Sunday, February 04, 2007


I always like to see the American Idol auditions, not because I am mean-spirited, but because it provides a fascinating window into how pop culture is assimilated and reproduced by a large cross-section of consumers. At least that's what I'm telling myself these days. In this vein, by far the most riveting piece was the first LA audition, in which a young man by the stage name "Eccentric" performs his own song.

Not included in the clip is the pre-audition interview with Ryan Seacrest, in which Eccentric explains his three trademark moves (seen in the video) as well as his name and the fact that he is a singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer, etc. That's the explanation you need. Because Eccentric -- who is arguably deluded, but not unintelligent -- has assimilated what he's seen of the pop industry and concluded, not unreasonably, that it consists primarily of establishing and managing a brand identity. In that light, it makes perfect sense that he develops trademark moves, a stage name, and a song in which he frequently name-checks himself.

Unfortunately, he's not equipped to manage a brand identity in addition to singing, dancing, choreography, etc. Few are (Madonna and Prince, perhaps) -- and for good reason, since we're talking about several very different fields with very different skill sets. Predictably, Eccentric goes for imitation rather than depth, simulating pop stardom for his imagined legions of fans.

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