My friends and I have been infected with a dangerous disease that poses a terrible threat to the Eastman and UR communities. Outbreaks of this disease usually occur in January, though there was a large epidemic two summers ago. This disease is American Idol syndrome, and if you’ve been in any of the TV lounges at Eastman within the past two weeks, you may be at risk. I became infected while watching Fox’s “American Idol” last January with my hallmates. Last year, we would religiously pour into the lounge at 7:55 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Within several days of my first “American Idol” experience, I found myself singing such classics as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “A Moment Like This.” I would like to take this moment to apologize to everyone who heard me sing. This uncontrollable urge to belt horribly out of tune melodies was only a symptom of my illness. I was lucky to have identified my symptoms early on. Many of my friends were hit much harder than I was, progressing into the advanced stages of this disease and purchasing Kelly Clarkson CDs and downloading past episodes on KaZaA.And so, as I sit in my room waiting for the next episode like a heroin addict waits for his or her next fix, I have been thinking – how can something so bad feel so good? Without a decent gimmick or any originality, Kelly, Rueben and Clay are just another group of wannabe divas. Sure, everyone wants 15 minutes of fame, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s well-deserved. The best part of “American Idol” is not the contestant’s performances, but rather the criticism they receive from the judges.Former pop star Paula Abdul congratulates each and every Idol contestant on his or her “fantastic” performance each week. How appropriate that one of the most manufactured singers of the 80s and 90s would be there to judge Kelly and her pals. Randy Jackson’s comments tend incessant use of the word “dawg” reminds me of the middle-aged women I see in the mall that dress in pleather skirts from Rave. His attempts to be cool cause him to lose his credibility and to just be plain annoying. Finally, there is the infamous Simon Cowell. The nasty British record executive, has zero tolerance for bad music. He callously berates singers on everything from their weight to the way they look.And then there is the fourth judge. Any true “American Idol” fan knows that the viewer is the fourth judge. Everyone has fun cheering for his or her favorite contestant and ripping apart the others. And of course, like clockwork, at the end of every episode we all have the state of popular music address. At the risk of sounding like an old man, I remember the good old days. The days before Britney and TRL, when pictures of Nirvana adorned the walls of kids’ rooms instead of N*Sync. These were the days when music was written by musicians and it didn’t take dance moves to sell an album. I know that my friends and I are not the only ones who feel this way. It’s not that today’s music sounds so terrible, it’s just that it isn’t genuine. Before Clarkson’s CD came out, producers said that they were not even sure which musical style would take – whatever proved to be most successful in their focus group testing. No doubt everything from Kelly’s wardrobe to the way she styles her hair will be tested, evaluated and changed to meet the desires of her audience.Whatever credibility and talent she may have had before the show was destroyed by producers looking to make a quick buck off of her fame. After having her voice digitally adjusted, her CD was released and of course went multi-platinum. She released a movie with runner-up Justin Guarini and went on tour. In a year or two, she’ll disappear. Having no role in her own success, she’ll fade away, only to be replaced by the next American Idol. The contestants need to look no further than the judges’ table to see where their futures lie. After some brief success and too many Coke commercials, they will be cast away into the world of VH1 “Where Are They Now” specials. Until then, we, along with the rest of America, will continue to eat them up.Gorode can be reached at

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