American Idol Tune Dropping and Tone Deafness

I am a big fan of American Idol, but I cannot get over the fact that so few of the contestants that make it to Hollywood can carry a tune and how so many contestants — and fans! — are tone deaf.

I realize part of the charm of the show is to make fun of those who
think they can sing when they cannot; but what stumps me is those in
the audience that get behind a singer who cannot sing!

Carrying a tune is a simple job of black and white. You’re either in
tune or out of tune. There is no middling ground between hitting the
right note or not. Many singers today use that irascible “warbling
trill” that tries to hide the singer’s tone deafness and inability to hold one, clear, sound for judging by a discerning, tuneful, ear.

As a child of the theatre, I have had the pleasure of working with
music all my life. I’ve seen people unable to sing who audition for
musicals — I can accept they are unknowing about the limits of their
talent — but when those around you, who are supposed to be experts in
the musical theatre, support a tone deaf talent, I begin to worry where
the musical line of insanity is drawn: In the sand, or in the ear?

When you politely say aloud, to no one in particular, that — “They
can’t sing.” — you are inevitably attacked by your colleagues with
disbelief and accusations of elitism. My response then, as it is now,
is simple: “Singing requires tunefulness and you can’t do a musical
with people who cannot sustain the proper note.”

It is better to cancel a performance than to use sub-par singers that
will embarrass the effort and degrade the theatrical experience by
dumbing down the audience’s expectation.

It hurts my ears when singers sing the wrong note — it is as if my
entire body shudders in horror — but many others are unable to tell
the vibrating difference between being in tune and out of tune and that
is astonishing to me.

When a fan roots for someone who cannot carry a tune — are they
celebrating spectacle over substance? Or do they generally think the
person is actually singing the right tune?
Is having a “good ear” something inborn or learned?

Are those born into tone deafness sentenced to suffer with it for the
rest of their lives?
How do those of us who know the difference between hitting a note and
missing it abide those who claim excellence in singing — when the
opposite is clearly true?