Debate: In the future will all pop stars be chosen by a live audience?

By Jake and Glenn 

There's a disturbing trend slithering through the underbelly of American culture and it's not electing Republicans. It is that, but our focus in this debate is something less sinister and more annoying: audience interaction. When I was a kid, audience interaction was limited to children being pulled onto the stage to throw ping pong balls into a bucket during Bozo the Clown's Grand Prize Game. These days, the kids have been replaced with teens and they literally choose America's next pop stars. Perhaps teens and tweens are better at selecting the future of American pop music than the executives at Warner Brothers and Death Row Records, but even more perhaps: maybe they aren't. If you like children, tweens, teens, Death Row Records, pop music or American Idol, this is the debate for you.

Jake: When America faces civil war due to the rising price and scarce availability of gasoline, we will no longer have as much time to read gossip websites. Magazine will no longer exist. Even though radio will also no longer exist in its current form, people will still be able to listen to music on the internet. The musical artists and bands people listen to will be determined on a series of shows where contestants compete to be a musical legend and the audience "votes" using whatever replaces cell phones. With time being so scarce due to the civil unrest, we will have no choice but to worship the chosen one. Kelly Clarkson will be the president and it won't be safe to go outside while it's raining.

Glenn: The kind of America you describe seems almost as horrifying as the tea party we're about to collectively enter after this year's elections. I support democracy up until the point that it elects right-wing Republicans and chooses our pop stars in front of some stage in California. Think about the kind of shit that American Idol and its lesser spin-offs have given us. Kelly Clarkson is actually one of the least offensive of these choices as she has never been involved in a school shooting or committed a homosexual act during the American Music Awards. Certainly there has to be a place in this country for general populations to embrace or reject music artists. Who will select this audience who then in turns selects our musical heroes? Would a non traditional band like Pavement ever have a place in a country where audiences of teens select who they like the most? The answer is no.

Jake: Pavement barely has a place in our current music scene. A bunch of 45 year olds playing songs about conduits being for sale, is hardly what's thrilling today's transgender hungry audience. For every Pavement there is a Lady Gaga. Do we really want those to be our children's only choices? No, I'd much rather have my son listening to Rubin Stoddard than a new Built to Spill album (mostly because their new albums are an embarrassment to their legacy). If the way my kid can find out about these musical acts is to literally choose them on a TV show then so be it. While my America sounds like a dystopia, I would have to say that your America is the one that sounds the bleakest. We can't have our children trying to decide what to listen to on their own. I was allowed to do that when I was 11 and I bought The Chronic by Dr. Dre.

Glenn: I'm not saying 11 year olds should dictate what we like. When I was your age I had the Chronic on cassette too - in fact it was one of the first tapes I owned! My conservative father bought it for me with the hopes it would turn me off of rap forever and it worked...almost. But what if people like him (by him I mean Gary not Dr. Dre) comprised a studio audience who then voted on the musical acts we all had to enjoy? Sure we'd have Garrison Keillor and perhaps some obscure bands from the early 60s, but mostly it would be Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity doing their schtick while America's ears bleed and brains melt. If Lady Gaga can have success in a normal market place of music, that's lovely. I think there should be more songs written about how men are inadequate lovers and that's why I try to give women material for inspiration. I just don't want to live in a world where some studio audience chooses Lady Gaga as the next big act and so the rest of us have to go on some sort of gender reassignment cruise with her as the star performer.

Jake: I don't see what Rush Limbaugh has to do with music. It's just another ham-fisted attempt by you to take a swipe at conservatives. We're talking about a serious issue and you just want to do an Al Franken routine. If the world wants me to listen to Clay Aiken, who am I to argue with them? Sure, I might not be a homosexual, but if Jesus can blast the gay out of you, I don't see why Clay couldn't blast it into you. If the Supreme Court was made up of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Ellen Degeneres and Kara Dioguardi, I think America wouldn't be in the trouble it's in right now. If they tell me that Adam Lambert is worth listening to or that Ellen is funny, then how can I even argue? I can't and I won't and in the future none of us will legally be able to.

Glenn: What you are talking about now is nothing short of the end of free speech. Let's throw out the Bill of Rights! Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity say every day that we already are. I guarantee you that in 1991 no studio audience would have voted Nirvana or Pearl Jam, the two best bands to EVER exist, as the new "approved" musical artists. They would have continued to support shit like Michael Jackson and Bananarama. I've never even heard a Bananarama song but I know I hate them. Their name has "banana" in it! In a perfect world I would be okay with a studio audience choosing artists for the rest of us to like but not the American Idol studio audience, or any other audience for a mainstream television show. These people are cretins. If you want to walk into a hipster bar and then ask THOSE people to choose who we should all be forced to listen to, then you might have a deal. Even though it means nothing but Mindless Self Indulgence for the rest of our lives.


  1. This is who Glenn wants deciding our musical futures: INDIE CLERK ASSHOLES!!!

    I cant believe i found that video! it had been removed on so many sites!

  2. American Idol has some functions of a democracy - the popular vote by the audience; the free opinion of the press and the full advice of experts; the only thing it is missing is a judge veto over the audience to protect oppressed minorities both ethnic and genre.

  3. The judges are like the British House of Lords and the "judging" part of the program is like Prime Minister's questions.

  4. Haha! If only the debate were as spirited as Parliament Question Time (American Idol's, yours was very spirited!)

  5. The real voting takes place through the power of your wallet. If Clay Aiken has 7 million people buying his albums and Adam Lambert only has a few thousand, the verdict is that Clay has an audience and Adam doesn't. Who are we to argue with that?

  6. anonymous, who are you and how do you know so much about clay aiken?

    glenn, i'll pay you $17 if you can find me a hipster who listens to mindless self indulgence. or if you can send me a list of gary's album collection.

    jake, congrats on the son!@

  7. Hahaha @ the Aiken troll! It's not my taste of music but Clay Aiken seemed like a sweet guy. I've never seen Adam Lambert.

  8. These are all people Katy is bringing in.