I grew up with ‘American Idol’ even though I’m an old guy

There will be victory laps and guest performances and final countdowns and one last winner crowned on that final show. Plenty of tears will be shed on the way to that FOX TV moment around this time in 2016, you can be sure.

Also, many, many words of derision and hate will be directed at “American Idol” and all that is has meant in the 15 seasons it will have spent on the television sets and the minds of America.

One last year season in 2016 for Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Seacrest, Harry Connick Jr, and Keith Urban. (From FOX/Michael Becker)

One last year season in 2016 for Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Seacrest, Harry Connick Jr, and Keith Urban. (From FOX/Michael Becker)

Fox officials announced earlier today that the plug will be pulled after one more year of good singers and bad singers airing it out in auditions in front of judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban, a flock of contestants being handed golden tickets for arduous tryouts for the holy trio in Hollywood, and finalists going after their hearts in live shows with host Ryan Seacrest, coming down to America doing the voting.

You know, a popularity contest. The kind of thing that started with Kelly Clarkson winning season one and then becoming a pop star … wound its way to Carrie Underwood winning season four and then becoming a huge country star … averaging 30 million viewers a show when other programs were dwindling.

And then losing the biting tongue of judge Simon Cowell, changing judges in musical chairs, losing viewers, awarding winners who failed to win the nation’s fancy thereafter and becoming an even bigger target for those who’d always said this was no way to identify who had lasting talent and who didn’t.

They all had a point. The devoted lovers and the adamant bashers.

I was the music and entertainment writer for the big daily in Syracuse when “American Idol” came about in 2002, and also being a father of a 12-year-old, I thought it was a good thing to have a show that young people could sit down and feel comfortable watching with their parents. Not only that, these young singers performed songs from older generations, introducing them to teens and tweens, too. I wrote about that.

The big daily dived into syracuse.com, and I called my blog Music Notes. “American Idol” was ready-made for that. I predicted who I thought would be eliminated each weeks and who I thought would win the season. They were my most-clicked items without fail.

The show started a live tour in the Underwood-Bo Bice season, and it came to the Onondaga County War Memorial. I wrote a review. It kept coming for several years, even switching to the larger New York State Fair Grandstand, and I wrote more reviews and interviewed contestants ahead of time.

In season eight, though, one of my bosses told me that she didn’t want me to review the live show that night, after it returned to the War Memorial. She instead sent me to an afternoon media conference to write a blog. I watched as Allison Irehata jumped onto the back of runner-up Adam Lambert and rode him around the concourse. There were plenty of people who thought that Lambert should have beaten out Kris Allen.

Even after I got laid off from the big daily at the start of “American Idol” season 12, we remained close. Shortly after I started this blog, a teen singer from nearby Norwich auditioned and got a Golden Ticket. Kaitlyn Jackson kept advancing through Hollywood until the very end, and I kept following the curious case of Fox never showing her again. If you click her name in the category listing below, you’ll see that I also wrote about her releasing an album that came out this year, but it was those posts about her Idol audition that pulled in big numbers.

This season, Kohlton Pascal of nearby Auburn won a Golden Ticket with his well-worn bluesy voice, and I got huge views again with my posts. He decided not to go to Hollywood in the interim, though.

This is finale week for “American Idol” season 14. The announcement today may bump viewership. I’ve been watching, half-heartedly. The singers left — Clark Beckham, Nick Fradiani and Jax — are all very different. Beckman is a throwback pops guy maybe reminiscent to Connick Jr. Fradiani is more in the cool rock man mold, comparable to Rob Thomas. Jax is a woman who can rock and deliver modern pop edge. I like Fradiani the most, but would not be surprised if Jax takes the crown.

Next year, with many guest appearances from former judges and you can bet former winners and other key personnel, just got more interesting. I watched in the beginning because I thought I should. I watched a long time because I enjoyed it. I watched for a while because I didn’t want to let go. I don’t know what I’ll feel when I tune in for the last season.

