Monday, May 16, 2005

Who is Craig Berman?

He is the guy who recaps Amercan Idol for MSNBC's ubiquitous website on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from his articles, we can divine the following things:
1- He is a freelancer.
His tagline "Craig Berman is a writer based in Washington D.C." tells us he is not on staff. (For nine months, I was "a San Diego-based arts writer" for the Union Tribune)The fact that MSNBC would use a freelancer on its front page, which is the default log on page for most Windows browsers, shows that all of their staff writers probably thought recapping American Idol was beneath them.

2-Entertainment is not his area of expertise.
His forced, unconvincing emulation of "American Breeziness" (the standard voice of all entertainment writers at "serious" news outlets) is a clue, but the sheer stupidity of his opinions is the dead giveaway. Coming immediately to mind: his characterization of ousted contenstant Scott Savol's personality as "without charsima" and "unmarketable" shows he has never seen a TRL interview with a "tough" hip-hop artist. Savol's tough guy act is as marketable (and as carefully crafted) as Keri Underwood's sweet country girl charm. Thankfully, each of Berman's articles only include one such editorial comment; the rest of his "opinions" are merely a softening of Simon's comments.

3-He never watched the show before this season, but feels the need to pretend that he did.
Most glaring error: he mistakenly recalled John Paul Stevens (the Mormon kid from Idaho with goofy, Elvis-like moves who lasted a little too long last year) as a "Frank Sinatra-style crooner." He did this more than once, and, tellingly, the New York times repeated his error in a passing comment in an American Idol article. (Who would think fact checking would need to go beyond your internet start-up page?). There may have been a Frank Sinatra wannabe last year, but I don't think he made it to the top 12. It certainly wasn't old JPS.

4- He has less understanding of pop music than an average lay person.
Most glaring example: when Simon correctly predicted that Bo's mugging rendition of "Freebird" would land him in the bottom three (Simon called it a "desecration of what many feel is a sacred song") Berman reported that Simon simply didn't like the song. Then, in his only break from Simon to date, Berman opined that it was strange for a music executive not to know "Freebird." This is the work of someone who, while possibly familiar with Freebird, had no context in which to place it or Simon's comments. If Simon's comments go over your head, you need to find a new gig.

The following narrative emerges: Craig Berman came to Washington D.C. because he thought he could get a job in or covering government. (Maybe his wife or significant got a job there, and he hoped to freelance). MSNBC is under a lot of pressure from its duel owners to be hip and trendy, and, like Dennis Quaid in his most recent movie, the editorial staff resents this intrusion by young, Topher Gracian corporate climbers. Mirroring the contempt their corporate overlords show for their talents, the editors assign a random freelancer from their resume file to watch and report on American Idol every week.

This is a petty thing to get my panties in a not over, except that it is indicative of a larger cultral phenomenon: pandering with contempt. Another example coming immediately to mind is the horrid "jazz" CD "Blue Note Plays the Beatles." With the exception of the tracks "Day in the Life" and "And I Love Her" all of the tracks are insipid, thoughtless run throughs of Beatles songs by jazz musicians who honestly believe that any rock n' roll, including the greatest of all time, is unworthy of a second thought. They forget that many of the jazz standards are 1940s pop tunes with simpler chord structures than the better Beatles' songs. Drummers and horn players are the most vulnerable to this myopic view, because their instrument gives them no sense of the big picture of music or songs. On the CD, Blue Note lists each "arrangement" of a Beatles song as belonging to the most famous musician on the track, so drummer Tony Williams is listed as the one responsible for the insulting, mindless and utterly meaningless horns arrangement of "Blackbird."
"Blackbird" is every bit the equal of "My Funny Valentine" in terms of aesthetic and musical sophistication. By not granting it its due, Williams (or whomever was in charge) showed he has none of the vision or understanding of Miles Davis or Coleman Hawkins.
(I'm angry at Blue Note, because I was duped into buying the above CD at B&N, which lets you listen only to snippets of the first 6 tracks. I couldn't hear Blackbird before I bought (it was track 9) but I decided to take the venerable label's word for it. Never again!)

Getting back to MSNBC: if they were serious about covering American Idol, they could hire one of the many rabid fans who post to the sites website.

Getting back to Berman: He's now best known for American Idol, and probably will be passed over for a serious news job. He's also done such a crappy job that he's precluded himself from an entertainment writing gig. Too bad, because I imagine he's a pretty good writer when he's covering something in his sphere of knowledge: the articles are tightly structured, and his sentences flow well.

9 Comments:

Blogger Eddie said...

Hi, I was surfing the internet and happened on your blog. I'm quite impressed , with how this all works. This is one to watch.

Best wishes,

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12:44 AM  
Blogger Cory said...

Mr. Berman's writing frequently has grammatical errors and his vocabulary is weak. Is he getting paid for this?

11:58 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Personally I really dislike this Craig Berman because he totally dissed Jon Bon Jovi in his latest article...he doesn't even know him!! okay get a life seriously and stop writing unnecessary crap >8[ have a nice day

3:11 PM  
Blogger aerosmith said...

i just read craig berman's review of american idol finale-is he actually clumping joe perry in with ruben studddard & doug e fresh? does this guy even own a radio?

donna

8:54 AM  
Blogger neil said...

HAHA, thats funny I found this blog because I just read Craig Berman's article on last night's Idol and something smelled incredibly fishy, basically it was clear he doesn't know the show. My guess is he's an editor using a fake name to try to give his two bits of uneducated advice about his own family's favorite TV show in order to give his kids a thrill.

3:09 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Wow - glad to land on this post 6 years after the fact as I tried to figure out who this ignorant guy is! Great info, and glad I'm not alone in my opinions. This guy has no idea what he's talking about - how is he still at it 6 years later?! He's a total joke!

5:42 AM  
Blogger uncle g said...

Craig Berman is my nephew, and is one of the finest and most lovable people I've ever met. I've never seen American Idol, so I can't judge his comments about the show. But the grammatical and spelling errors in his articles and on Rick Schtick's blog indicate that somebody needs a proofreader.

2:43 PM  
Blogger uncle g said...

Craig Berman is my nephew, and is one of the finest and most lovable people I've ever met. I've never seen American Idol, so I can't judge his comments about the show. But the grammatical and spelling errors in his articles (and in Rick Shtick's writing) indicate that somebody needs a proofreader.

2:45 PM  
Blogger uncle g said...

Craig Berman is my nephew, and is one of the finest and most lovable people I've ever met. I've never seen American Idol, so I can't judge his comments about the show. But the grammatical and spelling errors in his articles and on Rick Schtick's blog indicate that somebody needs a proofreader.

2:46 PM  

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