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Pop career or public torture?

I’m not an Idols fan. The seemingly endless weeks of elimination rounds, public voting frenzy, teary-eyed wannabe pop stars going back home to whatever little dorp they came from … it leaves me cold.

However, I must confess to being fascinated by the initial auditions — the ones that are replayed incessantly on the Idols channel on TV. The number of people willing to embarrass themselves on national television is almost too good to be true. (And, of course, in the case of the hapless Cliff Jennings, it wasn’t.)

Sure, some of these are clearly there for their 15 seconds of fame: usually the extroverted ones, often with silly costumes. They are not daunted by the judges’ no-votes; their time on TV, however fleeting, is enough satisfaction.

But then, oh my. The multitudes who shuffle shyly into the audition studio, in appearance more alike to Gordon Brown than Bobby Brown, and then proceed to destroy a pop song more than any cheap dance remix ever could. And when the judges shake their heads in disbelief and Randall Abrahams throws in a well-deserved, biting comment, a look of utter horror and disbelief flashes across these contestants’ faces. Some argue angrily; some might need several therapy sessions just to deal with the shame.

Now, were I to audition for Idols (which I wouldn’t, because I know my singing is best left unsung), I would at least ask for honest comment by trustworthy friends or family members. A logical precaution, I’d say. But maybe the winking lights of the stage and the supposed fortune to be made from a pop career are just too alluring to ignore, even when one sounds like an old Pop Shop music tape that’s been lying in the sun too long.

This is what fascinates me: that so many youngsters are so taken, even obsessed, with the possibility of fame that they are willing to subject themselves to such public torture. To make it even worse, their nightmare auditions end up as viewers’ favourites, hauled out for ridicule over and over. It’s sad and a bit like slowing down when driving past an accident scene, but hey, it’s also something to watch during ad breaks on other TV channels.

And when the auditions give way to the monotonous elimination rounds, I can take a break until the final, which is the only other interesting bit to see. We can just hope that this year, the winner will be more of an idol than Anke (how’s Bloemfontein, dear?) and last season’s Karin Kortje (who?).