With the overwhelming success of American Idol, a contest ripping off the Fox television program was inevitable.

On a recent night at the Old Town meat market McFadden's, 10 singers--armed with a musical repertoire that included Garth Brooks and Nickelback--battled for a chance to advance to this week's final competition, their performances ranging from good to bad to awful.

The songs followed the American Idol standard: the cheesier, the better. Here, the schmaltzy "Black Velvet" fits right in with Garth Brooks and the Righteous Brothers. Post-performance, the contestants took the abuse of a trio of judges who took turns scolding and praising them for song selection and vocal quality.

A gripping, localized version of the reality TV show that's swept the nation? Um, no.

Save for a group of a dozen drinkers sitting in the smallish singing area (who may or may not have been in cahoots with the Garth Brooks guy), no one in the bar was paying any attention to the contest. Mostly, these singers were ignored by the hordes of randy men and women downing drinks near the large, rectangular bar.

Surprise! American Idol is just as mind-numbing live as it is on the telly.

If American Idol legitimized karaoke by giving aspiring singers a chance to sing other people's songs to win a record deal, it still didn't make watching amateurs rip off really cheesy love songs all that interesting.

Sure, millions dialed in to vote for Clay, Ruben and the gang. But, really, are these the voices of the next generation of pop stars? Or is American Idol really just a popularity contest?

On this night, it was a popularity contest.

The winning Garth Brooks guy didn't have the stage presence of the Nickelback guy (he with veins popping and hands gripping the mic stand) or the doo-wop vocals of the "Black Velvet" woman. But he brought his friends. Ergo, he wins.

Win or lose, the fact that this contest was disregarded by the majority of the audience means that some things in life might be more important than what these singers (and the whole AI franchise, for that matter) are doing. And that, at McFadden's at least, includes chatting up the idle hottie in the corner who's giving you the eye.