By : Maheen Ahmed
For some strange reason on the end of 2021, I found myself stumbling upon the first season of American Idol. It was quite the the nostalgia trip down a faded memory lane.
Entertained, I went down an American Idol rabbit hole, in the middle of the night on YouTube. (So like a regular Tuesday)
American Idol is a singing contest that literally changed lives , that continues to be popular with audiences today, but the it’s the first ten years of the show that dominated the 2000s that has still lives in our collective memory and is a chapter in our pop culture image.
The mix of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson was ideal.
In simple terms American Idol was iconic. It was an emotional rollercoaster and train wreck – It feels different everytime you watch it. It was a beautiful disaster and it happened during a period of technological transition.
In simple terms it was a cultural reset.
The Future Of Yesterday
The 2000s were a interesting time, full of hope and unlike today. The general sentiment towards the future was still futuristic and not dystopian ( at least for some time and some people ) .
American Idol started slow but caught the wave of American viewers, especially teenagers and was in theory a rags to riches dream.
The idea of celebrity and being seen attracted thousands of participants and millions more in people watching dreams being made and broken.
Looking back all those faces are young, innocent and what we can call natural. We are much more aware and conscious about how to look nice for television. The fashion was diverse, casual, modest and lacked a refinement that made it endearing. And let’s not forget to mention a whole lot of demin.
Kelly Clarkson the first gave her audition in a denim dress she she made with old pants. A modern Cinderella story.
Back then a TV show really was a way to be seen by the world, and reality TV was controversial but fodder for the public so of course everyone wanted a piece of the cable pie.
American Idol even had people texting in who they wanted to democratically win the title and its amazing how much has changed along the way .
People would be industry trained and not industry plants and you actually had to be able to sing and have talent to qualify, but plenty of the strange contestants would have done well in today’s comedy scene. The cringe was actually of a better quality then.
The Music Business
The panel was ofcourse qualified to judge the singers and the three could almost see into the future and they didn’t like to entertain the idea of low quality auditions especially Simon Cowell.
Cowell earned quite the reputation as being rude, mean and blunt, but in retrospect he was just being honest to people who saw music and singing as a hobby or fad and not an actual demanding job and business. He was a mirror of what actually to be expected – not just the aspiration of fame and wealth.
Randy and Paula were more polite but still honest and it was in their advice that the wisdom would come through just to fall on plenty of dead ears. It was like they were seen as the stereotype of celebrities minus the work it takes.
Plenty of episodes showcase how shallow the industry was and still is as looks did play a role in who would or would not go through ( it was always brought up ) ( aesthetics are important – but still).
The show was a promise of success.
It really was a path for many to be seen and heard and be loved which is still difficult, and despite what people like to say the contestants are successful.
The Real Stars
The best piece of content that is still fresh to the mind is all the silly and obnoxious auditions that always came with a wave of confidence but deliver so little. They gave a performance that annoyed or amused the judges and always came with some sort of statement of entitlement, false hope and idea of grandiosity.
We know who they are. They made the show.
A lot of them were just tone deaf and out of line.
It was the real spectacle of American Idol and now you don’t really need talent you just need to be outrageous or a crignefest.
I don’t use the word the word cringe to be mean, but to describe the feeling of the spectacle.
Smooth Like Butter
Comical relief and culture aside it was a indeed a vision to behold and a symphony to hear when a contestant had a natural talent or singing. Talent really does come from anywhere and somei talent and skill makes a the cut, even if their is no way to describe it.
And to thing among all the talents and spectacles in the world it is singing that captures the attention of the world. Songs sung by young people at the beginning of their careers really hoping for a break and to change their lives.
Plenty of viewers still remember how they felt when they heard their favourite contestants sing.
They claim to know exactly when they felt a particular person was going to win and be successful.
It really is amazing and something to look back at. All the comedy and memories.
P.S Fantasia had exactly that magical audition.