American idol 2018 reviews

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Imagine: You’re a singer plucked from thousands in cities across America to compete on American Idol. Some combination of talent and luck gets you through the first round and on to Vegas. And then you keep going. Every week you stand up in front of millions of Americans and sing. Every week the audience votes for you, and one of your competitors goes home until one week, it’s just you and one other singer left as the winner is announced.

Maybe you’re like Ruben Studdard in 2003, and you just stand there, your forehead sweaty, a big grin on your face, and Clay Aiken hugging your right side. Maybe you’re giddy like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. Maybe you’re stone-faced like Taylor Hicks.

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“All that hard work, all that pressure, culminates in this tonight,” frosted-tipped host Ryan Seacrest tells you, “and you are the new American Idol.” The audience applauds wildly; people are jumping up and down, crying, hugging. You’re a superstar now. Right?

Immediately after the finale, for the next week or so, you’re up before the crack of dawn. Talk shows, interviews, mall appearances. The 7 former Idol finalists I talked to barely remembered this period of time—things were moving so fast.

But then what?

“That’s probably the hardest road you’ll ever walk,” Danny Gokey, who came in third place in season 8, told me. “The road after American Idol.”

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From the very beginning, American Idol promised to pluck a talent from obscurity and make him or her a star. America would watch as judges traveled across the country, listening to thousands of young people sing renditions of “Amazing Grace” and “A Whole New World”—diamonds in the rough. Idol would find these hidden talents, give them a spotlight, and make them famous.

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But, of course, first and foremost, American Idol is a televised talent show. The true goal was not to launch an unknown into superstardom, but to attract viewers. Still, it sold the American Dream. When the program premiered in 2002, the iTunes store hadn’t even launched yet. There was no YouTube. A hopeful singer had to go the traditional, mysterious route of somehow getting a record label’s attention. But American Idol convinced viewers that by participating in the show, they were choosing America’s next pop icon.

Kelly Clarkson performs at FOX-TV’s “American Idol” in Los Angeles, Ca. Wednesday, August 28, 2002.
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To the show’s credit, sometimes it worked. American Idol produced a couple of bonafide superstars. Kelly Clarkson, the show’s first winner, remains a successful commercial artist 15 years later. Carrie Underwood, the fourth season’s champ, is equally as powerful. Underwood shared that season with Jennifer Hudson, who went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2006.

But while those three are stars, other finalists are less well-known. Jordin Sparks sang the incredibly popular song “No Air,” but hasn’t had a Top 10 hit since 2009’s “Battlefield.” Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken and winner Ruben Studdard are names pop culture junkies might recognize. Beyond that? The other names have little cultural significance. They certainly aren’t “idols.”

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Of the 42 American Idol finalists, fewer than half (14) have been on tour in the last three years. Only 19 have produced new music since 2013. Caleb Johnson, the season 13 winner, sold only 11,000 copies of his post-Idol debut album in the first week.

It’s an example of how much Idol—and the world in which it exists—has changed. When Ruben Studdard released his first album Soulful in 2003, he sold 400,000 copies in the first week and debuted at number one.

Advertisement BURBANK, CA – MAY 20: (L-R): Singer Paul Anka, host Ryan Seacrest and American Idol finalists Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken gather on stage at the conclusion of the show’s final competition broadcast on May 20, 2003 at the Universal Amphitheatre in Burbank, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
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Studdard was on the show at its height. “When I auditioned, there had only been the first season,” Studdard told me. “So there was buzz, but it wasn’t huge. When our season started, it was complete pandemonium. You’re in this bubble, so you don’t really get to see how crazy people are about the show.”

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And people were crazy about American Idol back then. A whopping 24 million votes were cast in the season 2 finale. But after his win, Studdard still had to find his footing in a steadily-shifting music business—one which would completely transform over the next decade.

Studdard wasn’t completely new to the industry when he auditioned. Before Idol, he was in a jazz band, and only tried out because one of his band’s back-up singers wanted him to go with her to the auditions in Nashville. “I got up there and something just told me, like, this might be your shot.” He was right.

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Almost all of the 42 Idol contestants who finished in the top 3 had some music experience before they landed on the show. Kelly Clarkson had already put out a demo. Studdard had been studying music since he was 9 years old. Carrie Underwood had been performing since she was 14. Danny Gokey was playing music at two different churches. Jessica Sanchez, season 11 runner up, had already competed nationally on America’s Got Talent. Blake Lewis, season 6 runner up, performed a show the night before he auditioned for Idol.

“There was a whisper going around that we didn’t work for our success after Idol,” Gokey told me. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. I had been working as a musician for years, and with some medium success. They just didn’t know that.” That’s how powerful the American Idol hype was. Viewers didn’t see the contestants as former starving artists; they saw the contestants as recipients of all America had to offer: Fame, fortune, and the chance to be on TV. And in some ways they were right.

