Well, America, 2010’s first round of schadenfreude, courtesy of Fox, has finally come to pass. Wednesday night, the second aired episode of talent competition American Idol introduced a nation hungry for distraction from the destruction in Haiti and the late night wars to General Larry Platt.
The 62-year-old contestant auditioned in Atlanta with an original composition entitled Pants on the Ground — lyrics: “Pants on the ground / Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground” — that is just as ridiculous as it sounds. It’s a high energy performance, though, and Platt genuinely seems like a nice guy, albeit one who doesn’t quite recognize that he hasn’t been invited to perform because he stands a real chance of making it into the next round of the competition. (In fact, he was never even eligible — the show’s age cut-off is currently 28.)
Pants on the Ground is notable because it’s the first real viral hit from the season so far, one that not only has penetrated YouTube with over four thousand illicit versions, but other shows.
For example, last night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Fallon covered the song in the guise of Neil Young, complete with harmonica interludes. And the 96.1 Kiss FM Morning Freak Show put together a remix that actually transforms the song into a pretty tight hip-hop track, proof that a solid bassline makes all the difference in the world.
However, as potentially entertaining as this rising meme is, I can’t help but find it depressing. Much like William Hung, whose cover of She Bangs made him famous but also made him the laughingstock of the nation, any success Platt receives from this appearance will be tainted by mockery.
There’s value to American Idol‘s championing of young singing talent during later rounds of the show, but the early audition stage of the competition — where you’re far more likely to get some screen time if you’re willing to completely humiliate yourself on camera — frankly just makes me feel dirty. So don’t look for me to complain here about the fact that the American Idol website is poorly designed, or that it’s hard to pull up functioning embed codes for videos. I’ll save that for later, when I’m able to stomach watching the show.