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The Last Music Stars: Modern Talent Shows

Talent show
Talent show
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Since the 20th century gave us more musical icons than we will ever want or need, the over abundance of new age talent shows is ironic given the sad state of the music industry. The lack of cultural parity and inclusiveness of any and all genres began with American Idol, but it has since morphed into a TV production monster in which the stars are the shows themselves that are carried by the judges and not the talent.

Of course, they hold little chance of ever discovering an American original since they are more concerned with style than substance. So much so, that offspring America's Got Talent turned into a carnival freak show where music acts are now often a prime time afterthought. With the best they can hope for a perpetual onslaught of karaoke cover song contestants with no new material, the show had to branch out to attract better ratings.

Curiously enough, after a century of historical and timeless music inspiration to draw from, these shows only reward a few types of singing like R&B grunge and country pop. This makes them all sound and look like a Groundhog Day of missing musical exceptionalism. The fact that great music from the past is never out of vogue perhaps never donned on producers who usually fill the tryout ranks with hipsters and very few throwback singer songwriters.

What such limitation does is exclude or segregate certain ethnic music which winds up being token celebrated by a musical guest star who must bare his or her songbook sung by millennials who only know how to belt out soft pop tunes that require more depth, subtlety or humility. The result is often interchangeable victors who tend to fit into a production package box but don't stand out well enough to have a career beyond oldie cover songs.

Those who compete and come out at or near the top are treated to a mediocre contract tour while the judges make more in a season than featured talent will ever hope to make in their lifetimes. This discrepancy in compensation reveals that the modern talent show business model is less concerned with discovering superstars than it is in promoting a brand name showcase that is bigger than those who vy for its cheap brass rings.

Granted, there are stand outs who have managed to carve out a following. But the musical tone and staying power of their careers are juvenile in scope and one can't imagine their famous shelf life lasting generations like greats and legends gone by. To reach the level of notoriety of a populist entertainment icon, one can't be a hard bad ass clone who is a reflection of a music industry that has still seen its best days in the rear view mirror.

In the days back when judges made scale and the best act won a fat check and a confetti finale parade, a talent show was a stepping stone. Fun staples of pop culture like the Gong Show and Star Search weren't taken seriously because they were entertainment novelties and not showbiz institutions. The old school idea being that musical fame and fortune was a dream aspired for and worked at that could not be won or lost in a talent show.

Judging from the glitzy ad promos of the`latest overdone talent show extravaganza, Singing Star, we seem to be in for much of the same. Whether it opens up and is more inclusive of real people and classic music like foreign versions remains to be seen. To root for it to do so is to hope for a music biz comeback that is tolerant of all sounds. If the show respects ear candy baby boomers were lucky to grow up with, let the mature taste jury decide.

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