Ethan Keller, “Fallen Idol” (2010): One Track Mind

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“All eyes on the judges, who tabulate the score…”

So where are we on this whole American Idol saga, anyway? I heard that Simon Cowell and Ellen Degeneres had vacated their judges’ chairs (this was the first I’ve heard of Degeneres even being on the show). And Kara DioGuardi was fired. Just the other day Aerosmith front-man Steven Tyler reportedly agreed to fill in one spot, while Jennifer Lopez is supposedly making outrageous demands to fill in the other.

This here is a music-oriented site, so we at Something Else are selling out providing a public service by reporting on the manufactured drama at AI.

Yeah, right.

We have our opinions on the show and other recent pop phenomenons in the music business, but there’s little point in getting into all that on our own. Not when Ethan Keller has already taken the hammer and met the nail square on with this topic. A few months back, Keller unfurled his third CD and we made a little noise about the lead off track, but lately with the comings and goings of Fox Network’s hit talent show even encroaching on my pop culture-averse attention span, another song of his has edged upon my mind a lot more.

“Fallen Idol” makes an impression before the first lyric is sung: possessing the melodic trait of the Stone Temple Pilots and a dope Steely Dan chord progression, “Idol” was mixed and mastered by Keller himself instead of the album’s Grammy-winning producer Ted Greenberg. But it still sounds tight to me.

“Reach high…though you know you’ll fall below. Never give up, never let the dream die, get to the top don’t stop ’till you hit sky…”

Jesse Warner’s drum breaks that start the song and the relaxed groove that follows it is head-nodding good stuff, but the message Keller is singing soon afterwards induces the “I agree” kind of head nodding. As Keller himself succinctly puts it, “‘Fallen Idol’ is inspired by the loathsome nature of today’s pop culture, and contains several stories of tragedy,” using the popular TV show as a symbol of what is not right about what is encouraged to our kids and what they are told what the American Dream is. It’s a false dream one that is hopelessly elusive, mass produced, and operates outside of a moral framework.

“Young girl approaches the mic but don’t know what it means. Small boy strums a guitar, but he can’t feel the strings…”

Maybe the musicians who worked the hardest on their craft never got most of the biggest breaks even back in the day, but it appears even less so now. Sure, there are great singers and prodigal players right there on prime time television, but is this skill borne of the parent-financed private lessons or the school of hard knocks that working musicians go through? Playing with conviction and feel doesn’t come from sterile environments.

“Old maid moans on a mic, her voice is rich and poor. Old man holds his guitar and leaps from the 21st floor…”

As with politicians, we love to build showbiz people up only to tear them down, and get off on watching real-life success turn into failures. Note how many reality-based programs are set up that way. Observes Keller, “In the end, the media loves the drama and the tragedies themselves become glorified and judged by how viral it goes on Youtube or how many ‘likes’ it generates on Facebook.”

“The rock star exits stage right, cuz he can’t dance no more.”

It’s not always true that aging rock stars leave the business because they “can’t dance no more”; evidently some of them like possibly Mr. Tyler and Ms. Lopez simply move on to judge aspiring fallen idols…

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at [email protected] .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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