I’ve got a challenge for you: name the past six winners of American Idol (without Googling)! You probably can’t. It is hard to remember where Carrie Underwood’s country reign started or when Tate Stevens took home the X-Factor crown.
The truth of the matter is that these shows are getting stale, boring and blurry. With so many shows fighting to keep our attention: American Idol, The Voice, The X Factor and America’s Got Talent to name a few, it is hard for any winner’s victory to be ingrained into our minds.
This leaves many of us with the burning question: should singing competition shows belt out their last notes for good or is there something left for them?
The evidence for both sides goes completely down the middle. On one hand, American Idol continues to perform strongly in television ratings from week to week. However, critics argue that its appeal has more to do with judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey than the contestants.
The X Factor went through a similar makeover this year. Simon Cowell attempted to revive his show by adding Britney Spears to the judging panel. However, she did not deliver the crazy that he had hoped for, and the show’s lackluster ratings reflected this fact.
It’s also safe to assume the “superstardom” these contestants hope to attain is purely random. Some acts like Jennifer Hudson have gone on to multiplatinum success written in Oscar and Grammy gold, while others like Kris Allen get one solid hit and then fade away.
While Kelly Clarkson has maintained her international success after her American Idol win, it wasn’t until Underwood won in season four when the fame lightning struck twice. Seasons two and three winners weren’t as lucky.
So why is it that only some winners achieve superstardom while others become pop culture road kill? The problem lies where the judges look for talent: a generic image of a “pop star.” Stars that resonate today are weird.
With Lady GaGa’s whacky outfits or Taylor Swift’s wispy vocals, I doubt either one of them would have made it past Idol judges. However, they are enjoying the fame that contestants desire, and think they will get if they play by the judges’ rules.
What is the solution? Individuality. Judges need to stop scouring for talent in a check-list fashion and focus on qualities in contestants that are interesting, quirky or avant-garde.
At the end of the day, Madonna did not reach her fame by playing it safe. If focus goes off judge antics and onto searching for original talent, singing competition shows could find great rebirth.
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