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American Idol took small town performers and gave them a national stage. “I didn’t come into the show wanting to be a superstar. I just wanted to sing,” Studdard told me. “I wanted the opportunity to do what I loved as a profession. I wanted to be able to do that on a bigger scale.”

Idol threw its contestants into the spotlight, but it didn’t necessarily teach them what to do as reality TV stars or “idols.” And it didn’t warn any of them that they might not actually be idols.

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The mechanics of American Idol are fairly simple. There are some special rules like “judges saves,” but for the most part, the contest isn’t complicated. Every week, contestants perform a song. The judges review their performance. America votes people in, thereby voting people out. This repeats for several weeks until America crowns one of them the winner.

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“That whole show was crazy, but in a good way,” Jessica Sanchez told me. “It was like boot camp. There’s no other way I can describe the show. You’re working all day every day. We did stay in the mansion they show on TV, but we didn’t even get to enjoy it because we were always out working.”

Everyone I spoke with mentioned the relentless schedule. “I had two days off that year. So much happened,” Blake Lewis told me. “I haven’t even seen my season of American Idol because it never came out on DVD and they never gave it to me.”

Advertisement LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 21: Host Ryan Seacrest (R) announces Caleb Johnson as the winner with American Idol Finalist Jena Irene and American Idol Judges Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban onstage during Fox’s “American Idol” XIII Finale at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on May 21, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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American Idol comes on FOX two days a week. On Wednesday, the contestants perform and America votes. And on Thursday, someone goes home. That means that contestants have a single week to come up with a vocal performance that will wow America. There are restrictions as to what a contestant can perform and how.

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“I had to fight with the producers to be myself. Because they really like to manipulate you for television,” Blake Lewis told me.

“I kind of just realized that it was a singing competition and not really a songwriting competition,” Jena Irene, the runner up for season 13, told me. “I like to write my own music to express myself. I didn’t have 100% closure that I could express myself on the show.”

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Danny Gokey, who came in third place in season 8, told me over the phone that his entire stint on the show was an incredibly emotional experience for him. “I was crying in the try-out line,” Gokey said. His wife had died just a month before the American Idol auditions. He hadn’t wanted to try out at all, but had promised her that he would. “I respect the stage and the platform that I come from. I never would deny that American Idol helped me become the performer that I am today. Does American Idol hurt you at the same time? Yes, Absolutely it does.”

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For Gokey, and many of the other contestants I talked to, the ways American Idol “hurt” them didn’t have to do with popularity. The show set them up for a career they never really wanted. They had to make sacrifices regarding their sound and look to appeal to the broadest possible audience—when that wasn’t necessarily who they wanted their fan base to be.

“American Idol is a crash course in the entertainment business. You basically have six months from the time that the show starts to figure out just how business runs,” Studdard told me. Some of that, he said, was good: You learned how songs were marketed and what kind of performances could get you fans. But there was a sharp edge to this knowledge once the season ended. “Everybody knows me from Idol. That doesn’t mean they were fans of my music.”

Advertisement HOLLYWOOD – MAY 25: Singer Carrie Underwood (R) is named the new American Idol by host Ryan Seacrest (C) as American Idol finalist Bo Bice (L) and friend look on. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Singing to win—or at least, compete—on Idol often meant singing songs that weren’t what you really wanted to sing. “On Idol you have to do a lot of ballads because you’re trying to your voice,” Jessica Sanchez told me. “It’s hard when I was 16 and singing ballads, and now I’m 20, and saying ‘This is who I am,’ and it’s someone different.”

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Some artists weren’t able perform the kind of music they think defines them. “It was a great starting point for me, but now that I get to actually speak my mind… it took a while for me to be comfortable with it,” Irene told me. “It’s a family-oriented show. I felt like I always had to put a face on.”

And it’s hard to find yourself in the wake of such an exhausting and public process. As soon as the season ends, finalists start prepping for the American Idol Tour, which puts them in theaters around the country and (hopefully) in front of label executives who might want to sign them. The hope, by most contestants, is that they’ll get signed to 19 Entertainment.

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19 Entertainment is the company that manages the show—every contestant signs a contract with 19 to appear on the program. If a contestant makes it through the tour, 19 has the option to renew their contract and take them on as a full time client.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions about that show is that if you do well, you’re set. But everyone goes on that show to get signed to that contract,” Gokey told me. “The Idol contracts are some of the best in the industry. If Idol doesn’t want you? They drop you.”

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Gokey didn’t get signed to 19 Entertainment at the end of the tour: “It’s hard not to feel like a failure.” He had to find his own way in an industry where he now had a fanbase, but no representation to help him make and distribute music.

LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 21: (L-R) American Idol Judges Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban onstage during Fox’s “American Idol” XIII Finale at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on May 21, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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For contestants with a good understanding of the industry, the opportunity was one they could capitalize on. Take Elliot Yamin, who finished third in season 5, for example. “I feel like I had a leg up, looking back. I have a cousin who was a successful music producer and had been for years,” Yamin said. Once he found himself on national TV, the cousin started taking his calls. “19 manages you on the show, and you aren’t allowed to talk to . But my cousin introduced me to my first manager, so I was able to figure some things out early.”

