Friday, March 9, 2007

American Idol

American Idol – From Carrie Underwood to Clay Aiken to Antonella Barba

Created by Simon Fuller, former manager of Spice Girls, American Idol has been one of the most successful reality shows of recent times. The show is about a talent hunt to find good singers (‘great singers’ if you ask Simon Cowell) in each season from across America, with the audience’s vote deciding the winner. It is into its 6th season currently and all involved with the show have had their life changed by it. Be it the contestants or the judges, fame has embraced them all although not always for their singing abilities.

It is almost surprising to look back and see that the first American Idol season premiered with absolutely no hype in 2002. But word of mouth generated about the talent of the contestant and the no holds barred comments of British judge Simon Cowell pushed the show’s ratings over the roof. By the time of the season finale it was estimated that fifty million people had tuned in to the show. The winner that year, Kelly Clarkson, went on to have a successful singles career and a star was born.

In subsequent seasons Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Hicks all won the title. However they all have had varying degrees of success in their singles career. While the women had greater success, the men are finding it tough in the music industry. Kelly Clarkson is a Grammy Award winner. Fantasia and Carrie Underwood both have had number ones in the Billboard charts. As for the men, both Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hick found somebody they had beaten in the American Idol beating them in record sales. While Clay Aiken beat out Ruben in record sales, Chris Daughtry outsold Taylor.

It was not only the winners whose lives were changed by the show. The non-winner of American Idol who has had the most successful musical career must be Clay Aiken. Clay Aiken has released 3 albums so far. His first solo album, Measure of a Man, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, was the highest-selling debut for a solo artist in 10 years, and to date the highest debut of any Idol. Following it Clay Aiken has been in the limelight with a number of tours and TV appearances. Clay has even lent his voice and efforts for multiple charity events show casing his commitment to causes close to his heart.

Another Idol non-winner who has made it big is Jennifer Hudson. She was recently in the limelight for winning most of the awards in Hollywood, including an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best supporting actress, for her role of Effie White in the movie Dreamgirls. Other notable non-winners to have had successful careers were Chris Daughtry and Bo Bice.

The show was life changing for the judges too. Simon Cowell became an international celebrity through his image of being the villain in the show. He was so successful that in every country where the show had a spin off there was one judge who would play the villain. But none of them were as good as the Simon Cowell for the title of ‘The man you loved to Hate'.

Paula Abdul, a yesteryear pop star, came back into the limelight for her compassionate assessment of the contestants. She became the perfect contrast to Simon Cowell, sometimes even going to the limit of public altercations with him on TV. Randy Jackson on the other hand has had to overcome his weight related issues.

A show of such popularity cannot be without its share of controversies too. In the second season of American Idol when out of 24 million votes casted; Studdard finished just 130,000 votes ahead of Aiken. The accuracy of this result is still disputed. There was much discussion in the communication industry about the phone system being overloaded, and that more than 150 million votes were dropped, making the voting invalid. Since then, the voting methods have been modified to avoid this problem.

Also during Season 2 Corey Clark, who was kicked off the show because of a police record he had not disclosed earlier, alleged that he had an affair with judge Paula Abdul. Clark also alleged that Abdul gave him preferential treatment on the show because of their alleged romance. A subsequent investigation by Fox found no evidence to support Clark's charges.

In Season 3 the controversy was over the legitimacy of the contest itself was questioned when Jon Peter Lewis, John Stevens stayed afloat despite bad performances while others who gave better performances were unexpectedly eliminated. While in Season 5 it came to light that Bucky Covington has had prior troubles with law. It seems he and his twin brother had switched places in an effort to confuse the police in 1988.

The current season of the American Idol has been overshadowed by the Antonella Barba scandal. Some provocative pictures of Barba has surfaced on the internet. The pictures show Antonella topless in a beach with other women. This has garnered much media attention of late with Fox News featuring a full segment of the controversy in its O’Reily Factor. Photos of Barba posing in a wet t-shirt in the fountain of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. have also surfaced. Antonella Barba’s friends have claimed that these pictures are fakes. Ultimately she was voted off in the previous episode.

Despite the controversy there is no denying the fact that the show has discovered some undisputable talent from its inception. Moreover it is a platform for talented singers in the country to showcase their stuff which might have gone to waste otherwise. It offers the dream of fame and success to ordinary people. Its spin offs have been equally successful. The third season of the Indian Idol is about to start, and let’s hope they are as successful as their American counterparts in unearthing great talent.

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