Watching Steven Tyler last night on "American Idol" my first reaction - which unfortunately can sometimes be a lasting one - was "meh: Great rocker, but what does know about judging far lesser talents...?" Seemed to me a little all-over-the-place, and out of sync.
And of course the obvious point seemed to have eluded me: This was the first night, and it was taped months ago.
That's the problem with first nights - in "American Idol" terms, they can be completely skewed because the person in question has gone through a vast learning curve since then. (Kara and Ellen didn't seemed to have changed all that much, though.) Steven Tyler has had enough life experiences for a hundred people, but he's never actually judged the most popular show on TV. So, learning curves are expected.
My point is this: By the time we get to the live rounds we'll see this judging panel in a dramatically different light, and I think Tyler will have improved tremendously. He's clearly a fun presence on that panel, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Meanwhile, Tyler spoke at length with the press the other day, and Fox just sent out the transcript. I've posted a big chunk of it; an interesting read...
Do you feel adding someone of your stature gives the show an extra layer of credibility it might not have had before?
I like to think so. It’s interesting; I was just saying I’m not bringing some grumpiness or something in my life that’s not been good. I’m not bringing that to the table, and letting that cloak my judging of these kids. I’m taking what they give me, cutting it up in three different pieces: One is can they sing? Are they in pitch? Two, do they have character? Three, do they have a star quality about them? Kind of folding that all into one but that would be my expertise, and J. Lo’s got her own singing style. But don’t forget I’m a drummer. I’ve got the pitch from my father, Juilliard, my own. I’ve got the drumming sensibility and there’s a tonality
Have you said anything so far as to any of the contestants during the auditions that you’ve regretted immediately afterwards?
S. Tyler Yes. I made some harsh comments the first week, and they snapped back and said, “What do you mean?” But I only did two of those. There were only two of those because I didn’t want that to happen again. I couldn’t say that you were no good without substantiating why, and a couple times that I said, “You know you just don’t have it,” they did ask me why, and I couldn’t tell them why. I just heard—It’s like I’m looking for that certain something. Well I heard that certain something in a negative way. I didn’t see the star. I didn’t see this and I didn’t have the … to tell them that. I hadn’t ever really watched the show, and I wasn’t really versed in that type of judging. I’ve got three daughters, so it’s hard for me. Those two times after that I was ready to go and I jumped back in both feet.
Do you have any big regrets? You have one year sober. Do you have a new outlook on life?
S. Tyler Yes. You know what I’ve got no regrets. Everything that came my way has cut me into what I am today, and what I am today is I’m grateful, recovering drug addict/alcoholic. I’m not without my faults and my marks and my scars. I’m proud of them. I show people them. I have for 40 years. That’s why they love my music because I’m honest and I got no regrets. Things have been good. I thought you meant you listened to Howard Stern this morning because after that life will never be the same for me. Nor will it be tomorrow night after this show Look, I’m always ready to take it up a notch. I’m not sure if it’s—it used to be my … but now it’s I’m addicted to adrenalin. I still like a good challenge, and Idol was with the best people. It’s with the best network. I get to meet all these Fox people. Someday I’ll have my own show called—different type of Survivor. I don’t know what. They’ll put me in a barrel and throw me into the ocean. It’ll be called Message in a Bottle. They’ll put me in a giant bottle and see what shore I land on. Then I’ll marry the person and we’ll see what kind of kids look like. I don’t know but I’m ready for anything. I’m ready for anything, and nothing has been more convincing that I’m ready for anything than this last year with Aerosmith. Yes, we’re getting ready to launch a tour November/December; it’s already booked. The song writing starts next week. So everything you hear is just hearsay and a lot of muck that’s been thrown around and there’s no validity to it. I’m here to tell you that.
...You know it’s interesting. It’s like again that would be my judgment call on what rock is, and I haven’t heard a lot of it, but what I have heard I’ve come out through the worm hole. Remember it’s got to go through two other judges and for every week that I’ve run along someone that I thought was great the next week after they were given the wrong song in the wrong key, so we had to drop them. That’s the beauty of this show, which I didn’t know before, and it’s also the heartbreak.
...There’s one kid there that’s got a rock element about him. He’s totally off the wall, and I don’t know which rock star ever wasn’t, but I’ve got hopes that he makes it through. His voice is ridiculous; it’s so crazy and great. I hope he can stretch out and use the voice that I heard. But will I bring a rock element? Yes, my personality but I’m also very—I’ve got a good ear for all music and that’s what I thought I would take this. It’s not just a one phase type judging. I’m good for all different music and listening to voicing, and the spirit of, and the imperfections of someone’s voice because not all great singers make great rock stars. It’s some of those voices that aren’t the best that make the best rock stars I mean to say. So it’s been fun. I don’t take this too seriously and I take it seriously, so it’s been a real hoot for me. tonality and harmonic stuff, and I think I’m going to take it up a notch.
Do you think as a road dog that you can be as sympathetic to some guy who’s been working in a gas station as you can to some guy who’s been out playing every night for the last three or ten years at Joe’s Roadside Tavern?
S. Tyler That’s a great question. I’ve been sympathetic to that because it did color my opinions in the past about someone who didn’t go through the clubs, and didn’t walk the gauntlet in order to get their start. I’m listening to these kids regardless. I listen for that certain something that someone might have— I mean look it I remember what I had before I was allowed in the doors of this club. It’s an incredible thing to be able to come out with the stars that causes me to have character, but if they’re good to begin with I’m hoping to see that. It’s certainly not a coloring my thing. I’ve got my own melodic sensibility that’s judging theirs and regardless of whether you’ve sung in church, and sometimes most people that have put their time in church have a great sense of blues or time or melody more than the other ones. I’m hoping … really close.
I would love to know what kind of reaction do you expect from long time Aerosmith fans as you venture into this new part of your career as a judge.
S. Tyler Well like, I’ve studied this so far. It’s been 15 weeks already I’ve been in it, and all the TV’s getting is just that other side of me. It would be like if there were reality cameras in the house when my kids were growing up. That’s the side of me they’re seeing. If Aerosmith fans don’t like that then all they saw was the ominous, dark, or open, however you choose to see me on stage with whatever lighting when Aerosmith comes to town. It’s kind of bigger than both of us type of thing, that Aerosmith thing, but here I get to be more vulnerable, more honest, more open, more in the moment and less colored by the songs I wrote and listening to the songs that they sing.