Yamin realized that 19 Entertainment was not going to pick up his option at the end of the tour, so he says he called Simon Cowell, who judged many of the seasons, and they struck a deal. Idol told Yamin he could work on his first album as long as he didn’t put one out before his season’s 2 finalists: Katherine McPhee and Taylor Hicks. (19 Entertainment did not respond to requests for comment.)

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“Somebody has to really sit you down and say listen, this is what’s going to happen, and also you have to understand that people expect a lot out of you,” Studdard said.

But for so many former contestants, nobody ever does.

“American Idol is such a commercialized show, they have it down to a science and they are successful for a reason,” Irene told me. “ I had to find someone to work with after the show ended, to help me.”

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Success is never guaranteed. Even the artists who won American Idol, and got the contract, still had hurdles to jump.

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“You go from being able to be yourself at home to police officers to you at the grocery store,” Studdard said. “It was a weird transition and I had no idea how to handle it.”

And though not every Idol winner has had to navigate the level of fame that followed Clarkson, Studdard and Underwood, they all had to try and create a successful first album as quickly as possible.

Advertisement The Judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson at FOX TV’s “American Idol”, broadcast live from Television City in Los Angeles, Ca. Tuesday, July 16, 2002.
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“If you don’t make it with your first record deal, then you just don’t make it.” Gokey said. “If you don’t know how to balance, the expectations will drill you to the ground because you feel like you’re a has-been. There have been so many people on that show and the great majority of them are probably not doing what they want to be doing.”

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But some artists saw Idol as a stepping stone. For Kris Allen, who won season 8, the program has allowed him to do something he loves for a living—even if it didn’t give him everything he wanted in a career. “It’s just an opportunity,” he told me. “It’s a TV show that puts you in front of a lot of people and gives someone like me—who had no opportunity or even the thought of playing music for a living—a chance.”

Today, in the 15th season of American Idol, that statement already feels outdated. The idea that TV is a good way to break through as a musical artist predates the rise of internet stars. As Spencer Kornhaber wrote for The Atlantic, “For a chance to be discovered, you needn’t line up for a day to sing for 30 seconds of ‘I Have Nothing’ in front of Jennifer Lopez. You need only get on YouTube or Vine and start selling yourself with much the same combination of skills and expertise any viewer could pick up watching Idol for a few seasons.”

Advertisement American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson embraces Idol contestants at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Ca., Sept. 4, 2002. (photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect)
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Since 2010, the show has steadily lost viewers; this final season is being watched by a fraction of its former audience. When Ruben Studdard won American Idol in 2003, 38 million people watched. When season fourteen’s champion Nick Fradiani won last year, only 8 million people tuned in for his final performance.

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In many ways, the life cycle of the show has mirrored the careers of its winners. After a strong and prominent rise to fame, the hardest part is keeping a career afloat—building a fanbase that will stick with you if you change genres or appearances. Unlike the show, though, American Idol’s contestants aren’t giving up.

Despite how few contestants have become true superstars, so many of them have found moderate success. Excluding the season 14 finalists, 33 of the 39 Idol finalists with enough time to complete an album have done so. Of the 42 total finalists, 30 have had a single chart on the Billboard 200.

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“The value of being on American Idol is that you get people to hear you,” Studdard told me. Idol may not give you the American Dream, but it certainly gives you a chance.

Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.

Why you didn’t see my audition on “American Idol” and probably never will.

October 13, 2017 — Day of the Audition with Judges (AKA the moment you’ve all been waiting for)

This was probably the longest day of my life and I am not exaggerating. Seriously. My Mom and I were there for over 12 hours total. We got there before 7 AM and didn’t get back to our hotel until 11 PM. They had warned us that it was going to be a long day. There’s so much that happens before you even step foot in front of the cameras and judges. I wasn’t allowed to leave the premises. All contestants weren’t allowed to leave. They didn’t feed us for the whole day. We were all trapped in a room with cameras and lights watching our every move. I got my firsthand look at how these TV “reality” shows were filmed. It was quite something and not at all what you see on TV. I mean I knew what I was getting into, I knew that this was a TV show, but to experience it firsthand is unsettling and frankly, uncomfortable. Those moments where the contestants run out screaming their heads off that they got the Golden Ticket don’t happen right after their audition. It’s all staged and filmed hours later. Yeah, totally authentic. All throughout the day they were filming little segments with the contestants in the waiting room. You know those parts where they show someone nervously and anxiously waiting to audition? Yeah, that. I saw them put a mic on this one girl for literally 2 hours and filmed her talking with the other contestants. 2 freaking hours. This is supposed to be that candid look at the process that they wanted to capture. This 2 hour tape will then get edited down to a mere 10 seconds, 20 if you’re lucky. All for TV.

