So I watched World Idol with SA tonight, and was very happily surprised that it didn't suck. I was mostly afraid that it would be heavily Ameri-centric, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It was taped on the UK's Pop Idol set and featured that show's hosts (who are exactly like Seacrest and Dunkleman, minus the annoying and plus cooler accents). In segments that I assume were different for each country in which the show aired (they appeared to have been taped separately, with an obvious laugh track and poorly-edited reaction shots of the audience and judges), they even made fun of Americans frequently, mostly our overall ignorance of any culture outside our own.
...Which was interesting, considering that ten of the eleven contestants sang songs from America and Britain, even on the clips from their own Idol shows. One clip from Germany featured "99 Luftballons," but that was a hit here too, and the Norwegian contestant was shown singing "Hunting High And Low" by his countrymen Ah-Ha, but even it was in English. The one non-English performer was a Jordanian girl with a lovely voice, but as her style of music was so massively different from the others', SA and I had a hard time judging her in comparison. We were also told by the hosts that she'd won Pan Arabic Idol "singing traditional Arab folk songs," which would seem to take the "pop" out of Pop Idol.
Anyway, the other brilliant thing they did was create a point system to account for the differences in each voting country's population. Even better, they prohibit viewers from voting for their own country's contestant. This means Kelleeeeeeeeee (tm Shack) doesn't have the unfair advantage I'd assumed she would.
That said, Kelly's was the best voice I heard tonight, but she has got to cool it on the self-indulgent vocal tricks and, more importantly, fire her makeup artist. The girl (always so classy and gorgeous on her season of Idol) looked like a drunk raccoon hooker.
A close second vocally, and leagues above the other men, SA and I were both big fans of Kurt, the Norwegian. He's ugly as sin (the Australian judge said he could easily win Middle Earth Idol), but has incredible stage presence, and was one of the only performers to rise above the karaoke track to make his song his own (he sang the shit out of U2's "Beautiful Day").
Mostly, I thought it was interesting how similar these people from all over the world are to our own Idol contestants -- though most of them wouldn't have won here. There was Heinz, from South Africa, amazingly beautiful with a fine voice, but so bland he makes EJ seem like an electrifying performer. Guy, the Australian, was like Jim with Justin's hair (though a far better singer than both). Alex, from Poland, is punky and spunky like Nikki, but, if possible, a worse singer with an even worse song choice. Alexander, the German contestant, shares AJ's bizarre dance gesticulations. Canadian Ryan is a slightly straighter Clay. Kelly and original Pop Idol winner Will are the only ones who've been around for more than a year and have their albums out, and success seems to be leading them both down the same road of amazingly bad hair choices.
I'm fascinated by how quickly this phenomenon has spread throughout the world. All these Idol clones have come out in the last year. One of tonight's contestants only finished his local show five weeks ago. I guess I wish they had some more local flavor. Except for the language on the logo (otherwise identical to our own), the clips they showed of the international Idols were completely interchangeable, down to the song selections and bad lighting. Why aren't the Germans singing Falco? Or at least David Hasselhoff. I suppose there's at least some comfort in knowing that this time it's the Brits, and not Americans who are to blame for infecting the world with the lowest of our pop culture. I'll take solace in that while I eat my Big Mac.