Here’s the link to an Entertainment Weekly story about Fox’s decision to cancel “American Idol” and the source for the photograph above.

Have you watched “American Idol” for a long stretch of time, or have you give up on the show, and why? If you’ve watched this season, who do you think will win, and why? Do you think you’re more likely to watch next season because you know it’s the last year?

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65 thoughts on “I grew up with ‘American Idol’ even though I’m an old guy

  1. American Idol was important to me for several years, Mark, especially season 2. And you’ve been important to me in many ways, including getting me to reengage with the show this year. I hope Jax wins.

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  2. I have watched it since it started and am sure that it is not going to be too disappointing, Mark, this year. I know I was sad when RayVon left, I liked the nice kind smile and genuine gratitude I saw in him. I will probably hope for Clark, but see Nick or Jax winning. I don’t feel Jax has that strong of a voice and just ‘don’t get her appeal.’ She needs to get right on top of the microphone, which is not necessary, in my opinion, if you are a true singer. Clark Beckham has the most unique quality to his voice but is not connecting directly with the audience, although girls vote for him due to his looks. Nick is a ‘pro’ and may be the best winning personality. This is all, I have loved watching it due to Harry, J-Lo and Keith Urban. Thanks for asking about our interest in the show, Mark. You are a good reviewer and I liked this reference to how long ago it was, in terms of your daughter being 12 when it all began.

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    • Thanks, Robin, for your passionate opinions about this year’s final three. I am not on the Clark train. Oh, well. To each … I think these three judges are very good together, as well. This year, Harry snapped at the one contestant for sticking up for his friend that one time, though, and I thought the contestant was right and Harry was wrong. Do you remember?

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      • I actually don’t remember this moment of Harry’s snapping at one of the contestants. Harry is a little too opinionated, almost reminds me of Simon Cowell. Did you know next year, the 15th, will be their last? Simon and Paula Abdul may come back to visit and give a final salute. Randy Jackson didn’t visit often or at all, this year. This was vaguely disconcerting. I liked it when he used to drop in and visit their coaching sessions. I liked Nick’s song better than Clark’s song. I liked the idea of Champions but Nick’s was a really exciting final song and hope he wins. It is okay to like Nick, since I do feel he is very professional and gives his all, Mark. Clark just had a little bit of soul and I liked his musicality. No problems in being on different pages. I admire Nick and liked Jax, just felt she needed some vocal lessons to help her not to sound breathy. I noticed the coach told Nick not to sound ‘breathy’ last night.
        Cannot wait to see the show tonight.
        I like Sawyer and India on “the Voice” who are your faves, Mark?

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      • I have a little conspiracy theorist in me, Robin. I think they gave Nick the better final song on purpose!

        I think Joshua is going to win “The Voice.” But Meghan is really good, too.

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  3. I watched Idol diligently the year Rubben Studdard won and enjoyed the process. I don’t think I’d jump in unless I was watching the whole year.
    I do think knowing it’s almost over I would think about watching the last year but I have really enjoyed The Voice.
    But maybe another channel will pick it up?

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  4. I did enjoy Idol for quite some time but haven’t watched at all in the last season. I guess after going through so many line up changes and getting a reputation for producing ‘generic’ talent and all these other singing shows, it somehow lost it’s appeal. It will be the end of an era though!

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  5. What jumped out at me mark was that your lovely daughter is now all grown up. How is it our children are 12 one minute and then in their twenties!
    Also, you really know what you talk about – if I wrote blog posts about music i wouldn’t get any views. When you write you are an enthusiatic, knowlegable expert – so people read ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • It is a case of our children all of a sudden being adults, Rachel. So quickly. I know you are seeing it right in front our your and Steve’s very eyes! And thank you for you kind words about my “AI” writing. I must admit I had to look some facts up to make sure I had the season years correct. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. For me, the best thing to come out of AI was Chris Daughtry. I’ve seen him perform four times. The guy’s a legend!

