Reality Check: The Tone Deaf Take Center Stage on 'American Idol'

Despite the fact that I used to own a karaoke machine and have been religiously singing along to the "Dreamgirls" soundtrack I downloaded last month, you have my word that you will never, ever find me at an “American Idol” audition. Because, you see, I am completely and thoroughly tone-deaf.

I believe this is an important fact to clarify since, judging from the show’s two-hour premiere, I’m just about the only tuneless person not rushing out to display my lack of talent to Simon, Randy, Paula and the world.

It would be easy enough to write off all those who made our collective lampshades shatter on Tuesday night as pranksters willing to do just about anything to be televised.

Who else but a delusional fame-seeker, after all, would dress as an “urban Amish,” rush out of the room halfway through the song for a sip of water or growl-sing like the lion in "The Wizard of Oz" on the biggest show in the world?

Sadly, the worse the performances, the more genuine the people seemed.

I hope for their sake that it was all in good fun, but I fear, based on the tears shed, it wasn’t.

Still, one thing is certain: the American public has a seemingly endless appetite for viewing this kind of humiliation.

And it’s not like I’m all sweetness and light — I’m more Simon than Paula, as anyone who’s ever read this blog can surely attest — but I have to say that I find the freak show genuinely painful to watch.

The kids, the dreams, the parents, the tears — my God, isn’t adolescence and early adulthood hard enough without having to make a fool of yourself on national television?

All of which is to say that the moments I appreciated the most were the unintentionally amusing ones, like Simon’s ephemeral obsession with a girl who could only sing on key when her boss (who’d flown her out for the audition) was standing in front of her and Ryan’s defensive horror when a saucy gal named Perla — who seemed to win the judges’ support through her personality rather than her pitch — called him short.

Of course, I can’t help but love it when they find those diamonds in the rough. This time, it was all about Denise Jackson, who not only had the tragic background, voice chops and attitude to embed herself in public consciousness for good, but also had the good sense to belt out a “Dreamgirls” song! Now that’s a girl after my heart.

And not just because I could close my eyes and pretend it was me up there.

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her first novel, "Party Girl," is coming out in June 2007 from HarperCollins.