The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



American Idol breeds talent, brings fame

Erin McGinn | Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It’s hard to avoid the “American Idol” phenomenon. Everyone knows who Simon Cowell is and can name at least one of the “Idol” winners or contestants. The show has produced a Grammy winner, a Golden Globe winner, a Country Music Award (CMA) female vocalist of the year and several platinum-selling recording artists. And it’s only getting bigger and better.

When the first season of “Idol” aired in 2002, it had nine million viewers. The premiere of the current sixth season enjoyed more than 57 million viewers. Its success single-handedly revived the talent show genre and gave rise to several successors, including “America’s Got Talent,” “Rock Star: INXS” and the latest, NBC’s “Grease: You’re the One That I Want.”

While “Idol” first began as a quest to find the best undiscovered young pop superstar, the show has since evolved and has lessened its age restrictions and opened itself to more genres, including rock and country.

Even before the 24 finalists (12 males and 12 females) are named, the city open-call auditions are almost as popular to watch as the final contestants. As exciting as it is to see the young new talent, it is equally as fun to watch the delusional masses attempt to perform.

The season three auditions introduced U.C. Berkeley student William Hung to the world, and he has since become a cult celebrity – even releasing his own album. Season five brought the Brittenum twins, Derrell and Terrell, and all of their accompanying drama. They both made it to Hollywood out of Chicago, and Derrell quit when he mistakenly heard that his brother had been cut.

After he realized his error, he begged Cowell and the other judges to let him have his spot back. They agreed, but both twins were disqualified when they were recognized for being wanted for identity theft. Although the sixth season is only several weeks young, there have already been several (in)famous auditions, and several ambitious people have posted online guides to the MySpace profiles of some of the worst auditionees.

The show has become so popular that appearing on “American Idol” is enough in itself to make the individuals almost instantly famous. They do not necessarily even have to win the contest to become a true American idol.

As viewership has increased yearly, more and more of the finalists outside of first and second place have become exceptionally popular. Of the season five finalists, more than a third of them either already have a debut album on store shelves or are set to release one. Several more finalists, like Ace Young, have released singles online.

Even beyond just selling albums, the “Idol” alums have met with success even outside the music arena.

Most recently, season three contestant Jennifer Hudson won a Golden Globe and has been nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in “Dreamgirls.” Season three winner Fantasia Barrino starred in a Lifetime movie based on her book, “Life Is Not a Fairy Tale.” Season five contestant Kellie Pickler is getting her own sitcom, currently in production with FOX.

Within the musical arena the original Idol, Kelly Clarkson, garnered herself two Grammys and season four winner Carrie Underwood has twice won the CMA award for top female vocalist of the year, and has also been a Grammy nominee.

With all of the success that “American Idol” and its contestants have enjoyed, it is a sure thing that it is not going away anytime soon and will continue to exist for the American public to enjoy – William Hungs and all.