'American Idol': A season in review
Posted May 18, 2007

It’s the dream of almost every American – to be plucked out of obscurity, offered fame and fortune and given the opportunity to be berated and criticized by Simon Cowell. Well, maybe not that last part.

But for hundreds of thousands of people every year, even the insults and stressful plunge into celebrity are too promising of a break to pass up.

The pop culture phenomenon that is “American Idol” offers the chance for singers across the nation to showcase their pipes to an audience of millions every week.

For those lucky enough to survive the dreaded first rounds, demonstrated in several episodes of terrible singers’ auditions, the whirlwind reality show gives young performers the ability to display their talent.

The series’ sixth season has proven to be even more wildly successful, averaging a weekly tally of more than 30 million viewers.

The popular show received increasing viewership partly due to the Sanjaya scandal.

Sanjaya, the minimally talented 17-year-old candidate, stayed in the competition longer than anyone predicted, reportedly because of receiving support from under-the-radar Web sites like votefortheworst.com.

More and more viewers were tuning in every week to see how long his gimmick of outrageous hairstyles would keep him from being sent home.

Another high point of the season for American Idol was April 25’s “Idol Gives Back” charity episode.

The all-star event featured uber-celebs like Madonna, Annie Lennox, Josh Groban, Celine Dion (who performed a special-effects aided duet with Elvis Presley) and first season winner Kelly Clarkson.

By soliciting donations from viewers and sponsoring companies, the show ended up raising more than $70 million in one night for charities in Africa and the United States.

The special episode proved that sometimes reality shows can actually do some good.

Although the season is almost over, with only two contestants remaining in the competition as of Wednesday night, the singers that started the season resulted in an interesting group.

There was the Justin Timberlake look-alike (Chris Richardson), the kewpie-faced belter (Jordin Sparks), the single-mother soul singer (LaKisha Jones), the bald Navy father (Phil Stacey), the heartthrob beatboxer (Blake Lewis), the sexy vamp (Haley Scarnato), the rocker chick (Gina Glocksen) and the Tina-Turner resident pro (Melinda Doolittle).
With only Sparks and Lewis left to duke it out over the coveted “Idol” title, many viewers are left wondering who could take the prize.

Sparks, only 17 years old, is extremely talented with a spectacular range, but often delivers shaky performances.

Lewis, thanks to his inventive beatboxing songs, seems to leave the audience questioning whether he can actually sing.

While the contestants are the reason behind the show, many viewers tune in to watch the continuing antics of Cowell, Randy Jackson (who delivers such catchphrases as “Yo, dawg that was hot!” and “I just wasn’t feeling it”) and former pop idol Paula Abdul.

The three judges often act like little kids, poking and shoving each other when one doesn’t approve of the other’s comments.

But despite Cowell’s harsh critiques and Abdul’s often-incomprehensible comments, there is an underlying sense that they really do want the singers to do well.

And then there’s Ryan Seacrest, the host who has to pull together the performances, judges’ catfights and commercial interruptions without breaking a sweat.

The locally based Seacrest effectively displays the confidence and humor that many of the singers strive for.

No matter who the winner is this season, American Idol has already proven why it’s a cultural juggernaut.

Where else can people take such a definitively active role in choosing their entertainers?

While for most performers the road to stardom is long and treacherous, for these “Idol” hopefuls it just takes drive and the ability to bring the “yo
factor.”

Erin Konrad can be reached at ekonrad@ulv.edu.

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