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  7. I only watched one season years ago MBM. I enjoyed it enough but decided I didn’t want to get any more tv addictions going. I liked that people were trying out their talents. And every once in awhile I’ll go and youtube some clips so I can see some singing….usually through you ๐Ÿ™‚ but that’s about it.

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  8. AI is an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? Just using their name increases reader interest. I think many see it as a gateway to fame and fortune. A clear entrance that is uncommon in our society. You know when I was working as a Business Analyst, I happened to be at the office late one evening preparing for a presentation when an IT programmer, Barry, stuck his head in the door and asked if i had a minute. i invited him in and asked how i could help. Barry was a rather morose character but i enjoyed his company as he liked to think about big topics and enjoyed discussions. This evening he was concerned because as he said: “The older I get the more wrong answers I can see to any situation.” He may have gotten his fingers slapped by the manager for his programming habits that day – he tended to be too introspective at times. I had a whiteboard on my wall , so i got up and drew a medium sized circle on the board. I pointed out that there were a finite number of points on this circle – its size representing his experience and knowledge. So, then I drew a bigger circle beside it – and made the obvious statement that this circle.had more points and hence represented an older, more knowledgeable version of himself. So more experience means more knowledge means more information on how things don’t work. Then i pointed out that in order to solve a problem the number of ways that didn’t work was immaterial – what was critical was if I could see even one way that DID work and then the problem would be solved. I showed him the math – if a solution was present in one in a thousand knowledge points and the first circle had only 900 points then there were likely no solutions – just 900 ways it wouldn’t work. However, with the same probability, if the second circle had 2,000 points of knowledge(older. more experience) then although there were now 1,998 ways that wouldn’t work – which was obviously more – there were also two points that did work. And with either of those two points, I could solve the problem and it was immaterial how many ways it was that didn’t work, It was really a framing issue. What was important was the total number of ways and the probability of the presence of a working solution not the number of ways it didn’t work.. \\

    And so it is with AI – many people see it as a way to get fame and fortune in a world where that pathway is less and less probable. They focus on the winners and not the thousands who are either eliminated before the show or during the show. In statistics this is called a “utility function” – a behaviour we engage in because we see an opportunity even if the probability is so low as to be negligible (like buying winning lottery tickets – it gives a chance where none existed -i.e. it provides a utility, a way for something to work ).

    That’s my rant. Sorry. Great post Mark.

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    • I totally understand your circular illustration, Paul. Idol provided hope for the masses. Or, to put it another way, in another phrasing, it also gave the people bread and circuses. Hope to the commoners.

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    • Wow, Paul. That circle illustration is a great one for folks suffering from depression and negative thinking. You are a natural teacher and must have been an outstanding analyst.

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      • This is why our man Paul is a Guest Blogger in demand. You two should work something out for your place, Babe. Paul would really wow your audience, and vice versa. Start conversing, suggests I.

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      • Paul knows I’m crazy about him as a person and a writer. I… don’t do reblogs or guest blogs. I felt odd when Yemi asked me if she could have a first time post of mine at her place, and I don’t think I’ll say yes to that again. I really wanted to post that post at my place.

        I am such a child, Mark. But my blog really IS my diary. That is how it began, and it still feels that way to me.

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      • I figured I’d give it a shot. I know I’ve seen Paul comment at your place often and knew you are familiar with his wise ways. I just didn’t know if you were aware that he is a rogue commenter without a blog of his own. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. i watched it more in the early seasons, as time went on, it became hit or miss, but i did enjoy it when i saw it. mostly, i enjoyed the human story within and the surprising level of talent )

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  10. I never intentionally watched it myself, but it was on in the background when I still lived at home since my Mom became fascinated with it beginning with Season 3. For that season and the next five or so, I listened to her pull for people whose names are still lodged in my head… Jon Peter Lewis, John Stevens, Constantine, Bo Bice, Blake the beatbox guy, Taylor Hicks… she always had some weird favorites.

