Some years I watch American Idol, and some I don’t. This year, Hubby wanted to watch it so we started at the beginning and we’re still watching. And I have to say, after Hollywood week where I thought they really did have some awesome voices picked out, it’s been pretty blah. NO ONE knocked it out of the park on either night. There are some talented kids, and much Idol left to come, so anything can happen. But though I like some of them a lot, I don’t have a lot of hope this will be a stellar year.

I hate, hate, hate having to listen to FOUR judges critiques. And I have no idea how this show will survive without Simon. Prickly though he is, he seems to be the only one who hears the truth. I usually agree with him, though not always (he wasn’t big on David Cook to begin with a couple of seasons ago, and I loved David from the start).

I think I’ve finally figured Idol out, though. Maybe you already knew, but it hit me last night what the show really is. It’s a very expensive, very flashy karaoke contest. In 8 years (not counting this year just yet), they’ve only found two really viable stars who are still relevant today. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood still make hits, and they aren’t in danger of their careers fading anytime soon. You could even argue that Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert will continue to shine (I really think Adam will), and though I still have hope for David Cook, he hasn’t launched out of the mid-list singers yet.

But what about all those talented kids who were in the top 12, or the top 24, who you never hear from again? Apparently, a good voice is a dime a dozen. It’s that extra something that takes them above the level of really awesome karaoke singer. And very, very few of them have it.

America gets into the drama of the season, the stories, the idea that someone’s life will be forever changed by winning this contest. But then next year rolls around and we forget, or lose interest, in the previous year’s winner (and all the finalists). This is entertainment, pure and simple. It’s not really about launching a superstar — because the chances the winner will be a superstar aren’t great. Taylor Swift is a superstar (not that I understand it), and she didn’t need a contest to get her there. Miley Cyrus. The Black-Eyed Peas. Beyonce. Lady Gaga. The list could go on.

Whatever the reason, those singers have that something that Idol contestants, with rare exception, lack. I’ll keep watching, because it’s entertaining, but at least I know not to expect greatness anymore. This is the finest karaoke on the planet, but that’s pretty much all it is.