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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
US Idol sticks to formula
Will Young
America hopes to discover another Will Young

American Idol: the Search for a Superstar follows the same format as the UK original with Simon Cowell acting as the straight-speaking head of the judging panel.


I really believed that when I came to America we would find an extraordinary talent.

Simon Cowell
He is joined by 1980s pop star Paula Abdul and veteran music producer Randy Jackson.

The show, which is broadcast on the Fox network, offers the now familiar mix of pretty boy wannabes and feisty Mariah Carey look-alikes.

"I'm going to do something which I think is going to be a shock to the American public," explained Cowell.

"We are going to tell people who can not sing and have no talent that they have no talent. And that never makes you popular."

Cowell's prediction that he would be making few friends was soon realised - during the show's first audition session in Los Angeles.

'Didly squat'

One woman, angry at being rejected and told that she needed singing lessons, stormed out of the room.

Simon Cowell and Cat Deeley
Simon Cowell (left) has upset some contestants
"That British judge on the end, he's an ass and he can kiss mine. He don't know didly squat," she protested.

Another singer told the panel he wanted to be someone's product.

"I want you guys to recreate me," he said.

Cowell's response: "This is a pen, not a magic wand."

Speechless

After a particularly excruciating rendition of Lady Marmalade by one would-be idol, all Abdul could manage was a sharp intake of breath.

Jackson said he was speechless while Cowell suggested the women get a lawyer to sue her singing teacher.

Paul Abdul
Paul Abdul is on the judging panel
But there was also genuine talent on display. There were particularly rich pickings from the auditions in New York.

One performer, Kelly, impressed Cowell with her version of Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You.

"When we did the show in London it was a huge success," he said.

"I really believed that when I came to America we would find an extraordinary talent. And I think we have with you. We talk about the x-factor. You have a capital x."

Shocked

Justin, another New York hopeful, prompted Cowell reluctantly to admit: "The American talent is probably better than the English talent."

"Oh my God," responded a shocked Abdul.

Cowell continued, telling Justin: "Occasionally you're very privileged when you do a competition like this to hear somebody who's undiscovered with a voice like yours and this is one of those moments."

At times Abdul and Cowell clashed angrily. The US star took exception to her outspoken British colleague for being so blunt with his opinions.

There were plenty of tears - mostly out of despair - and the odd moment of genuine emotion.

One boy explained to the judges that his parents were both deaf and would never hear him sing.

He performed Nat King Cole's When I Fall in Love and signed the words for the deaf at the same time. He made it through to the next round.

'Bitter'

Initial reaction to the show, in internet chatrooms, has been largely cynical.

"Is Simon Cowell bitter because America isn't buying Britpop these days?" asked one reviewer.

"Did these people really ask Paula Abdul to help pick the next pop star?"

In fact, the presence of Abdul, prompted the suggestion that rather than picking the next big superstar, American Idol may be more about picking the next one-hit wonder.

Nevertheless, the show was beautifully voyeuristic and at times hilarious.

With the ultimate prize being a recording contract with RCA and a date at Hollywood's Kodak theatre, it is bound to gain momentum as audiences latch on to the concept.

See also:

11 Jun 02 | Entertainment
10 May 02 | Entertainment
29 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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