At the end of the day, THIS IS A TV SHOW. They’re looking for the best content to put out to the world, which means filtering through everything to find what makes the best TV. The pretty faces, the characters, you know, the “interesting” people.

Here’s My Mom and I waiting and waiting and waiting. Notice how we’re still pretty happy. This is early in the morning when the day was just getting started. The start to a very LONG day.

After what felt like hours of waiting, they finally call me to meet with some producers to talk about my song choice. I told them I’d be singing an original song. They really liked my original but insisted on me singing my Sam Smith cover because that was more appealing to the wider audience.

I’m not here to conform to what the audience wants. I’m here to share my art, to share a piece of me. I was bold and stuck to my guns. That original song is ME. I wrote it. I composed it. My artistry bleeds through every note I sing and every chord I play. I insisted on singing that.

They approved my song choice. A few more hours had passed, and by now the room had gone from super excited and happy to pure irritation and everyone was pretty much just over the whole thing. This is prison. It’s almost 9 PM, the sun has already gone down, and half of the room had already left. It was near empty. I was tired, hungry, and was just seconds away from getting up and leaving. I started questioning whether it was worth my time being there. My goal throughout the day was to keep smiling because cameras were everywhere but at that point, I couldn’t care less. My mom was losing patience too. THEN, suddenly, they finally call me. It’s finally my turn. Over 12 hours later! They get me mic’d and ready for the judges. FINALLY. DEAR LORD, THIS FELT LIKE FOREVER. IT’S HAPPENING.

The audition was held in this weird huge warehouse where they build all the floats for the parades during Mardi Gras. It was hot and humid in there, the acoustics were horrible. Yeah, not the ideal place for singers; dry air, no hydration whatsoever. Many of the other contestants complained about how bad the sound was during their auditions. Some of them had accompanists play piano and many of them couldn’t even hear the piano in the space. It was almost as if everyone’s audition was sabotaged to begin with. All day we kept hearing from other contestants that the judges were being pretty brutal. Why? Two words? KATY PERRY. She was apparently not having it that day. She said more NO’s that day than YES. What was her problem?

Sorry Katy, was that 25 Million dollar contract not good enough for you?

Back to me. The cameramen were in position, lights were hot, sound was ready and rolling, Mom was outside the door, cameras locked on her ready to capture her reaction as my audition happened. Let’s roll. And…action!

I’m next and I can hear distant murmurs of the contestant before me. Their voice echoed through the space. She sounded great. I could hear the judges deliberating. A few pauses. Then, bursts of excitement. She got the golden ticket. My heart was pounding so hard, you could literally lay some guitars right on top of it to make a sick beat.

“GO!” The producer yells at me. I walked into the space, guitar wrapped around me, acting as my shield. All smiles. My star quality beaming brightly than ever before. I looked at the judges. There they were. To my far left — Lionel Richie (“Hello,” “Endless Love”), Katy I-Kissed-A-Girl-Unicorn-loving-Perry in the middle, and Luke Bryan (some country dude) to my far right, all looking at me.

HOLY SH*T this is happening.

Katy, with her sparkly red and blue dress looks directly at me. Her look is surprisingly sinister, her eyes acted like daggers. I swear her eyeballs were about to shoot knives right at me. Her face read, “You think YOU are the next American Idol? Who do you think you are?” It was clear at that very moment who was the new “Simon” of the season. America, I can confirm, it’s Katy Perry. Lionel looked at me perplexed trying to figure where I would fit on the spectrum in this competition. Can this kid sing? Find out next on American Idol.

I walk to my mark which is right on the huge iconic American Idol logo. I plant my feet. This is it. Here we go.

Luke: Nice guitar you got there.

Me: Thanks.

Luke: What kind is it?

Me: It’s a Taylor 814ce series

Luke: Nice.

Katy: Okay…Daniel.

Me: *confused* Uh…Michael?

Katy: *looks at her papers* Wait…what the hell?

*all the judges start shuffling through their papers. They’re confused. Who the heck is Daniel?*

Turns out, the judges had the wrong papers, the contestant on their papers wasn’t of me.

*a few more uncomfortable beats*

Luke: Uh, Okay, what’s your name?

Me: My name is Michael Barnum. I’m 26 years old. I’m from Long Beach, CA and I am the next American Idol.

*Katy gives a shocked look* She’s clearly not having it. Lionel, still looking perplexed, is quieter than a cricket. Not a peep from him.

Luke: Okay Michael, what are you gonna sing?

Me: I’m gonna play my original song called, “Universe.”

Luke: Great. Let’s hear it.

I take a breath just before to collect myself.

*I start to sing*

I’m about 10 seconds into my song, Luke and Lionel are watching me, but Katy has checked out completely. She’s literally staring at the ceiling, spinning in her chair, while I’m singing. I AM NOT KIDDING. I WISH I WAS, BUT I’M NOT. I could see all of this happening, but I gotta keep my focus. Are you freaking kidding me? I waited hours to sing for you and you can’t even give me 2 minutes of your attention? Is your time that precious, honey?

