- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 20, 2007

Each week the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

‘Idol’ worship online

The television phenomenon “American Idol” has returned to the Fox network for a sixth season, and its official Web site (www.american idol.com) more than adequately supplies fans and new viewers with ways to appreciate the musical contest.

First, a trio of sections — Contestants, Photos and Videos — are great starting points from which to access the history of the show through a variety of multimedia moments and information.

In the Videos section, there are 13 areas (many of which concentrate on Seasons 4 through 6) containing more than 100 clips, including judges’ interviews and other footage. The Contestants section offers minitext biographies on all the singers with the tunes they performed and links to any video clips of them in action.

Next, a Behind the Scenes section is worth a look for its 360-degree virtual tours of the stage and Red Room along with the ability to Design Your Coke Cup.

This online art project is a tip of the wallet to one of the show’s major sponsors and a pretty lame marketing contest that enables visitors to rotate a cup, drag up to 35 images onto it and enter the resulting masterpiece. A lucky winner’s cup is then selected and produced to appear with the judges on one or two of the shows.

Of course, “American Idol” is not about just the best singer, but the one who looks coolest in performance. The section Style covers the topic with plenty of photos of the contestants, beauty tips from the show’s makeup artist and coiffure explanations from the hairstylist. Also, visitors can vote on each performer’s fashion statement through five choices and see how they compare to the poll numbers.

Finally, MyIdol is the place to communicate with fellow fans. Those who register can create their own blogs and private messages; post on bulletin boards; set up a friend’s list; pick an avatar; and compile a personal photo album.

An interactive map of North America with attached pins highlights where the abundance of registered fans are located and, more precisely, the general location (down to satellite imagery and street maps) of individual “Idol” worshippers. (No addresses are given).

Google Mapping software delivers the goods and is an amazing geographic experience as it links to the fans’ blogs right next to the detailed maps.

Additionally at MyIdol, visitors will find a slightly strange selection of games (registration not required). A pair of challenges are devoted to “American Idol” and are simply trivia tests. One is a demo of the DVD game from Screenlife (https://php.screenlifegames.com/ american_idol.php) and incorporates virtual dice rolls, singing and questions; and the other is standard multiple-choice fare.

The other games include a Breakout/Brickles homage called Bounce Back and a trio of strategic matching puzzlers — Jewel Miner, Sky Blocks and Crazy Coin — none of which has anything to do with “American Idol.”

To extend the “Idol” experience, visitors might want to track down some of the former winners online to see how their careers are progressing.

For example, Kelly Clarkson’s Web site (www.kellyclarkson web.com/) offers not much multimedia but a key link to Sony BMG Music Entertainment’s music video player (https://musicbox. sonybmg.com/video/kelly_clarkson).

After watching the full version of songs such as “Walk Away,” “Because of You” and the Grammy winner “Since U Been Gone,” among the eight selections available, visitors also can find the work of 11 other former American Idol performers and dozens of rock and pop videos.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to [email protected]).

Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washington times.com/family times/romperroom.htm.

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