Reality Rocks - Archive

Idol Chatter

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

The season premiere of American Idol is this week, and while there's little doubt that it'll once again be a ratings bonanza, music-biz pundits are starting to speculate as to whether the show's finalists can create record-sales bonanzas once they go off the air and into a recording studio.

Obviously some Idol alumni have become massive stars (Carrie Underwood is simply unstoppable; Chris Daughtry had one of the top-selling albums of 2007; Jennifer Hudson managed to even upstage BEYONCE and win an Oscar in the process). But many have had a tougher time lately. Some have been arrested (Corey Clark, Jessica Sierra); some have been dropped from their labels (Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee, Ruben Studdard, Bo Bice); and some have released albums that've been considered commercial disappointments (Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Fantasia, Clay Aiken). And yet countless others have just flat-out vanished (Nikki McKibbin, anyone?) quicker than Randy Jackson's post-lapband-surgery excess pounds or Paula Abdul's sanity.

So anyway, I'm a member of an online community for female music-industry types, and this week the dominating topic of messageboard conversation has been American Idol...and, specifically, whether or not the show is still a relevant superstar-launcher, or if it has finally, officially been reduced to a shark-jumping, rubbernecking outlet for viewers to gawk at a never-ending freakshow of Wikipedia-footnoted also-rans and wannabe William Hungs.

I thought it was an intelligent discussion, so I'm reposting in its entirety here. (Names and emails have been omitted to protect the innocent. And the not-so-innocent.) Scroll down to read the thread, then feel free to continue the discussion on our own messageboard below...

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From: Jenny
Sent: Saturday, January 05, 2008 11:58 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

So seems like the luster of American Idol is failing.

Last season's winner, Jordin Sparks, isn't selling. Neither is Blake Lewis. Melinda was by far the best (I thought) yet I haven't heard anything about her CD coming out.

The only true superstars from that show are Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. (And Kelly went crazy last year so who knows how much longer she'll be a "star").

I wonder how much longer AI will last.

To me, it's like bad karaoke most of the time.

I have to watch it so I know what's going on in the music business but I can't WAIT for it to get back to REAL artists, not glorified karaoke singers.

Any ladies care to chime in?

Do you vote?

Do you buy any of the American Idol CDs?

Jenny

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From: Juliana
Sent: Saturday, January 05, 2008 11:59 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

Jenny - I totally agree with you about last season, feels like someone dropped the ball there. I was just talking about this last night! Watching SNL rerun with Carrie Underwood as musical guest (she was fantastic by the way even though I thought she went a bit too far in a VERY short gold minskirt), I was saying how she and Kelly seem to have had the most visible success, in music at least.

I do love to watch though - a very guilty pleasure ;) It IS mostly glorified karaoke, but it's too much of a cash cow for FOX, and especially in the wake of the strike it's going to earn huge ratings - and people are always going to watch! I don't think Idol will ever really go away. It's also been a huge success for Clive.

There are some pretty talented people who come through - what about Paul Potts? The first time I saw this it brought tears to my eyes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxOytYLlhiQ. Seems to me that the show can be a fantastic launching pad for someone who just needs a leg up, as was the case with this guy. And what about Jennifer Hudson? From AI runner up to Oscar Winner!!! I was pretty blown away by her performance in Dreamgirls, the girl can sing & act, there's some star power there.

Recently - Daughtry is currently nominated for 4 Grammys and had 3 AMA wins this year too (along with Carrie Underwood). Even though I don't dig his music and think he's a complete jerk (personal experience) he's still getting press and selling records, although I don't consider him a 'star'.

Katharine McPhee was introduced as "actress & singer" when she sang the National Anthem at the Orange Bowl on Thurs (she looked fantastic and did a good job)? I didn't know she was acting... looks like she has an indie film project coming up, I'm interested to see how she does.

Speaking of the National Anthem - Jordin Sparks is singing it at Superbowl XLII this year, and I've heard around the water cooler that PAULA ABDUL is performing with RANDY JACKSON somewhere in Fox's 4 hour Pregame Show. Can we say "Train Wreck"? And of course there's Ryan Seacrest hosting this 4 hour long extravaganza. Now if only we could get Simon Cowell doing the play-by-plays up in the booth, we'd have a show ;)

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From: Pamela
Sent: Sunday, January 06, 2008 12:18 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

I am not in the music industry, nor have I watched Idol in a while, but one thing that has always struck me about the show is that the performers have plenty of technical ability, but not the kind of heart and soul that makes for a truly great performer (e.g., Billie Holliday, Barbra Streisand in her early years).

Then again, I'm not sure whether that matters to the market any more.

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From: Marla
Sent: Sunday, January 06, 2008 4:34 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

You can use Taylor Hicks' getting dropped as evidence that AI's star is falling, but Chris Daughtry from the same season had the third biggest selling album last year which somewhat mitigates that. People can find all the reasons they want to claim the AI juggernaut is slowing down, but I guarantee the upcoming season's ratings are going to be through the roof.

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From: Janice
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 8:24 AM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

Hi Juliana,

You are so right on about the kind of caliber of talent that goes thru American Idol. They do get it right a lot of the time. Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson are two that would not have had such great opportunities if not for the TV show. Carrie Underwood would still be singing in her hometown somewhere. But winning a contest does not a great performer make. I wonder what would have happened if Sinatra had to audition with terrible music arrangements every week for the 8 or so weeks. Or let's look at Streisand. She would have quit. Contests themselves are inherently difficult to judge the talent cause many of the talents are too gentle to go head to head in several types of music. They shine at what they do well but not so good when they get presented with karaoke type tracks.

