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Friday, March 29, 2013

American Idol

I’m sure that most of you who have read this space know that I am a shameless fan of reality television.  I enter a “Survivor” pool at work (which I won last Christmas), I have an addiction to “Big Brother”, and one of my goals in life is to try and appear as a contestant on “The Amazing Race”.  Of course, I’d have to relinquish my Canadian citizenship in order to make that a reality, and I’m not really sure I can make that commitment.

And, we won’t be discussing the fact that “The Amazing Race” is doing a Canadian edition, because the Canadian edition is set to take place within the Canadian borders.  I’ll be the first to defend Canada as being a country that has millions of things to see and experience, but when I compete on “The Amazing Race”, I’d like to see more of the world than Manitoba and Baffin Island.

So, yeah...I have some love to give for reality television.  If anything, some of the most obnoxious people who have ever appeared on reality shows make me look positively angelic by comparison!

But, there are some reality shows that I will not watch at all.  Some of them bore me to tears (Dancing With The Stars), some of them I find completely offensive (The Bachelor/Bachelorette), and some of them make a tsetse fly appear intelligent in comparison (Jersey Shore/16 And Pregnant).

I’m typically not a fan of reality talent competitions either.  I may tune in for a couple of episodes now and again, but I can’t say I ever invested my time in watching a complete season from beginning to end.  I don’t think that I’ve watched a single episode of “The X-Factor”.  I think that I’ve maybe seen one episode of “The Voice”.  I completely laughed off the lame 2003 “Star Search” remake with Arsenio Hall, but I can’t really say that I paid all that much attention to the original “Star Search” when Ed McMahon hosted it.  In regards to “So You Think You Can Dance”, I’d rather eat lead chips off of a wall.   And the only thing that I could tell you about “Canadian Idol” is that Carly Rae Jepsen appeared on the show as a contestant.

And, no...I did not just meet her, and that's not crazy.

But, what about "American Idol"?  Well, to be honest with you, while I have seen several episodes of the series, I can't really say that I cared enough about the show to watch an entire season all the way through.  However one cannot simply ignore the ratings juggernaut that the show was for the first few years that it was on the air.

When "American Idol" first debuted on June 11, 2002, few knew just how huge it would become. Between 2003 and 2011, it ranked near the top of the Nielsen ratings, with several episodes topping the list of most viewed shows for the days that the show aired.  With Ryan Seacrest as the host for the entire show's run, and a judging panel which originally comprised of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell, "American Idol" was a show that grouped people between the ages of sixteen and thirty all over the United States, and gave one of them the chance to be named the American Idol.

And, certainly within the show's history, they have certainly succeeded in changing the face of the music industry.  With the show currently in season twelve, it is estimated that "American Idol" has spawned at least 345 Billboard chart-toppers, and have made household names of several people.

It's just unfortunate that the show seems to be a glimmer of its former self.  Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest are the only fixtures of "American Idol" that have remained unchanged.  The show has employed several judges over the years following the departures of Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.  Some of the past judges have included Kara DioGuardi, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler.  The current judging panel comprises of Jackson, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, and Mariah Carey...and unfortunately, the on-set tension between Carey and Minaj, and Minaj's judging sessions, are taking away from what the show really should be about.

Finding new talent.

It's interesting to note that of the eleven Idol winners, only a few have really made a mark the music industry.  Many of the others who have had huge success after appearing on Idol have come in second place.  In one case, they didn't even make the Top 5!

And, rather than talk about the scandal, drama, and backstage fighting between the judges, I thought I'd use this blog entry to talk about the true winners of "American Idol", whether they won the competition or not!  

So, let's go back to where it all began...

KELLY CLARKSON - Winner of Season 1
Notable Hits:  "A Moment Like This", "Breakaway", "Since U Been Gone",  "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"

Kelly Clarkson was just twenty when she won the title of "American Idol" during the show's inaugural season.  Who knew that after releasing the song "A Moment Like This" , she would go on to release five successful studio albums, have album sales of 23 million, and singles sales of 36 million?  Believe it or not, "A Moment Like This" became the best selling record of the year 2002, and broke the record for the biggest chart jump to the top of the Billboard Charts.  Even more interesting is that she ended up breaking her own record in 2009, when "My Life Would Suck Without You" went from #97 all the way to #1 in ONE WEEK!  That record is still holding today!  And, Kelly Clarkson has proven her versatility in both the pop charts and the country charts, when she reworked her song "Because of You" as a country duet with Reba McEntire.  Kelly Clarkson certainly did very well for herself, and now at the age of thirty-one, she is still continuing to make music.  In that sense, "American Idol" made her a star, and she was savvy enough to keep that career going.

CLAY AIKEN  - Runner-Up of Season 2
Notable Hits:  "Invisible", "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Solitaire", "The Way"

An interesting fact about Clay Aiken.  He initially wanted to be a contestant on "The Amazing Race" before being convinced to audition for "American Idol".  It was a move that paid off, as Clay Aiken made it to the finals.  In fact, there was a little bit of controversy surrounding Clay coming in second overall, as many people believed that the voting (fans could vote for their favourite singers via phone, text message, or online) was rigged so that Clay would lose to eventual winner, Ruben Studdard.  

