Fox’s American Idol is now a reliable and non-stigmatized way to pick a super-star. Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks and this year’s sensation, Jennifer Hudson – plucked from obscurity and thrust headlong into the awards race. She may win an Oscar this year.
While AI is great at launching winners, they don’t have as much luck selling that winner’s first song. While they hit number one, they don’t become long-lasting hits. Now, the show has announced that it will conduct a parallel songwriting contest to match the singing competition so that, by the end, the wisdom of crowds will have picked a winner and a song for them to sing.
Last year, when it was down to Katherine McPhee versus Taylor Hicks, it got ugly when it came time for them to sing the songs that had been written for them. Both songs were horrible. The audience has made good choices so far, who’s to say they won’t pick the best song too and thus make some people a lot of money.
The show is keeping quiet about it because they don’t want to lose the enthusiasm for the new element of the show, but since viewers will be able to upload their own songs via the American Idol website, it could either end up an inspiration, or a total disaster.
The question is, how many good songs are waiting out there to be discovered? Bringing in an original song contest to American Idol makes the show more than just a talent competition to bring us the next pre-packaged pop star; it gives writers a chance to break into the industry by cutting out the middle man; they will go straight to the people.
This idea of making songwriting suddenly something up for debate and discussion could broaden the way all Americans regard writing and may end up expanding that idea into other realms, where viewers can write in their own scripts, plot twists, even news. As TIME Magazine said, “you” are the person of the year.
User-generated content is the way media is heading, and there is no reason television ought to be excluded from that. The Internet is the bridge that links television to television viewers. Communication, feedback, input can all be done simply by visiting their websites.
Watching Idol from the very beginning is half the fun – the winner is usually seen on camera early on, simply because they stand out right off the bat. Sometimes, as with last year’s winner Taylor Hicks, the judges are on the fence.
Idol began this week, with the usual long, drawn-out audition process. All three judges will be back on American Idol – Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson – along with some celebrity judges. Jewel has confirmed she will be making an appearance. Carol Bayer Sager and Olivia Newton John have also committed.
No matter how often Paula “makes the saying” or does inappropriate things, she proves herself the Teflon judge, as does Simon Cowell, whose latest doozy includes saying he’d rather listen to Kelly Clarkson than Bob Dylan. The publicity drums up just enough heat to remind people that the show is coming back on the air.
The winner of the show will be announced in May, in time for sweeps, of course.