In defense of DeGeneres

I understand the pain behind giving something your all only to see it rejected, but after numerous American Idol seasons, I can only take so much of the same. At least things were slightly spiced up last night as Ryan Seacrest told the viewers that the moment that millions of fans have been waiting for with pent up breath has finally arrived — Hollywood Week.

Ellen DeGeneres took her rightful seat at the table of judges that for the last eight seasons has crushed contestant’s dreams and made others’ fantasies a reality. DeGeneres has made a guest judging appearances on other Fox reality programming such as competitive dance show So You Think You Can Dance?, but the point of her presence on Idol — besides comic relief — still eluded many. In a rare serious tone, however, DeGeneres lessened skepticism–mine included–by explaining to the participants that although she lacks musical experience, she understands the pressure of entertaining a crowd and being on stage. Perhaps with this perspective, she can critique the stage presence that gets contestants the furthest besides singing talent.

Indeed, when you are competing against hundreds of contestants to be in the top 12 finalists and then are engulfed by the difficult feat of getting viewers to dial-in and vote for you, you need to have that extra something else. Ellen’s involvement and success in Hollywood equip her perfectly to share insider tips, despite having released no number-one hits. Though I feel she cannot properly judge dancing techniques, she still possesses valuable information about how to hold the attention of an audience–how to entertain. Despite her sincere confession, Ellen’s humorous personality thankfully remained intact throughout the rest of the show. At one point she teasingly told a participant that he seemed like a leopard behind a cage and that there’s a line between “sexy and scary.” Although laced with humor, the comment makes a valid point. When it comes to the world of entertainment, it’s less about what feels right to you and more about what appeals to the audience.

Surprisingly, the cookie-cutter format of the show satisfied me in one respect — there was not too much emphasis on Ellen’s jokes and in the end, I started to forget her presence. After all, the majority of the attention should be on the performers, those average people who somehow gathered the courage to get on a stage in front of four judges and countless viewers watching the television screen. After so many seasons, I found myself unable to disentangle myself from the popular reality show. After all, it showcases the power of music to alter lives and bring together people from a myriad of backgrounds. After one female contestant delivered a melodic performance with her guitar, I found myself clapping from the dinner table.