I get to the bridge of my song, ready to unleash the money note. I hit it. It resonates and echoes through the entire warehouse. I’ve got this!

*I finish my song with a glorious finale*

*silence*

*awkward beat*

Luke: Wow, Michael that was great. I enjoyed it. Great guitar playing and your voice is good. I heard some Jason Mraz vibes in there. You definitely got that going.

Me: I love Jason Mraz! He’s definitely one of my influences.

Luke: That’s great, man.

At this point, it feels like a one-on-one conversation with me and Luke. Can Lionel and Katy just take a backseat and let Luke drive cause he’s clearly the only one who’s expressing any interest. Out of all the judges I was excited to see, Luke was the one I wasn’t jazzed about because I was not familiar with his work. Funny how he’s the only one talking to me and rooting for me.

Luke: *looks at Katy and Lionel* What did you guys think? Did you guys like that Jason Mraz vibe?

Katy: *still not giving me any eye contact, rolling her eyes* Yeah, but he’s no Jason Mraz.

*awkward beat that felt like an eternity*

OUCH.

Not only did Katy Perry’s eyeball daggers strike me, but she even found a way to twist those little suckers just a bit more to where it hurt. IT HURT BAD. It’s like she stabbed me with a knife and even though I was already dead, she twisted the knife even more. It may sound like I’m exaggerating, but that’s seriously what it felt like.

Luke: I mean, I liked it, Man. I think you’re good. Lionel?

*Luke shoots Lionel a look*

Lionel: I can see that you’re passionate. I see that. You definitely have it.

Katy, at this point, has completely zoned out, she couldn’t care less about what’s happening right now or me for that matter. The ceiling had a lot more to say, apparently. Perhaps she was watching her music “career” slowly drifting away along with the Grammy that still to this day never happened.

Luke: All right, let’s take a vote.

Katy: *still looking at the ceiling* It’s a no for me.

Luke: Well listen man, I like you. I’m gonna give you a shot. *Looks at Lionel*

Folks at home, if you’re keeping track, that’s one “Yes” from Luke and one “No” from Katy. It’s now all up to Lionel. My future on American Idol is in the hands of the Lionel Richie. Let’s watch to see how this pans out.

*Lionel looks at me*

I’m begging him with my eyes and whole body to give me a shot.

Lionel: Yeah, not this time, man. I just don’t think it’s gonna happen today. But listen, don’t ever stop. Thank you for coming down here.

*a pause*

Me: Thank you for the opportunity.

And alas, that was it. My Idol journey comes to an end. I proceeded to take the walk of shame, while a camera followed my every move. The float pieces with creepy faces surround me as I make my way over back to my Mom. My mom is waiting on the other side to hear what happened. The walk felt like forever. It’s like an out of body experience. Like one of those nightmare clown dreams where all these creepy faces and masks are laughing at you. Yeah, THAT. This sucks. I finally get to my Mom, who’s waiting anxiously, cameras pointed right at her. There’s awkward silence.

Mom: Did you get it?

Me: No.

Her face quickly went from all smiles to pure confusion. My stomach was in my throat. I felt like I disappointed her.

Mom: No?

She was almost in disbelief that American Idol, said “NO” to her son.

Me: *shaking my head* No. Not this time.

Producer: *off camera* How does it feel to not make it? This is the end. What’s going through your mind?

I know EXACTLY what these producers wanted. I knew exactly what they were up to. They wanted me to give them the reaction for TV. They wanted me to yell and call Katy Perry out for being a total asshole. They wanted me to unleash the beast inside of me that wanted to go off on everyone. I could’ve done that.

But, my Mama taught me well. And I know better than that. I didn’t give in. Keeping my ground and composure makes me the bigger person and shows a lot more class than Katy Perry, for sure.

Me: *looking right to camera* It definitely sucks, but this is just the end of THIS journey. It’s not the end for me.

My mom and I quickly packed up our things and headed back to the hotel. I was beat. WHAT A FREAKING DAY. I need a burger, fries, and a milkshake. STAT.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for American Idol. There was the uncomfortable kiss between Katy Perry and a 19-year-old contestant, a cringe-y moment when a hopeful raved about Taylor Swift, and now, a disastrous ratings slip as millions of viewers turn to The Voice instead.

Monday night’s episode of American Idol drew in only 7.7 million viewers, an 11% drop from last week. Meanwhile, The Voice picked up close to 11 million viewers the same night.

Many people have criticized the most recent season of Idol for being, well, boring. Several viewers think that the three judges — Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan — just can’t compare to the original trio.

The judges of American Idol are boring. They lack the chemistry and spontaneity. Everything seems scripted– from their jokes, critiques and their interaction with contestants. I love American Idol but I am not impressed with the judges. They are a far cry from AGT judges.

