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I have been watching American Idol religiously since the second season. I missed the Justin/Kelly drama, but I was there for Ruben v. Clay and Adam v. everyone. I groaned when Jennifer Hudson was voted off early and I applauded when Carrie Underwood went all the way. I really thought about going to the racetrack to see Lee DeWyze in his “coming home” concert. I’m a fan, and I’m proud to say it.
Most of my faithful Idol-watching friends have fallen off the Idol bandwagon. The lunchroom doesn’t vibrate with the next-day post mortem. I don’t get those emergency text messages expressing shock, amazement, or disgust about Idol performances and results. It’s all ho-hum. Or is it?
As a performing musician myself, I fully realize that there are a hundred equally good or better singers out there in the real world for every contestant on American Idol. That doesn’t take away from the outright miracle that is happening for THESE musicians. We should wish them our best and support their endeavors. They got their chance to make it big, and I don’t begrudge them a single minute on television or a single dollar they will earn. Every musician who makes a living performing live music because of his American Idol connection means that other musicians will continue to be employed, and we know that American Idol has given hundreds of musicians an opportunity that they would never have had without it. Even William Hung is still making money from American Idol.
American Idol has been charged with fixing results, and the cartoon character behavior in the judging booth over the last few seasons has diminished the credibility of the process. This season is different; the diversity of the contestants and their artistry is keeping it interesting. I have enjoyed the chemistry among Randy, Steven, and the luminous Jennifer Lopez. It’s pretty impressive when the singer with the current number one hit on the pop charts tells a performer that his or her song gave her chills. I don’t always agree with the judges, but I feel like there is balance and compassion. Ryan has grown with the franchise and is now a seasoned host who knows how to handle the talent effectively.
The first decade of American Idol has been worth watching and has been good for the music business. It seems impossible that there might be a second decade, but I’m likely to be there for that, too. It’s reality TV that is actually real; all of those contestants actually have to learn a new song every week and then perform it in front of millions of people knowing that immediately following, they are going to be critiqued. There’s not much on television that has real-life stakes as high as that.