in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Monday, October 01, 2007

Busted Flush (how [not] to polish a turd)

We’ve all caught ourselves doing it at some point, always much, much too late. You think you’re on a winning wicket. You’re the wiggling, jiggling, singing, whistling, version of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character on the prow of the Titanic. You’re barking ‘I’m the king of the world’ at the sky. At the time you were thinking: ‘I’m the shit. This is the shit.’ Now, you look back and think: ‘I was (full of) shit.’ The busted flush, ladies and gentlemen. ‘You can’t polish a turd’, as the saying goes. But the thing is, you wouldn’t if you knew you were doing it. This is the living tragedy of the turd polisher – you buff and you wax and you think, ‘Gee, this is pretty good. I’m pretty good. She’s pretty nice. These people are all friendly, talented, and not at all manipulative, talentless and evil.’ Nobody knowingly polishes a turd. And this is exactly why there’s so much turd polishing going on, and why the whole sticky, stinky process involves people so much. For so many people, a what might seem to you or I like a sticky date with the less than magic pudding could be a dream date with destiny, fame and fortune.

Every week, Australian Idol brings into our homes condensed samples of what a ‘polished performance’ looks like, performances that could be either pungent or poignant, depending on where you are in the polishing process. Australian Idol is all about offering the world the most ‘polished performance’ possible. But of what? Think of any of your favourite singers, the ones who have something truly great about them. Or any that have personality. Or that are just odd. Kate Bush, Björk, Joanna Newsom, Cat Power – all famous for their weird and wonderful voices. And none of them would make it past the casting. And they can sing at least – what about Bob Dylan or Lou Reed? Idol is practically a turd polishing machine, a guaranteed, patented process that week by week, in countries all over the world, whittles its specimens down to a finished product that is both incredibly polished and undeniably shit.

Celine Dion is the quintessence of this idea – her accumulated work is a veritable backlog of the unspeakably awful, all sung with enough polished perfection to shatter every crystal on board the Titanic. It’s actually hard to be that shit, if you’ve ever tried. Celine is so good at being so bad that her lung busting chords would stretch even the most adept karaoke buff, leaving them virtually prolapsed, gasping and spluttering for air and octaves as their rendition of ‘the one about ship going down’ sinks into the mire. Dion’s most famous work is associated with Titanic, and this is no coincidence – especially given that Dion would not only easily win Australian Idol, but that she is in every way the exemplary specimen, the very thing they’re all looking to emulate and exceed. As far as Idol is concerned, she’s the shit.

The successful Idol contestants, like Dion, will be doomed to a lifetime of sitting in their mansions polishing their trophies, those gold-plated reminders of their prize nuggets whose gleaming, steaming presence makes them wonder how on earth people listen to wretched shit sung by people who can’t. Probably they’re so rich they can employ someone to polish their awards for them, allowing them to focus on the release of their new fragrance, which their fans will (of course), buy and spray all over themselves, hoping that a little of that magic will rub off on them. And no doubt a bit of it will. Ah, the sweet smell of success.

(M by Mariah Carey)

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PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.