Kanye West – Auto-Tune Idol

When I learned that none other than Kanye West would be on American Idol (the U.S. equivalent of X Factor) this week, my mind boggled. Was Kanye actually going to be a mentor? Past celebrity mentors on various genre-specific themed episodes of Idol have included Dolly Parton, Barry Gibb, Neil Diamond, Burt Bacharach, Gwen Stefani, and Stevie Wonder, so ‘Ye would certainly be in good company if that were the case…but then again, all of those people can, you know, actually SING. Kanye giving vocal pointers to this season’s American Idol wannabes would only be appropriate, really, if this week’s theme was Auto-Tunes Night.

Additionally, this live show would probably end up being broadcast at midnight, because Kanye would show up at least three hours late. And of course Kanye’s such a bastard he’d likely alienate most of the contestants, so that the one finalist who didn’t quit and walk off the set in a huff would end up winning American Idol by default.

As it turned out, Kanye merely performed on the results show–filmed at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater (site of the Oscars) just down the street from my L.A. home–“singing” his latest single, “Heartless.” And it seemed richly ironic that after hours of rather heartless critiques this season from Simon Cowell and his fellow judges–during which they’ve berated the contestants for their pitchiness and wonky notes, and constantly reminded all participants and voters that “this is a singing competition”–a man would take the stage who sounded so very, very bad even WHEN PERFORMING TO TRACK, or even WHEN LIP-SYNCHING.

Let’s face it, Kanye may have appeared as the marquee guest on Idol this week, but if under very different circumstances he’d entered Simon’s audition room as a nobody and delivered this sort of vocal, the only way he would have 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 tops the U.S. charts and Britney Spears lip-synchs her entire Circus Tour show and no one is even bothered, Kanye’s atonal vocals don’t even seem that out of step with the times. In fact, the importance the judges so earnestly place on the American Idol hopefuls’ actual singing capabilities–minor stuff like their ability to hit high notes, not run out of breath, stay in key, stay on the beat, etc., etc.–almost seems downright quaint, and not a little archaic.

Why don’t the producers just get on with it, and pick the contestant with the most marketable face/body/haircut and A-list star quality? Surely if that contestant can’t, you know, sing all that well, that’s nothing Timbaland or one of the Neptunes can’t fix with ProTools, right?

Anyway, that being said, this week on AmIdol Kanye–always a thrilling performer, this much is true–did exhibit plenty of A-list star quality. He hopped up on the judges’ podium, he dropped dramatically to his knees, he fondled his privates, he wore some really cool sunglasses, and overall he was more exciting than most of the amateurs competing on this show.

But it’s probably a good thing that he didn’t mentor any of those amateurs after all, because NO ONE else on American Idol would get away with a performance like this:


(For more of my guilty-pleasure reports on reality telly, check out my other blog, Reality Rocks.)