Why We Love “American Idol”

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 12:29

album promo image for Why We Love “American Idol”

By Andy Argyrakis, senior editor, www.watchgmctv.com

Part one of a four part series exploring the good, the bad and the ‘pitchy’ of “American Idol.”

Time flies when you’re being entertained. Believe it or not, “American Idol” just entered its tenth year, and although the show has experienced noteworthy changes along the way, some elements have remained tried-and-true for the famed sing-a-long. The premise of auditioning contestants from across the country until the best of the bunch goes to Hollywood remains intact. The audience still votes for their final favorites. But long before the victor is crowned, “American Idol” engages its viewers by bringing out the judge in us all, ultimately affirming our “expert opinions” as the dreams of someone we’ve cheered for come true.

Humor and heartache
Though it’s especially exciting when it gets down to the nitty gritty, many viewers often name the pre-season as the most fun, if only because it’s so easy to delight in off-the-wall humor. Thanks to the many off-key hopefuls, unconventional howlers, downright bizarre nutcases and the purposefully talentless goofballs looking for some TV time, the try-out round is truly the proverbial needle in a haystack.

As these colorful characters get axed one by one, one can’t help but be sympathetic to the notion of their dreams going unfulfilled. But there’s always next year, meaning it’s never too soon to step up the vocal and performance lessons in hopes of advancing further sometime down the line. If there’s anything American audiences love it’s an underdog who’s able to triumph in time with ceaseless hard work, determination and properly cultivated talent.

But we all can sing, right?
The more we hear our own voices while singing in the shower, in the car with the windows rolled down, or at the gym with the headphones on, the more we feel confident in abilities that may not actually exist, and with a few pats on the back from equally tone deaf family members or friends, it’s only natural to get tricked into thinking there’s enough talent to actually try out, right? But as anyone who’s spent a childhood filled with chorus and choir practice can attest, having the skill and talent to perform as a solo artist isn’t the same as singing loud and proud alone in your car.  

Sitting in judgment
As the weeks go on and the fat gets trimmed, it grows increasingly inticing as a viewer to critique the contestants, by either agreeing with or vehemently opposing the ever evolving panel of judges, to the point of shouting at the TV screen (and we’ve all done it, so don’t deny it). Granted, the average fan might not have the experience of a music industry professional, but to a certain extent, they may be able to judge just as accurately. After all, musical taste is subjective at best.

For instance, just because a producer, critic or fellow artist is in love with an untapped talent doesn’t mean they’ll connect with the general public. On the flipside, sometimes a true gift or even someone with a quirky ability to connect with a crowd may slip through the cracks with a so-called pro, meaning the average radio listener, CD buyer, downloader and social networker may be the true barometer check of who could have a long-term career versus a trip straight to the bargain bin.

When competition leads to ‘the dream’
Though diehard “Idol” fans don’t miss a single second of the show, some fairweather viewers prefer to wait until the final rounds, which is when the competitive spirit really ramps up. And just like playoff season, everybody loves taking sides, making predictions and perhaps even trash talking those who aren’t on their side.

But what makes the program different from spectator sports is that viewers have the power to vote, which ups the involvement ante even more. Many choose who they’ll stand by based on talent alone, but don’t rule out rooting for a singer from your hometown, one that has musical influences you happen to revere or shares a certain set of beliefs.
Ultimately, every high, low and pitchy moment of “American Idol,” comes down to the very last nail-biting episode of the season. While only one can be crowned, anyone who makes it that far is truly a winner, given the numerous record labels offers, instant radio recognition and overnight celebrity status, a double-edged sword in its own right.  

However, what really keeps viewers coming back for more is the reality that dreams can and do come true, not only for those in the spotlight, but also for those at home, inspired to get off the couch and make their goals happen, musically or otherwise.


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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