— IamIsaidIamIcrd (@IamIsaidIamIcr) March 20, 2018

I miss the old american idol when Simon used to tell people they sucked and made them cry, Paula used to chew Simon out and show up hungover, and Randy was just over there like “yo dawg wassup”

— Ashley C. Floyd (@ashleycfloyd) March 13, 2018

The new American Idol judges are so awkward it ruins the show. And not to mention the fact that Katy Perry sexually harasses majority of the males that audition.

— hails (@haileynihcole26) March 16, 2018

The American Idol judges are horrible… Luke Bryan can’t sing himself, what makes them think he makes a good judge?

— Madison (@mparham9) March 20, 2018

Others (including host Ryan Seacrest) just can’t stand those uncomfortable or really awkward moments:

That was awkward #americanidol

— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) March 12, 2018

american idol is so staged it’s almost awkward to watch

— brooklyn lewis ♡ (@br00klynlewis) March 21, 2018

There may be a few other reasons why people are particularly critical of this year’s American Idol. Two of the show’s leads, Katy Perry and Ryan Seacrest, have both been involved in personal controversy in recent months. Seacrest has been accused of sexual harassment, while Perry is involved in a legal battle to turn a convent currently occupied by nuns into a luxury estate.

All this is to say … you’re not alone in your feelings about Idol.

‘American Idol’ Sucks This Season: Here’s Seven Reasons Why

American Idol has always leaned retro—with its tributes to Elvis, disco, the Beatles, and the Bee Gees—but it’s weird to see the singing competition turn into All About Eve. That’s been the main narrative of the show’s 12th season. Producers of the reality-TV juggernaut have neglected the contestants in favor of the story line about an established diva (Mariah Carey) protecting her crown from a feisty newcomer (Nicki Minaj). The dynamic played out, but unfortunately for Idol, there was a glitch. The younger siren who stole Mimi’s thunder wasn’t Nicki—it was Shakira, the new judge on NBC’s The Voice.

Last week, The Voice’s fourth season premiere debuted strong. It ranked as the No. 1 (Monday) and No. 2 (Tuesday) most watched show on television by the key 18-to-49 demographic, trouncing American Idol. The Mark Burnett series continued its ratings climb this week, with 13.6 million viewers tuning in for Tuesday’s episode.

It’s not just that the new Idol is a sad failure—an average of 15.9 million viewers are still watching, according to Nielsen Media Research. (Update: Yikes! Only 11.48 million viewers watched Idol’s Wednesday competition show this week.) It’s that The Voice is now the much better show. And Idol, the most watched series on television until 2011, is continuing its downward spiral into Law & Order territory. It’s currently ranked as the No. 6 show, behind NCIS, Sunday Night Football, The Big Bang Theory, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Person of Interest.

The ratings freefall can be attributed to a number of factors, but they all boil down to one—this is the worst season of American Idol yet. Here’s why:

1. Oversaturation.

When Idol premiered in June 2002, it was an original blend of Star Search and American Bandstand. But now there are so many imitators. It’s hard to get excited about anonymous 20-somethings belting their way to fame, when that’s the foundation of The X Factor, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, and Duets. Still, that doesn’t mean Idol needs to fade away. It could have held its ground as the McDonald’s of singing competitions. The 10th season finished on a high note with Jennifer Lopez, who made the series spontaneous and fresh for at least another year after Simon Cowell quit.

2. Disastrous judging.

The real deal breaker with Idol this season is terrible chemistry on the judging panel. Carey and Minaj should be on a Bravo reality show together. They don’t even try to pretend to get along, refusing to make eye contact or speak. Keith Urban is so laid-back, he’d make a good surfing or drinking buddy—but as a judge, he almost lulls you to sleep. And perpetual table sitter Randy Jackson needs a new job. Compare that to The Voice, where it’s hard not to cheer at all the crazy antics inside those egg-shaped judges’ domes. Adam Levine and Blake Shelton toss off breezy one-liners. Usher and Shakira haven’t wasted any time adjusting to their new careers. He dances. She leaps up and hugs her new recruits. Mariah will sometimes refuse to participate in a standing ovation because her dresses are too tight.

3. Or maybe it’s Mimi’s fault.

It’s not clear, looking back, why Carey even signed up for American Idol. J. Lo desperately needed the career boost, but Mimi didn’t—she was a revelation in Precious. Carey was supposed to carry the new incarnation of Idol, a task she could have accomplished if she just cared more. But after her shouting spat with Minaj became public last summer, she has looked over it. She offers the contestants a lot of vague praise (“Darling, you know I love you always,” she said on Wednesday night’s show after a bad song) but lacks a personal connection. She should watch The Voice and try to channel Shakira’s warmth. To be fair, Minaj is really entertaining—she arrived late to a live TV taping and still outshined everybody else—but it’s not enough.

