For weeks, our weekly indignity parade “Are You Smarter Than A Rock Critic?” has been putting our writers at an unfair disadvantage, asking for the intimate details of long dead and gone artists like The Clash, The Doors and Metallica [yeah, no sic]. In response to the overwhelming demand for something new and contemporary, we bring you the most of-the-moment question humanly possible. We asked 17 music writers:
How many of the eight remaining American Idol finalists can you name?
This had better damn well be as easy as finding a wrinkle on Steven Tyler. American Idol is pretty much the last remaining piece of music-related monoculture we have–the only TV show to be number one for six consecutive seasons, responsible for 18 Hot 100-charting singles. Just typing the words “American Idol” into this post doubled our traffic for the day. It’s pretty much the only link between snooty metropolitan music editors and actual teenagers besides “hating Justin Bieber” and “oversharing on Facebook.” Not knowing your Idol should, hypothetically, be like a sportswriter being too self-important and into “emerging things” to write competently about the Los Angeles Lakers.
We once again cobbled a consortium of 17 professional and semi-professional rock critics, all given the usual rules:
1. I will not identify you AT ALL, so it is OK to be wrong. [We will say that our esteemed panel edits magazines, websites, and alt-weeklies. They have written for pretty much every outlet you’ve ever heard of, from Rolling Stone, Spin, and Billboard to Twitter.]
2. You can’t use Google.
Will our panel recognize our pitchy pals? Correct answer and results below, dawg!
The correct answer: Casey Abrams, Lauren Alaina, James Durbin, Stefano Langone, Jacob Lusk, Scotty McCreery, Paul McDonald, Haley Reinhart
Out of 17 polled:
Critics that knew all eight finalists: 1
Critics that knew between one and three finalists: 6
Critics that couldn’t name any finalists at all: 10
Most correctly answered finalist: Casey Abrams
Reasons given for knowing Casey Abrams: Did “Smells Like Teen Spirit”; pretty
Least correctly answered finalists: (four-way tie) Lauren Alaina, James Durbin, Scotty McCreery, Haley Reinhart
Selected reasons people gave for not knowing this stuff:
• “It is not in my particular job description at the moment”
• “I haven’t watched on episode of that show since Kelly Clarkson won season 1”
• “Stopped watching after the Anoop season”
• “I just watch the auditions now”
• “I don’t watch that shit. I’m a grown-ass man”
• “I just know there’s a scary Seth Rogen-y fellow who sang ‘Teen Spirit'”
• “The only thing that could have gotten me to watch this season is if Steven Tyler couldn’t stop himself from swearing or promised to rhyme everything”
• “Its questions like that that make me glad I have a day job career too”
• “I don’t even get network TV”
• “Fuck that. I draw lines, Chris. I’m not one of those music writers who can successfully project being really entertained by stuff like American Idol”
Ouch. So should we be concerned that so many writers don’t know anything about the most popular thing in our universe? Or just mad that the kids don’t like the Hold Steady and Ariel Pink? Either way, I think we can all agree that this one guy who did his audition as a working Transformer is totally, totally awesome.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 8, 2011