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American Idol at 10: Embracing Roots, Competing With Dad

Posted by Dale Buss on November 16, 2010 01:15 PM

The question has been asked before, but never so loudly and intensely as now: Does American Idol still have what it takes to remain America’s most-watched show? When the decade-old Fox reality series returns in January, will it remain king of the hill on prime-time television – or will its recent ratings slide intensify?

Such ponderings have new prominence, of course, because of the departure from the show of its symbolic father — iconic judge Simon Cowell — after nine seasons.

The acerbic British music promoter widely is given more credit than any other single human being for the smash success that Idol became. Just for good measure, fellow but less-veteran judges Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres also left. A year ago, Paula Abdul also exited, though involuntarily.

So what is remaining Idol judge Randy Jackson left to work with? Well, new judges in Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.

And perhaps more important, the concept that made Idol so successful in the first place: the idea that anyone in America could go from zero to hero if they had a great voice, some stage presence and a little luck.

That’s why Fox has been returning to the fundamental notion behind Idol as it has begun to promote the 10th season of the show during other network presentations, such as the World Series and Glee. It's also a way to keep advertisers (such as Ford) satisfied that the Idol juggernaut isn't teetering as it turns 10.

Under the theme “American Idol: Welcome Home,” Idol-spawned superstars Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have been featured, as well as winners David Cook and Lee DeWyze, whose personal stories have inspired fans perhaps more than their post-Idol albums. (Update: as reader "nadia" rightly points out below, DeWyze's album was just released, so too early to make such an assessment.)

None of the changes ensure returning producer Nigel Lythgoe can hold on to the remaining fan base, much less recapture the glory period of a few years ago.

And there’s an “X” factor — literally. Cowell bolted Idol in large part to launch a US version of his hit competition show in the UK, The X-Factor. Sometime next year, Cowell is expected to stage an American invasion on a scale of what he did with Idol several years ago. He may even bring on Abdul as a fellow judge.

When Cowell, a born marketer and showman, next year looks at Idol with new eyes — as his competition, instead of his meal ticket — can it stand up to his withering gaze?



nadia United States says:

as well as winners David Cook and Lee DeWyze, whose personal stories have inspired fans perhaps more than their post-Idol albums

Um ... Mr. DeWyze has only just released his post-Idol album today (16-Nov) and I'd have to say Mr. Cook's fans were inspired enough that his first post-Idol album was one of only 17 albums to go platinum in the 2009 chart year (in the U.S. it has to date sold more than 1.3 million units) and spawned two platinum and one gold singles. In addition, Mr. Cook was one of only three male solo artists to achieve three top ten hits from one album on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Chart (the other two being Rob Thomas and John Mayer) and he had a near sell-out 10-month 152-show tour in 2009.  He has, over the past year, been writing and recording his second major label album which will likely be released in 1Q 2011.  While perhaps not yet "superstar" status, "star" most definitely and well on his way.


November 16, 2010 03:19 PM #

S. Brady (brandchannel) United States says:

Hi, Nadia — you're absolutely right, too soon for such a statement; corrected above. thanks!

November 16, 2010 07:03 PM #

nadia United States says:

You're welcome!  Thank you for reading the comments section and taking the time to verify what's been submitted. I look forward to reading the corrected copy (while you note in your 7:03 PM Nov-16 post that it's been corrected (past tense), I still see the unchanged article above at 8:41 AM Nov-17 ... glitch?). Regards, -n

November 17, 2010 08:44 AM #

S. Brady (brandchannel) United States says:

It's there now; thanks again, Nadia!

November 17, 2010 09:12 AM #

nadia United States says:

*sighs* You apparently got one point and missed the other. *lol*  

The personal stories of any artist can help or hurt them from a branding/marketing standpoint, yes.  But, IMO, you're marginalizing Mr. Cook's rather significant achievements (some of which I outlined in my early note) by suggesting his personal story has inspired fans "more than" his post-Idol album.  "More than" being the key words about which I take issue as I'm obviously one of those fans.  I submit to you that the majority of music fans do not buy 1.3+ million albums and more than 3 million singles of that same album, in this economy and when illegal downloading is easily available, because they are inspired by someone's personal story "more than" the artists music or, for a percentage of invested fans, a combination of the two.  

That, was my second point, somehow missed.

- n : )

November 17, 2010 11:51 AM #

JustSoSad United States says:

Anyone who thinks Idol has a snowball's chance of surviving without Simon is only kidding themselves. Simon defined the show, and without him, it will be just another talent competition, little more than a cheap knockoff of itself. Adding insult to injury will be two well-known popstars posing as judges in place of not only Simon, but also the beloved Paula. Everyone eagerly awaited Simon's critique; not even Randy can weigh in on a performance the way Simon could, and comments from J Lo and Steven Tyler will be of little value. Continuing Idol without Simon is not only a bad idea, it also denies his importance to the show. We all appreciated Paula even more following her departure last season; now, everyone is going to feel an even bigger void, and will realize just how gargantuan Simon's worth to the show was.

November 16, 2010 03:57 PM #

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