4. Bad themes.

Even though Idol is targeted to teens and tweens, it’s often built around songs you would find only on an octogenarian’s record player. This needs to stop. The theme nights for this latest season have all felt excruciating, an endless loop of wedding ballads sung by ghosts of Idol past like Taylor Hicks and Lee DeWyze. After 12 years, I have no desire to listen to two hours of Beatles karaoke ever again. I don’t want another disco, rock and roll, or Motown night with 73-year-old Smokey Robinson as the guest mentor. Was Justin Timberlake not available? How about Taylor Swift? Beyoncé? Ke$ha? Rihanna? Bruno Mars? Usher? Oh, wait.

5. Boring contestants.

There are only three singers on Idol this year who can actually sing. I won’t name them because I can’t remember their names.

6. Cheating.

The last time a female won American Idol (Jordin Sparks in 2007) was during George W. Bush’s presidency. The reason so many male singers have dominated Idol recently—David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery, Phillip Phillips—is because that’s what the Idol fan base wants. The tween girls who exercise their right to nonstop texting have turned the competition into a prom-king race, stuffing their ballots for what Richard Rushfield calls the WGWG (White Guy With a Guitar). Even so, it seems as if Idol went out of its way this season to block that popular genre of singer. And it offered us such embarrassing male singers that only two of them remain. When a girl finally wins the show this season, it will feel like cheating.

7. Too much Idol!

Is there a reason for American Idol to run for two and a half hours every week? The show is so padded that contestants are singing random duets with each other in random configurations, forcing the long-winded judges to critique them twice. Idol could really use some fresher producing to bring it into this decade. It also needs better musical guests on its Thursday-night results shows. (Can’t Ryan Seacrest help with that?) It’s all so stale, it’s starting to look like a true shock of this season will be the acceptance of the inevitable. In a few years, there will be an America without American Idol.

Celebrity news seems to dominate much of the stories that pop up on our feeds and dashboards every day. From Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy announcement, Channing Tatum’s divorce, or the hundreds of other stories regarding the rich and famous’ personal lives, the stories that audiences love are juicy gossip about stars’ daily lives. In the past year, however, a hard pill for the general public to swallow has been the copious amounts of accusations and dark secrets of celebrities’ lives rising to the surface. From the now notorious Harvey Weinstein to the somewhat controversial Aziz Ansari, many headlines have centered around sexual assault and mistreatment of the women of Hollywood. As a result, many have cornered this topic as a women’s issue or something that could never affect a man. But in a world of ever evolving media stories, sooner or later sexual assault would be proven to be a men’s issue as well in a very high profile way.

With the highly anticipated (although, was it really? I don’t think anyone needed the reality show back) return of American Idol this spring, the show had already managed to create drama with the premiere of the return season. New judge, Katy Perry, confidently joined the team and was making the most of her time to criticize contestants. Amidst the flurry of auditions, nineteen year old Benjamin Glaze entered the room to sing his heart out for the panel. Following his mention of cute girls at his work, judge Luke Bryan played off of Perry’s past lyrics asking Glaze if “he had ever kissed a girl and liked it.” Upon hearing that he had not, and was saving his first kiss for a relationship so that it was “special,” Perry immediately insisted on kissing the young man. The seemingly innocuous request for a kiss on the cheek rapidly devolved into two kisses, during the second of which, Perry turned her head to kiss Glaze on the lips. The boy immediately fell to the ground and was clearly rattled. After a shaky audition, Glaze was ultimately turned down by all three judges, but with the trio egging him on saying that at least he had gotten a kiss from Perry.

Soon after airing, Perry quickly came under fire for her clear violation of the boy’s boundaries. Similarly, judges Bryan and Lionel Richie were called out for having encouraged the incident and not standing up for the teenager. The outrage at the judges and the show as a whole for having approved the episode quickly escalated. Amidst the evolving culture of increased respect and awareness of boundaries and rights, it seemed ironic and irresponsible that American Idol could let such an incident occur. What was almost more frustrating, however, was the response of another large percentage of the population.

While overwhelmingly the general public stood behind Glaze and condemned Perry’s tasteless and disrespectful actions, a large portion of the conversation surrounding the event called out Glaze for not “enjoying” a kiss from the pop star turned judge. Twitter users and other social media engagers questioned if Glaze might be gay if he had not appreciated such attention from the singer, and others simply claimed that everyone was overreacting. The inherent problem in these reactions is the common exclusion of men and male victims from the feminist movement. Though it’s true that the majority of the now infamous #MeToo movement regarded female victims of sexual assault and harassment, the premise of the movement was based upon the basic need of recognition of sexual autonomy and truly, just straight up human decency. These concepts apply to humans regardless of gender, race, class, creed, or any other identifying characteristics.