    I have to say, I’m surprised the show lasted as long as it did once the original three judges began to break up…

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  11. Fond memories. My daughter and I bonded (aka obsessed) over the first season on her summer college break. When Kelly Clarkson won, we cried over a long distance phone call. It has lost its luster, and is time to go. I’m surprised they are not ending it this year. โ˜บ Van

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    • They wanted that curtain call year, Van, to use a sports/theater metaphor. I’m glad to hear that you also had a generational bonding snapshot with the show. For years, Elisabeth and I could always say, “what did you think of last night’s …” She moved on from it faster than I did, smart adult she became. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • The curtain call makes sense, but you could tell when they cut back to one night a week…the end was near. I haven’t really looked, but I suspect the ratings have tanked. I look in on it to see who is still around…but there are clearly no standouts this year. The Voice, on the other hand, has brilliant talents, but the show seems to be more about showcasing the judges. They have not done as much to promote their winners over the years. I’d be shocked if Taylor (“Cousin It”, as my husband refers to him), did not win. He has an old-school folk sound, and youth support…great combination). Just my dos centavos !! โ˜บ

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      • I think your husband is being a tad mean with that nickname for teen Sawyer Fredericks. Thinking back to his life pre-“The Voice,” being so different in a tiny town, on a farm, with that long hair, playing old-style music at Farmer’s Markets, must not have been a daily bowl of cherries. And yet he has such a sense of self-awareness and ease with his individuality.

        That said, I don’t think he’ll win, because he is so off from the mainstream. I can’t yet choose between the powerful country singer and the pop singer from the great women and the smooth and comfortable rock guy.

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      • My bad, I called him Taylor, not Sawyer. So many of these young singers have tremendous poise. You can never underestimate Blake’s popularity and its effect on the vote. We’ll know soon enough. โ˜บ
        p.s. Not so much mean…just a warped sense of humor. He’s not a View fan, just noticed him in passing.

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      • Yeah, I give your husband a pass. You, too, on the name thing, Van. I was a tad sensitive on the nickname because the kid is from upstate New York, too … So, yes, Blake’s popularity does make a difference in the voting. The big downfall in all of these competition shows that rely on audience voting. The popularity angles.

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      • No worries, Mark. Nice to support the “locals”. I can understand a bit of the different drummer beat for Sawyer. My son was in hard core punk bands, in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country. โ˜บ

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  12. I agree with you, Mark, that the idea of having a program parents and children could watch together was wonderful. .Although, I wouldn’t have wanted single-digit-aged children to watch the show, even with a parent. Cowell’s behavior was too abusive at times, or petty and childish at others, to explain away to a younger set.

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  13. Put me down in the derision and hate category Mark. I’ve never liked the attempt to plop pre-fab, bubblegum plastic crap into the culture. I want musicians who have honed their craft, not karaoke all-stars. In 15 years, 5 people established solid careers: Clarkson, Underwood, Hudson, Daughtry and Lambert. No one else has any fans not enamored of their AI roots.

    But then, I’m a rock snob who cannot abide the terrible pop that rules the music biz. If you liked it–fine. I for one will not miss it.

    Best contestant ever? Kohlton Pascal–who told AI thanks, but no thanks!

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    • I like shows that spread the appeal of music to the previously unaware, Phil, and I think “AI” did a bunch of that. So, my friend, to each a different stance is understandable.

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  14. I love ur post. Very informative…. i used to watch american idol…but i think i stop after first few seasons because of work commitments i was unable to follow up on all episodes. I shall now follow ur blog with interest

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  15. Yeah, I’m one of those that opposed Idol, though you do make a good point about it being kid-friendly. I only ever watched on season, but even so, I thought Simon made the show.

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