Everyone in the entire world knows what American Idol is. Some call it a glamorized kareoke contest while others feel it’s a showcase of the finest talents in America. Though I wouldn’t go to the extent by siding with one of the extremes, I do lean towards the side that says American Idol is good for music.
How could a reality TV show that discovered such great artists like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks, and Kellie Pickler be bad for music?
There is no doubt that the successful men and women in the American Idol contest have great talent. These artists scored a number of Grammy awards, platinum albums, number 1 hits, and even appear on Broadway and movies. But from these highs, there are certainly plenty of lows.
Winners such as Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks have suffered from low record sales and mediocre reviews that eventually canned their careers. It’s a curious thing to take a look at though, because through all the scripts and drama from the judges, and glitz and glamour of television… American Idol is essentially a popularity contest. It is America’s duty to call in and vote for the contestant they believe should win. And FOX always boasts how more people vote for American Idol than for the presidential elections (though there’s one major difference between the two: the majority vote doesn’t always pick the president).
But for Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks to win both of their respected years on American Idol, that means the majority of America voted for them, right? I know that you can vote more than once, but it’s clear that everyone votes more than once… so it should still be true that the majority of American liked Ruben and Taylor the best.
But as the story goes, winning American Idol is just the first step to success. Ruben Studdard’s debut album “Soulful” was huge, selling over 400,000 copies in its first week. He even received a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. But then came the collapse. The American Idol hangover was over. His next two albums saw great decline and to this day he doesn’t have a #1 hit single on the radio. Can someone please tell me what he’s up to now? Or is he already under there “Where is he now” file?
As as for Taylor Hicks, he recently split from his record label Arista Recrds and then J records after that. In a statement on his Myspace page, Hicks made it clear that “Artistic freedom and control is an exciting prospect.” But maybe those were the reasons why the labels let him go. American Idol contestants are judged by their unique styles and powerful voices, but the whole time they’re singing other people’s songs and following experts’ arrangements. When they try and do things for themselves, that’s where they seem to fall into a hole.
Take Kelly Clarkson for example. She ran into conflicts during her third album “My December” because of the involvement she had with her music. She parted with her management and boasted that she either wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album. Friction followed because her label and management didn’t feel the material fitted her style well, but she was stubborn to change. The result? Well after a set-back of her first nationwide arena tour being cancelled because of underwhelming ticket sales, “My December” has sold over two million copies worldwide.
So what am I getting at with all of this? There’s no doubt that American Idol has an impact in today’s music. But out of the hundreds of thousand contestants, only a handful are actually talented… and from that handful, only a few go on to be successful in the music business. But those selected few have made quite a splash, and the interesting thing is that the winners aren’t the only ones making a name for themselves. Clay Aiken is more popular than Ruben Studdard ever was. And Chris Daughtry is definitely enjoying his post-Idol time more than Taylor Hicks.
Whether you like the Idols or not, well that’s your opinion. But you can’t say that American Idol isn’t brilliant for television, and you can’t say that American Idol is bad for music. Bringing in millions of viewers every week and tallying an extraordinary number of awards and album sales, it’s safe to say that American Idol is a dominant force and will be for a long time.