. Steven Tyler—OK, so he's definitely not one of the most stable choices in the industry, but there's no question that Steven Tyler has or has had talent. He knows the darkest and lightest parts of the industry and could easily tell whether or not a contestant had what it took to really do anything for their music.
6. Jennifer Lopez—J. Lo has been nominated for multiple Grammys, not to mention she's had seven successful albums and even a film career. J. Lo knows the entertainment industry better than most.
7. Mariah Carey—Not many can argue Mariah Carey's talent, not to mention the multiple Grammys she has won for the multitude of albums she has had over the years. Carey boasts one of the most successful careers the music industry has ever seen.
8. Keith Urban—Urban has a very strong and passionate fan base, often playing sold-out shows and winning five Grammys. True, not actually an American, but when it comes to a competition based on singing talent, he's definitely qualified.
Long list, right? All of these people have either had a lot of experience in the industry, a lot of awards, was a PRODUCER of the show, or was very familiar with performing with stage presence (we can't all be winners, Paula). So, what does Nicki Minaj have that gives her the same sort of qualifiers to judge these singers during the initial auditions? True, her new album has some bits and pieces of her singing, but it is masked so much by her auto-tuning that we as listeners can't even make out which voice we're supposed to listen to.
Perhaps it is her stage presence; though that is doubtful, as during a lot of her performances she often stumbles through the words of her own songs and basically just walks around the stage trying to get the audience to "sing" with her. She has been nominated for a few awards, but has not won enough to be considered an accomplished artist (yet). So, by process of elimination, it must be her experience, but I'm not seeing much of that based on the research I've done—it seems as though she's only been an active part of the industry for a few years.
So, America—or, uh, Patch-ians—I'm confused. Minaj does not have the stage presence, witnessed singing talent, or the experience to tell someone whether he or she is a good singer. Will she offer insightful inputs in the critiquing of the contestants? It's hard to tell. But at this point, I feel that from a cynical perspective that the producers of American Idol only put Minaj on the panel, not for her talent or experience, but for her knack for making the headlines. It is a depressing viewpoint in relation to the American Dream for fame and fortune, but unfortunately, this seems to be the only perspective left to view the show for what it has now become: a scam that preys on America's inability to separate reality from the fabrication of Hollywood.
For Idol, Minaj is just another way to get back into the news. Unfortunately, getting back in the news could cost Idol both its credibility and the hope it inspired in a generation of American singers.