I didn’t watch the first season of American Idol. Well, not until the final show. The one where it was Kelly Clarkson versus Justin Guarini and Kelly won, becoming the very first American Idol. When Kelly sang, A Moment Like This and almost started crying midway through the song, it was poignant, inspirational and the moment I became hooked the show that would become the most watched reality show of all time. Kelly Clarkson would go on to sell millions of albums and become an international superstar. There would be other defining moments in American Idol’s history such as when a geeky looking Clay Aiken was introduced and sang nothing like he looked, when Gladys Knight nicknamed Ruben Studdard “The Velvet Teddy Bear,” or when Fantasio Barrino beat out Diana DeGarmo and jumped up so hard that she broke her shoe. American Idol premiered in the summer of 2002 and later became a ratings juggernaut. Idol is still the number one show on television and responsible for turning Carried Underwood into a platinum selling, award winning country music star.
Last season, American Idol underwent a lot of changes and saw a decline in ratings. What was different last year is that Paula Abdul was gone and so was the authenticity of American Idol as a cultural phenomenon. The four judge panel of Ellen DeGeneres, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, and Simon Cowell seemed very manufactured. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Ellen, but just being a great fan of music and loving American Idol, does not necessarily make one the best fit for a judge on the show. I didn’t fully watch in the two seasons that Kara was on Idol, but she never said or did anything that made me want to tune in again and again.
Gone was the shock of how critical Simon was. In the early Idol days when Cowell was becoming well known in America, he had a tell it like it is approach that had never been seen on TV. That in and of itself had people tuning in to watch the show. I always thought Simon was a bit rude, but I tended to agree with him on who could sing and whose family and friends had lied to them. Now Simon’s gone and there is no more Paula. Say what you want about Paula, but she brought an aloofness to American Idol that can never be duplicated nor should it be. When Paula loved you as a contestant, she loved you, and I for one couldn’t wait to hear what crazy thing she would say next. Her tiffs with Simon were classic and very real. Last season that was no more. I can definitely see how the ratings would dip. Not even a dancing monkey could return American Idol to its former glory.
I am sure the producers of American Idol realized this and which is why this summer there was a lot of speculation around who the new judges would be. First, Ellen quit the show saying she just couldn’t be mean to the contestants and that it wasn’t a good fit for her. Then Kara was fired or resigned, nobody will really know the truth about that one. A lot of famous names were being thrown out as possible judges such as Elton John, Bret Micheals and Jennifer Lopez. The publicity that American Idol was getting was awesome and just what the show needed. In the end, American Idol would announce that it was returning to its three judge format, that original producer Nigel Lythgoe would rejoin the show and that entertainment powerhouse J-Lo and rocker Steven Tyler would join original Idol judge Randy Jackson. With the addition of Lopez and Tyler, the Rock Star factor quadrupled. Though the question is still whether American Idol can benefit from its two new judges and gets its super status back.
If Idol plays its cards right, it can be something new and different. It may not be as big as it was in its hey days, but the singers and the show could still have a major impact on the entertainment and Television industry as a whole. It remains to be seen how much of an impact. Either way, I will be watching come January. Hey, It’s J-Lo, and I’m a fan. I wouldn’t miss it. Ciao!