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American I Don't

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Imagine Muddy Waters suspending his allegiance to deep Delta blues and becoming a judge on The Gong Show. Something similar has actually happened. American Idol's decade-long display of meaningless karaoke has already beaten the soul out of rock 'n' roll and has now claimed one of the rock's most iconic and enduring figures: Aerosmith's legendary frontman, Steven Tyler, now assigns frowns and crowns to the irritating aspirants on American Idol.

It would be fine if American Idol simply provided a forum of pestilent populism for bubblegum teen dancers and new-country disasters, but it pretends--particularly with the addition of Tyler as a judge--to offer a credible set of up-and-coming musicians. It's a succubus providing no distinction between the likes of Justin Bieber and Tom Waits. Plus, it panders to kids. And kids, while sometimes tolerable and admittedly important to humanity's perpetuation, do not rock.

American Idol also compromises the lore of rock. Listen to the raw thunder of Aerosmith's "Mama Kin" or their version of "Train Kept A-Rollin.'" You hear that guttural growl, that cathartic crunch coming from decades of struggle, failure, success, more failure and more success.

But Tyler has displayed a predilection for transgressions against rock 'n' roll purity throughout his career. Like Mick Jagger, he's a pain in the ass for his guitarist/collaborator/songwriter/friend.

Keith Richards couldn't keep Jagger from "acting" with Emilio Estevez in Freejack, and Joe Perry can't keep Tyler from hanging out with Jennifer Lopez on American Idol.

All of them have navigated well-documented drug problems, but nothing Richards, Jagger or Perry ever did in the depths of craven addiction approaches the horror Tyler, who will join season No. 10 of American Idol when it premieres Wednesday, Jan. 19, will unleash while purportedly sober. Well, except maybe "Love in an Elevator."