Posts filed under '“So You Think You Can Dance”'

Why So You Think You Can Dance > American Idol

It's like the whole Fame high school tried out!

I used to watch American Idol, but not So You Think You Can Dance. I thought SYTYCD was one of those filler shows used as an alternative to dead air during the summer. Now, I feel myself going the other way: I look forward to So You Think You Can Dance, and fast-forward my way through the majority of Idol.  So You Think You Can Dance is clearly the better show, and here’s why:

The dancers originate the numbers. When Idol is at its very, very best, a contestant takes a song that I don’t like very much, re-imagines it, and actually improves upon it. I estimate this happens 1% of the time or less. More often, they’re trying their best to do justice to a song while not being as great as the original (if they’re any good at all). On So You Think You Can Dance, the performers are the original. They’re not a pale imitation of another artist, and it makes a big difference. I don’t know much about the world of dance, but I’ve heard that the choreographers they use on the show are actually respected in the industry. The best songwriters working today obviously don’t spend their time writing new songs for the contestants on Idol to sing each week. They don’t even spend their time writing one new song for the finale—that’s why KaraDioGuardi had to do it. (Zing!)

Paula Abdul is not on it. It pains me to be so mean. Like every child of the ’80s, I have affection for “Cold-Hearted Snake” and “Opposites Attract,” and I wish Paula no ill will. But the woman cannot judge. Mostly, she just restates what the other judges have said, but in more words. Kara took a lot of flak this year, but at least she can put together a cogent thought. I usually disagree with that thought—why would she think that anyone wants to hear that One Republic song again?—but she can actually articulate an idea. Actually, to be fair to Paula, since Randy never says much of value either, I’d say that the judging on So You Think You Can Dance is better all around. Even the crazy judge—Mary Murphy—knows a lot about ballroom and seems to scream like a wild woman or not scream like a wild woman based on actual merit.

Good dancing is good dancing. Good singing can still make bad music. This may be where my ignorance of dance is So You Think You Can Dance’s gain, but, to me, the talent is just better on that show. I could be wrong, but they look like well-rounded, all-around great dancers. Idol, on the other hand,  seems to specialize in seeking out singers who are only good at singing on American Idol. That is, they’re technically proficient but in a regimented, Top-40-pop kind of way. My favorite musical artists don’t sing this way, and I’m guessing that unless you love Jason Mraz that your favorite band doesn’t sound like Kris Allen, either.

It’s just more fun to watch. When they do group numbers on So You Think You Can Dance, it’s not to sell gas-guzzling American cars. They’re legitimately interesting large-scale dances. They also dance as partners, then split up the partnerships, so there are little mini-dramas stuck in-between the larger drama of the competition. But even without all the peripherals, watching people dance on TV is just inherently more interesting than watching them sing. Don’t believe me? Check out this “Bollywood” routine from last season (the real dance starts 1:11 in):

Photo Credit Glenn Watson/FOX ©2009 Fox Broadcasting Co.

3 comments May 27th, 2009


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