Once a year, millions of Americans gather in front of their televisions to learn who will be the next American Idol. 9.9 million viewers watched the very first American Idol episode in 2002. By the end of that first season, more than 22 million viewers sat down to watch Kelly Clarkson be crowned the first American Idol. As season five came to an end, 36 million viewers were on hand to watch Taylor Hicks be crowned the season five winner.
Some commentators believe that Idol ratings are high, because people like watching train wrecks. In the same way that traffic jams are caused by drivers “rubber necking” to see a traffic accident, many people believe that American Idol’s charm is the fact that viewers can see hopeful performers get sliced and diced by Simon Cowell and the other American Idol judges, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.
However, if that were the case, American Idol ratings would be strong out of the gate and then slowly taper off until the final performances are done. But, it does not work that way. With the lone exception of season four, more viewers have tuned in for the season finales than the season premieres.
So, the phenomenal success of American Idol cannot be attributed to harsh criticisms offered by the judges. American Idol has something more. Simon once told a contestant, “If this were a paid concert, this is the point I’d leave.” If people were watching American Idol to hear Cowell’s famous sarcasm, then the fun would be over once the final twelve were selected.
What Makes American Idol So Successful?
Any person who can successfully answer that question should be able to package the Idol formula and make millions of his or her own. But, the answer to that question is not so easy to uncover.
Many people have ventured to answer this question and to package their own American Idol spin-off programs. To date, no one has been able to create his or her own version of this winning formula.
7 Common Reasons Given For The Success Of American Idol:
The American Dream – Millions of people want to be rich and famous. When they look on their television screens and see people following their dreams of success in the music industry, they are energized to cheer for the contestants.
The Personal Drama – Viewers are taken into the lives of the contestants. This enables the viewer to form personal attachments with the individual performers and to root for the people they would like to win the show.
Viewer Participation – Simon, Paula and Randy are not left in charge of the hen house. Instead, American Idol allows their viewers to participate in the selection process.
The Music – People love the music. While individual viewers may not always appreciate songs previously sung by Barbara Streisand or Barry Manilow, they know that the next performer might be singing a song they really love to hear.
The Talent – People enjoy watching talented performers. Once the contest is narrowed to the final twelve contestants, viewers get the chance to see a live concert performed by talented artists, in every episode.
The Contest – There are only two other programs on television that beat the American Idol finale in the ratings every year. Those programs are the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. All three programs have been designed to identify the best-of-the-best.
Short Season – American Idol runs half as long as the typical television series. Many people believe that since the show runs only half a season that it leaves viewers wanting more and anticipating the new season with greater desire.
It Is About The Talent
Many people suggest that one should have thick skin to participate in a program of this type. For some contestants, the thick skin is definitely a necessity, especially when you find yourself on the receiving end of a Cowell quip like, “What do you think we are looking for — a two-year-old who can’t sing?”
Randy Jackson was quoted, “The judges are continually surprised at how people who should know they can’t sing show up thinking they have a chance.”
The audience is often surprised too.
But, the audiences loved William Hung. He did not know how to sing and he knew it, but he enjoyed singing even if he did not have the talent. Hung was the only exception to the golden rule about talent. Hung got a recording deal and his CD sold 295,000 copies, outselling a dozen of the other Idol contestants who have gotten recording deals.
Self-Confidence Is A Requisite… Or Is It?
Many critics suggest that a contestant in American Idol should bring confidence to the competition if they want to win. But, the truth is that American Idol is as much about the making of a star as it is about locating the talent.
Standing in front of an audience of 36 million viewers and three brash judges does take some self-confidence, but confidence will not make an untalented contestant a better performer.
As season six was gearing up, a young lady named Melinda from Memphis was told by Simon Cowell, “You walk in here with no confidence and no attitude and yet you are a brilliant singer . . . You are in the top 2% of good singers this year.”
When a contestant hears words such as these, they cannot help but find in themselves the confidence to become the star they deserve to be. This is how stars are made. The judge’s help the talented find their way through the process, and those with talent learn how to be the star that America wants to hear on the radio.