As a producer, I help the artist to find the exact tapestry of sounds in the arrangements that they need to shine. Those elements are so sorely lacking in the American Idol arena.

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From: Anne
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 6:14 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

I just read that the producers of American Idol are promising that there will be some "standout" finalists, apologizing for the fact that there weren't any last year (is that the sound of someone's feelings be hurt?).  Apparently they are also going to allow finalists who come to Hollywood to accompany themselves on their own instruments.  If the show's been so successful (in terms of viewership), why mess with the formula?

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From: Jenny
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 6:22 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

The ratings were definitely down last season and maybe they are embarrassed that their last "winner" Jordin Sparks, has not burst onto the music scene selling a lot of CDs.

It will be cool if some people can actually play an instrument - that takes more training and talent than simply singing!

On the season finale of the sixth season, the ratings of American Idol saw a drop of 19 percent[45] from last year, when Taylor Hicks was crowned as the 2006 Idol. However, the results are preliminary as the ratings were measured between 8pm-10pm. Ratings of the season finale peaked at 34.9 million viewers at 10pm, just five minutes before Jordin Sparks was declared the winner of Idol.[46] (from wikipedia)

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From: Melony
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 7:40 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

I suspect they are trying to minimize the 'Sanjaya' factor, where the AI backlash voters try to keep the worst contestants in the competition. Cowell was pretty aggravated about that last season and it's the reason they switched to the X Factor format (no audience vote) in the UK.

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From: Caryn
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 9:11 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

Two comments here:

- They are promising standout FINALISTS? I thought this was live week to week? Or do we pick up "live" at the finalist round?

- The removal of voting probably has more to do with the fact that ALL participation TV voting/sweepstakes was pulled in the UK after scandal after scandal about voting abuse on the part of the networks and production companies.

A bonus comment: the Sanjaya factor is what got Taylor Hicks votes. Again, fun to watch, not so much demand for the actual album.

-c

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From: Jenny
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2008 11:38 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

That's a really good marketing point Caryn!

Exposure and mass media attention doesn't necessarily translate into sales in entertainment - or in general business I guess.

Look at all the trainwrecks in rehab these days.  Most of them aren't even working - and when they do put out films or CDs, they are tanking (Georgia Rule anyone?)

Look at Tila Tequila.  She is a huge "myspace" star yet it took her becoming a fake bisexual to get any media attention (MTV) and I doubt she'll ever sell any CDs unless some miracle occurs.  It saddens me that her show on MTV is a hit.

I think the problem most artists having (Idol or not) is the album and songs.

Kelly Clarkson had Max Martin and some GREAT songs off her 2nd record.  On her latest CD she tried to write songs herself, despite a fight with Clive Davis and her label, and her CD tanked as did her last tour.  Artists have to be careful not to let their ego get in the way. But I guess when you start selling millions of records and playing to huge crowds, you think you know everything.  That always spells the beginning of the end for most artist's careers.

To follow on from our AI conversation, here's an article about Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard. With record sales down 15% this year (continuing the downward trend from the last 5-6 years) and the biggest selling record of the year not even selling as much as the #10 record from 2000, selling almost 700k is actually pretty respectable.

https://music.yahoo.com/read/news/54639941

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From: Caryn
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 11:34 AM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

Taylor Hicks recording album on his own

01/08/2008 10:40 AM, AP

Taylor Hicks might have won "American Idol," but he doesn't have his record deal anymore.

The soul singer, who claimed the "Idol" title in 2006, has apparently been dropped by J Records, a label within Sony-BMG, whi! ch signs the show's singers.

"Taylor is going to record on his own for the next album," said J Records publicist Liz Morentin, who did not give further details regarding Hicks.

Another "Idol" winner - Ruben Studdard of season two - left his contract with J Records late last year, but continues his contract with 19 Entertainment, the company managed by "Idol" creator Simon Fuller.

Studdard is now at work on an upcoming album, but it will not be distributed by J Records, Morentin said. Studdard's previous album, 2006's "The Return," has sold only 236,000 copies.

Roger Widynowski, spokesman for 19 Entertainment, did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment on Hicks' situation.

Hicks' self-titled, post-"Idol" album, released in December 2006, debuted at No. 2 on the charts. In the weeks after it was issued, however, the disc slid down the charts. While it sold a respectable 699,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan data, it did not reach the 1 million mark, unlike all the other debuts from previous "Idol" champs. It also did not register a hit song, unlike other "Idol" winners.

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From: Lyndsey
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 11:57 AM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

Ratings and record sales are obviously at times completely separate goals, and I think it's the audience-participation voting factor that gets the big ratings here. In the U.K. they pay a tax for TV and have far fewer commercials, so TV there is not nearly as much of an advertising-based medium as I understand it. Therefore perhaps record sales are the bigger goal for X Factor.

I think here the ratings are definitely the bigger goal--it's short-term vs. long-term, and the short-term goal of big, big ratings wins. Keep in mind the season where Taylor Hicks won was the most-watched season of Idol ever, and that last season's ratings plummeted after Sanjaya left.

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From: Eve
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 6:59 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

Do any of you believe the following bands/ singers would have had any chance on American Idol (if it had come out at the time of their musical beginnings?)

The Beatles

Rolling Stone

Led Zeppelin

Fleetwood Mac

Elvis

Madonna

Just Curious what you ladies think!

p.s. I think some of my all time favorites: Bjork, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, Nina Simone....would NOT have been let on the show. haha.

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From: Jenny
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 7:01 PM
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: What's up with American Idol?

Of course not.

And none of them would have gotten record deals in today's climate.

I think U2's Bono came out and said that a couple years ago.

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