Say what you want about American Idol. Love it or hate it (and for all you who hate it, a LOT of people love it) American Idol has changed the way we do and consume music. In its nine seasons, Idol has brought music superstars to the industry: Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, and Chris Daughtry — all of whom were chosen by the American public to lead a life of fame.
And as Season 10 launches tonight on Fox, amidst reports that its fearless leader Simon Cowell is departing, I can only hope that this will not be the last we see of this pop-icon-producing competition!
My reasons are simple. Look at mega pop-stars like Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus or reality stars-turned-performers like Paris Hilton and Heidi Montag — they have all been created, controlled, and promoted to the point where they become manufactured stars. But the American Idol winners and runners-up are different. They must possess something special from the very start — a tremendous amount of talent.
And contestants don’t have much time to prove they’ve got the goods! I have a friend with a truly incredible singing voice, who tried out for Idol, and was rejected in under 15 seconds! That’s no time at all to prove you’ve got “it” — and hardly anyone gets a second chance. (I love Miley, but I guarantee she had more than one audition for Hannah Montana!) So it’s already a given that anyone who makes it to the final rounds of Idol is really, really, really good.
Take the now incredibly famous Jennifer Hudson. She didn’t have a voice synthesizer when she showed up for her American Idol audition. Country sensation Carrie Underwood has a stylist, now that she’s a chart-topping singer, but when we all rooted for her on Idol, she was just a cute blonde in jeans … with an incredible voice.
Sometimes fan favorites show up with bells and whistles (ahem, Adam Lambert) but even then, the charisma, singing ability, and raw talent of each contestant is what shoots them to stardom in the eyes of their fans. (If Heidi Montag was on American Idol, do you really think she could make it past the first round?)
So when Idol starts tonight, I beg all you haters to give it another go. Because the contestants who get voted in by Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell won’t be the hopefuls with the most money, or biggest marketing budget, or top team of stylists. They will be the ones who can actually sing. The ones who give you goosebumps when they belt out that first tune.
And that’s why American Idol is here to stay. In a world full of Snookis and Hiltons, one thing no marketing genius can manufacture is the pure, genuine abilities of the contestants — and the hope from us, the viewers, that the one who inspired us the most will ultimately end up a winner.