MICHEL MARTIN, host:
Can I just tell you? Every now and again, when I have something on my mind, I like to talk about it in a commentary. Can I just tell you? I tried to be the one person with nothing to say about "American Idol". I really did. It has become a cliche. Anybody with access to a computer and/or a microphone has to weigh in on "American Idol," about whether Simon is too mean, whether Paula is too dumb. What it says about American society that more people voted for the Idol one year than for president. Yackity yackity yackity. You know what? I give up.
I give in. To use a phrase much in vogue right now, I have a surrender date, and it is right now. "American Idol" is taking over the world. We should all just go with it. I tried to resist it because I like to think I am too cool to follow the crowd. I refuse to read books recommended by Oprah - unless of course they're really good. And I stopped watching "The Sopranos" after they shot - what's her name? Christopher's girlfriend for talking to the FBI. That was just too much. Although I did read on a Web site he finally got his this season. Hmm. About time.
Now I don't follow the trends - or so I thought. I first knew I was in trouble when my three-and-a-half-year-old twins started making microphones out of cardboard tubes and their shoes so they could perform.
Sure, I could blame that on my babysitter, an Idol fanatic. But still. And then there was my niece. She actually left college one weekend and camped out at one of the big auditions. See, this was a girl who had gotten so much attention for her voice at a young age that she had stopped singing. She didn't get very far in the auditions, but she loved it. She had a great time. And she does sing again, occasionally, on her terms.
Then I noticed "American Idol" was actually a good way to explain things to people. When I was interviewing people and I would ask them about whether people might still block vote in the presidential campaign, they'd stare at me blankly until I started saying things like, Reuben or Clay? And then they'd go, oh, right.
So that's when I decided it might be okay to like "American Idol". It's the only place on TV where real people sort of rule. Yes, it's probably bogus, but you don't have to be model skinny. You don't have to have perfect teeth to give Diana Ross her props. Simon is mean, but as my babysitter points out to me, sometimes there really is only one winner. And he generally tells the truth. Everybody doesn't make it. But even if they don't make it on Idol, they make somewhere. Clay Aiken was a runner-up, but he is doing fine.
And it's international. A global talent show. Yes, it's a British import, but Americans have made it their own. There's a Spanish-language version, which I sometimes see on in the cafeteria at lunchtime. So I give, okay? I give.
"American Idol" really does have everything - diversity, democracy, second chances. It's like life, dammit.
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MARTIN: And now it's time to board the Money Train, our summer financial series on how to get and keep your finances on track. Remember, we're looking for three listeners to tell us more about their money issues.
Listeners like Indy(ph), who writes: When I got married, my husband's family backed out of paying for their part of the wedding to the tune of $9,000, which went on yet another credit card. Then he decided to have an affair two years into our marriage and now I'm divorced, with all of that debt. Ouch.
Our money coach will help listeners like Indy and you get their finances on track. Tell us your story. Call us at 202-842-3522. Again, the number is 202-842-3522. Or visit our blog at npr.org/tellmemore.
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