The fact of the matter is, when asked about the incident, Benjamin Glaze firmly said that if asked for a kiss from Perry, he would have declined. He told New York Times, “I was raised in a conservative family and I was uncomfortable immediately. I wanted my first kiss to be special.” The fact of the matter is one in six boys do suffer from sexual assault and harassment. As much as people try to shame these victims, they exist and they are valid. And the fact of the matter is, is that feminism is a women’s and men’s issue. And these victims deserve their recognition just as much as any woman.

Works Cited

  1. Madison M Geis

    April 5, 2018 at 5:06 pm (2 years ago)

    Holy crap, I knew that this had happened but I hadn’t realized the extent of how awful the entire situation was. My jaw dropped reading about how he had said he wanted his first kiss to be special and then Katy Perry just completely disrespected and violated him. Just because she’s a woman doesn’t exclude her from important conversations that need to be had about sexual harassment and assault.

    Reply

  2. Annie Yangan Liu

    April 5, 2018 at 5:10 pm (2 years ago)

    This angered me greatly when I first heard about it, because there’s already this double standard where women doing things to men doesn’t get called out the way men doing things to women does. I’m glad most people reacted the same way, because it was truly unacceptable what she did.

    Reply

  3. Sydney Jewell

    April 6, 2018 at 12:13 am (2 years ago)

    I had not realized this happened but after reading your post I looked up the video. It was so uncomfortable to watch. I can’t believe they decided to air it. It was a completely unacceptable for Katy to totally disregard his feelings like that.

    Reply

  4. Bret Lundgren

    April 8, 2018 at 4:36 am (2 years ago)

    I already did not like this new era Katy Perry anyways, but when I saw this, it made me dislike her even more. What she did was disrespectful and unmindful of the boy’s boundaries. When I read about this, it repulsed me. Then, I saw a video of it and it made me even more sickened. I, too, am happy that people reacted the way that they did because what she did was not okay in any regard, and she should be put under fire for doing so. I felt so bad for the boy because he downright got tricked and disrespected, on national television!

    Reply

After Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper showed the world how it’s done with their intimate Oscars duet, a lot of us are craving more epic live vocal performance on TV. (And by the way, Gaga pooped on all those “they’re really in love” rumors on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week, so let’s all move on, okaaay?) Anyway, reality talent TV season is in full swing and even if you love to hate these shows, they can be fun to watch. Just put them on as what we like to call “background buzz” — half-watching fare while you do the dishes, clean up your email inbox, etc. This week we survey the ones to watch — half-assed and full-head/whole body.

The Voice (airing Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC) debuted last week and we gotta say, we are loving John Legend as a judge. For season 15 (can you believe it’s been 15 already?), the panel includes Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton and tattooed love boy Adam Levine (who would have taken a break from the limelight after the Super Bowl if he was smart). Levine’s competitive ’tude and Shelton’s good ol’ Southern boy “charm” are wearing thin, and we always wonder why the guys don’t take breaks as the female judges do for this one. Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani (as well as Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keyes and Jennifer Hudson, who’ve spent less time in the judge’s seat) all give us a chance to miss them, but the two fellas not so much. In any case, John Legend is a breath of fresh air and we will (probably) watch The Voice longer than we usually do because of him, which means even after the blind audition phase, which lasts only a few weeks.

World of Dance judges Ne-Yo, left, Jennifer Lopez and Derek Hough; Credit: Trae Patton/NBC | 2018 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

World of Dance (airing Sundays on NBC) is worth watching for some pretty over-the-top dancing and spectacle, even if the melodramatic judge reactions can be eye-roll–inducing. Ne-Yo and Derek Hough (who’s as dynamic as Wonder Bread) support the star and producer here — Miss Jennifer Lopez — on the judges’ panel, and anyone with eyeballs knows this show is all about J-Lo and her fierce looks, which so far she is delivering as big as the tears she sheds during a great performance.

With America’s Got Talent: The Champions and The Masked Singer having both just ended, talent show lovers still have The World’s Best (airing Wednesdays on CBS) to enjoy. It has a unique setup in that the judges — always-adorable Drew Barrymore, RuPaul and Faith Hill — also have an international panel of co-judges who also weigh in on the contestants onstage. Our money’s on the TNT Boys, and if you don’t watch this show, do yourself a favor and Google them right now. They are magical. And speaking of Ru, the new season of RuPal’s Drag Race revved up just this week. We’ll have more about this in a future TV Party column, but read about the All Stars finale in Michael Cooper’s Time for Tea column here.

Lionel Richie, left, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan on American Idol; Credit: Eric Liebowitz/ABC

And finally, we cannot talk about singing shows without mentioning that the grand-daddy of them all, American Idol, returns Sunday night on Fox. Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan are the judges this time out, and maybe more than any of the above (which are filmed locally), this one builds on the premise that “Hollywood” is the place to fulfill dreams of stardom. Which means we partially have the show to blame for the overcrowding. Still, even for those of us who live here, it’s hard not to get sucked in with them. Watch this Sunday to enjoy the good, the bad and the ugly tryouts vying for a chance to come here, and maybe discover a new William Hung in the process.