Beautiful Losers

The name of the show is American Idol. So why is it the bad singers we love?

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear; Those of mechanics--each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong ... --Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

We haven't seen any mechanics yet at the American Idol fifth-season auditions. But there was a dental assistant. And a deputy sheriff. Twinsseveral sets. A husky-voiced Ukrainian chanteuse desperate for a performers' visa. The inventor of the Cosmic Coaster, a floating beverage holder. ("Center it!" he coached judge Paula Abdul as she set her glass teetering on the contraption.) A white guy who said he flunked the audition because America is "prejudiced and racist."...

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