(Written during the Farewell season of American Idol)
It’s been 15 years of song choices, votes, a switched pairing of judges, and most importantly, producing stars. American Idol has built a name for themselves. But, it’s not so much a name anymore as it is an empire. Over the course of 15 years, Idol has produced big name stars from Kelly Clarkson to Adam Lambert. Even if some stars haven’t become household names like country’s own Carrie Underwood doesn’t mean they haven’t made a name for themselves in some way. Katherine McPhee took on acting after being a runner-up, and some others like Chris Daughtry have taken on Broadway.
American Idol was doing something right until they decided to allow Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey take the judges seat during season 12, but soon, Idol learned that it wasn’t the greatest move. They then got Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr to take the judges seats, which has now been the same panel of judges for three seasons now. With the exception of Simon Cowell, Idol has found the best panel of judges any tv competition has had in quite some time. Idol has a good groove going, and ever since the recent panel of judges took their seats, the ratings of the show have gone up drastically. Sure, they haven’t been as great as past seasons prior to the Mariah and Nicki debacle but they have been good enough to keep the show going. It’s smart to end the show on a high note but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be sad to see it go. While the show is still going, it’s necessary to remind ourselves of what American Idol is, and why it’s important to the music industry today.
First and foremost, we must remind ourselves that American Idol develops stars. If it weren’t for the singing competition, we wouldn’t have household names like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Memories such as watching dreams come true wouldn’t be a part of our lives. American Idol allowed people to believe that dreams are possible. With every artist who came through, it made others want to pursue their dreams as well. It allowed a chain reaction of bravery each season. “It is such an amazing brand and has come to represent opportunity and dreams,” says Lopez. Sure, shows like the Voice and X Factor are great talent searches, but none of them have produced stars and have made dreams come true quite like Idol has. American Idol is the leader, while the rest are just following along. “The people who have come through the ranks of American Idol are so numerous and diverse, from Grammy winners to Oscar winners to people on Broadway,” Harry Connick Jr says. “I don’t think there’s any show that comes this close in terms of success rate.”
Secondly, who was Ryan Seacrest before American Idol? If it weren’t for the show, Seacrest’s career wouldn’t be what it is today. The show has helped build Seacrest’s career in ways that you wouldn’t believe. He’s come to be one of the most successful radio hosts and tv hosts today. In fact, Seacrest is the only host of our time that is respectable with a humble personality. Seacrest’s career will go on without American Idol. According to Forbes, the host brings home around $65 million a year. Ever since the birth of Idol, the host has landed his own fashion line, a charitable foundation for pediatric hospitals, “American Top 40” the radio countdown show long led by Casey Kasem, Jennifer Lopez’s new NBC Cop show “Shades of Blue”, The Kardashian reality show as well as E News. He’s almost always in the public eye. But, if it weren’t for the show’s popularity, would Seacrest have the career he has today? We don’t think so. The secret behind Seacrest’s success is because his genuine passion and kindness he has, and the respectability he gives to every Idol contestant. We have American Idol to thank for giving the world a Ryan Seacrest.
The show has also changed the music industry’s landscape in more ways than one. Before American Idol, artists were discovered through A&R (Artists and Repertoire) after they put years of sweat and hard work, gaining a following by building his or her way up through bars and coffee shops and self-releasing an album or two. American Idol changed that dynamic in an instant. Because of it’s dynamic of allowing America to vote, the show made it seemingly possible for artists to make a name for themselves without going through A&R. It was something that drew hopefuls in, and it worked. Labels and A&R executives took into consideration those who had a large tv network following. Sure, labels hadn’t ruled out the artists who worked blood, sweat, and tears to have a chance at music, but there does seem to be a pretty natural correlation between the rise and success of every artist that goes through American Idol.
Idol has also transformed a new era, an era where the power is not up to the judges but is handed over to the fans. Despite whatever critiques and advice the judges offer to the contestants, at the end of the day, the final decision of who stays and who goes home is entirely up to America. Never before in history has a shown done this quite like American Idol. Every year, the voting has been done with such grace. And every year, everyone has the one question on their mind – will America get it right this year? According to Forbes, more people tend to vote during an American Idol finale than the presidential election. There’s something special about the voting process as it proves a special relationship between the artist and the viewer.
Certainly, the show has had an impact, but the most significant impact seemingly appears to be in country music. Sure, most Idol winners have gone the pop, rock or R&B route but that doesn’t mean the country genre has been left out in the cold. The impact ranges from many top 10 contestants landing Nashville record deals to Keith Urban’s high profile job of being a judge and representing country music in such a positive light. It has also given the genre a wide platform for many artists to make a name for themselves such as Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, and Carrie Underwood. Kelly Clarkson has been frequently present on the country charts, despite being primarily labeled as a pop star. If it weren’t for American Idol, country music wouldn’t have a Carrie Underwood who, according to many, changed country music forever.
Whether you love or hate it, you must admit the American Idol empire has brought importance to our world today. It’s changed the course of the music industry and television forever. The greatest part about it is dreams coming true and lives being changed. “It’s a Cinderella story. For someone like me, it’s the American Dream,” Urban says as he reflects on what the show means to him. “You can come from a little nowhere town with no connection, no money, no nothing — just raw talent and drive and ambition. And you can make it. That’s what Idol offers and people still want to believe in that.” No matter who you are, whether you’re a fan, an artist or a dreamer, you know why American Idol was what it was, and why it will always be an important part in history.
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