Monday, July 23, 2012

American Idol: The untold story

By Richard Rushfield

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.  

No, I am not a big fan nor a consistent follower of the program.  I enjoy watching it when the contestants are narrowed down to ten or so.  On one particular day in April, 2011, I watched the show (it featured rock-n’-roll selections), and I was shocked to discover that I enjoyed every song that was sung, and I thought that every singer had selected an absolutely appropriate song for their own vocal range and ability.  Even the judges were amazed and noted that it would be difficult for viewers to select one of the contestants for elimination.

Since I don’t follow the show religiously, I really don’t care who the eliminated contestant is nor do I care who the winner might be.  That is a casual interest if there ever was one.

I say all of the above for one reason.  Unlike some of the reviewers of Rushfield’s book, I am unable to pick out errors—unless they are misspellings, grammatical errors, or typos (which are obvious and a few are present).

Okay, as a non-fan, then, why would I even select this book for review?  First, I enjoy some pop culture, and this book certainly is all about a pop culture occurrence.  Second, I enjoy media events, and American Idol must be catalogued as a major media event.  Third, I delight in well-written material that reveals (to some degree) what goes on behind the scenes.  Rushfield certainly gets in behind the scenes.  Finally, fourth, I enjoy an entertaining read.  The interviews and stories are definitely entertaining.

There is so much here that is just fun.  The material is well put together, reads easily, and covers a great deal of territory.  From the back flyleaf, the background of Rushfield includes this comment: “For three years RICHARD RUSHFIELD covered American Idol for the Los Angeles Times writing hundreds of columns and conducting thousands of interviews with cast and crew.  He is currently an entertainment columnist for The Daily Beast . . . .”  Not only does his history of covering the show become easily seen, but his writing experience, too, is quickly revealed.

I loved the information on how the judges were initially selected, how Ryan Seacrest found his niche, how decisions about what songs were sung were made, various contestants views of the whole process (especially the exhausting rehearsals), and how the various aspects of the show came to be—the decisions that had to be made as well as the influences on those making the decisions.  Even the decisions about how to handle the voting because of the different time zones in this country was interesting to read.

One thing I wished from first opening this book, is that the chapter titles were more descriptive of what was included in the various chapters.  Some are obvious like “Creator,” but “Lightbulbs,” “Enter the Dragon,” “Pop Goes the Idol,” “The Crossing,” “Showtime,” “Once Upon a Time,” “The Exile,” “Goliah,” “Divas,” “Simon vs. Simon,” “The Anti-Christ,” “Detente,” “Ponyhawk,” “The Bubble,” Twilight of the Valkyries,” “The Pastor,” “Tweak House, “Leaving Idol,” and “The End of the Day.”  Most of these titles reveal nothing, and if a reader was interested in reading just a portion of the book (knowing little before delving into it), how would he or she know where to look from just these chapter titles alone?

This book isn’t for everyone of course.  Many will find it boring.  Many will have no reference base for the material.  Many, on the other hand, are likely to find it entertaining (as I did) and enjoy the insights and information.

American Idol: The untold story can be purchased at Amazon

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