In the end, it didn't really matter, as Clay released his debut album "The Measure of a Man" later that year to huge success.  Although Clay has slowed down his music recording in recent years, he still does tours.  But these days, he's been raising his son, Parker, came out to the public, came in second place on "The Celebrity Apprentice", got into a minor scuffle with Kelly Ripa involving a hand-covering incident, and appeared in Spamalot!  Not a bad resume indeed...well...minus the Kelly Ripa thing.

JENNIFER HUDSON - Seventh Place Finisher of Season 3
Notable Hits:  "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", "Spotlight"

Jennifer Hudson didn't do quite so well during the competition, finishing near the middle of the pack.  But her career after the show took off in a way that nobody ever imagined.  She was cast in the 2006 film "Dreamgirls", which also starred Eddie Murphy and Beyonce Knowles, and to say that the film changed her life is an understatement.  To this day, she remains the only "American Idol" contestant to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.  She also won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, an NAACP Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award!  Sure, it would have been nice to have won the title of "American Idol" as well, but hey, why should she complain?

Although Hudson suffered a devastating tragedy following the murders of her mother, brother, and nephew in 2008, she managed to find a way to work through the pain, and she remains a huge force in both the music and acting industries.  In between, she's signed on to become a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, having success with the program herself!  One could argue that Jennifer Hudson has become the most successful non-winner of all of the Idol alumni to date.

CARRIE UNDERWOOD - Winner of Season 4
Notable Hits:  "Jesus Take The Wheel", "So Small", "Before He Cheats", "Two Black Cadillacs"

But if Jennifer Hudson is the most successful non-winner, then some might call Carrie Underwood one of the most successful winners.  Since she won the competition in 2005, Underwood has been working almost non-stop.  She's won six Grammy Awards, sixteen Billboard Music Awards, seven American Music Awards, and ten Academy of Country Music Awards!  Where on earth does she find the space to store all of those awards?

With Underwood selling a combined total of 45 million records worldwide, she certainly has beaten Kelly Clarkson in terms of overall sales.  But, I don't think that Carrie should have anything to feel bad about.  After all, she has had twelve singles top the Country Music Charts!

KATHARINE MCPHEE - Runner-Up of Season 5
Notable Hits:  "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", "Over It", "Love Story"

Season 5 made history, as three of its alumni ended up fashioning huge careers following the season's conclusion.  First up is Katharine McPhee, whose rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" just missed the Top 10.  Her follow-up singles didn't perform much better...but she's certainly not a flash in the pan, as you can currently watch her on NBC's "Smash", playing the role of Karen Cartwright.

CHRIS DAUGHTRY - Fourth Place Finisher of Season 5
Notable Hits:  "It's Not Over", "Home"

It was a sad day for fans of Chris Daughtry, who was voted off of the competition just before the Top 3.  But, don't feel too bad for him.  Within weeks of his elimination, he was signed to a recording deal with RCA Records, and he formed a band named after his last name, "Daughtry".  The band released their debut album in 2006, and the album became the fastest selling rock debut in Nieslen Soundscan History, selling well over a million copies within a month and a half!  The band is still together and is recording new material for an upcoming album, set to drop later this year.

KELLIE PICKLER - Sixth Place Finisher of Season 5
Notable Hits:  "Red High Heels", "I Wonder", "Best Days of Your Life"

These days, you can catch Kellie Pickler on the current season of "Dancing With The Stars" (where I hear that she's doing very well).  Prior to that, she charmed Idol fans with her southern charm, and self-admitted ditziness to make it to sixth place in the same season that made Daughtry a star.  But, Kellie has had some success on the country charts, and she continues to record music today.  And, she also recently shaved off all her hair in support of a friend who was battling cancer last, that was wonderful for her to do.

JORDIN SPARKS - Winner of Season 6
Notable Hits: "Tattoo", "No Air", "Battlefield"

Jordin Sparks was only seventeen years old when she won the competition, making her the youngest person to ever win "American Idol".  Now twenty-three, Sparks has certainly made an impact on the music industry.  Her debut single, "Tattoo" hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Charts, as did "No Air", a song that also featured Chris Brown.  She's sold 1.3 million albums worldwide, and she has also won several awards, including an American Music Award and a People's Choice Award.  She was named one of People Magazine's Most Beautiful At Any Age in 2012, and that same year, she acted alongside the late Whitney Houston in the 2012 film "Sparkle".

ADAM LAMBERT - Runner-Up of Season 8
Notable Hits:  "For Your Entertainment", "Whataya Want From Me", "If I Had You"

Adam Lambert was destined for stardom even though he lost out on winning the whole show.  He was signed by 19 Entertainment (the company that is tied to American Idol), and his first three singles did phenomenally well on the Billboard Charts.  He became the first American Idol contestant in history to headline a worldwide concert tour within the first year of appearing on American Idol, and his second album made history when he became the first openly gay artist to  have an album debut at number one on the Billboard 200 charts with 2012's "Trespassing"!

SCOTTY MCCREERY - Winner of Season 10
Notable Hits:  "I Love You This Big", "The Trouble With Girls"

The final Idol alumni that we'll be spotlighting is 19-year-old Scotty McCreery, who won the competition just two years ago, making him the youngest male winner of American Idol in history.  Though Scotty's career is just getting started, it is predicted that he will be doing very well as time passes.  His first two hits both made it into the Top 20, and a Christmas album that he released almost six months ago has been certified gold.  Time will tell if McCreery becomes a huge star, or just another Kimberley Locke, Diana DeGarmo, or David Archuleta...

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