Why Idol Auditions Are Packed With Bad Singers

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The next season of American Idol is four months away from airing, yet it's still on readers' minds. Yesterday, an MSNBC column posed a particularly good question about about an infamous part of the show: The really, really bad singers who populate its early audition footage.

Why does American Idol waste people's time by putting people through to the next round of auditions that obviously can’t sing? This is so frustrating to many viewers, who are drawn by the notion of -- crazy as it sounds -- picking the best.

Moreover, why do people waste American Idol’s time by standing in line for days just to make an ass out of themselves?

If you’re talking about the eventual finalists, and not the talent-less singers, the question makes an interesting point. Many fans of CBS' Rock Star cite the level of talent as one of its primary attractions, and the implicit corollary is that the talent on American Idol is weak.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not sure how valid that theory is, seeing that perhaps the most talented Idol contestant yet, Chris Daughtry, was rejected from Rock Star.

Ultimately, the real answer is that American Idol has never been solely about talent. It’s also about creating spectacle and drama, and creator Simon Fuller and his producers are ultimately out to make a TV show. Four years ago, the audition segments were what hooked the entire nation on American Idol, and since then, the parade of idiots continues to draw massive ratings... not to mention idiots who try out next season.

Even when Idol selects people who can sing, those people need to be uber-talented, but also charisma also plays a huge role.

How else can you explain the likes of Bucky Covington and Scott Savol? Yes they can sing a little (even a lot), but they're characters. American Idol is a business above all else, and needs people that fans can gravitate to. If no one watched the early episodes in which people in cow costumes shrieked the national anthem, or raged at Simon Cowell for not recognizing their implicit genius... those kind of episodes wouldn't be on.

But they are. And we watch.

In closing, there are only two words: William Hung. The genial kid from Berkeley (pictured above) couldn't sing a lick, but he parlayed his horrible voice into three albums, a movie, an appearance on Fox's comedy classic Arrested Development, a bevy of commercial contracts and a truly frightening level of fame.

He started it. No-names with no discernible talent the nation overlooked saw Hung and thought to themselves this happen and told themselves, "Hey, I also have no vocal talent to speak of! But I, too, would like to have a large quantity of money and fame handed to me."

Hard to blame them, in a way. While it's unlikely anyone can recreate Hung-style craziness this January, that doesn't mean thousands won't try.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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