Television is saturated with reality shows and talent competitions. Shows like American Idol and The Voice promise talented young individuals time in the spotlight for a chance to showcase their singing abilities. While the shows may hold some entertainment value, it is when each season ends the issues become extremely evident.
American Idol had a promising start with its first winner Kelly Clarkson. She wowed America with her powerhouse vocals. Since her stint on the show, Clarkson has released seven studio albums, selling over 12.8 million copies. 3 seasons later, country superstar Carrie Underwood became American Idol’s best selling artist. She released 4 albums and managed to sell over 14.6 million copies. However, since Underwood, Idol has not been able to find their next superstar. Coming close are Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry, but neither of them were winners. Daughtry formed his own band and managed to sell 6.8 million albums since his appearance on the show (RIAA). Hudson found fame in the film industry. She starred in Dreamgirls, for which she won the 2006 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, as well as The Secret Life of Bees and several other successful films.
Compared to American Idol, The Voice absolutely fails. The best winner out of the show so far has been season 3’s champion Cassadee Pope. Pope already had a taste of fame while touring internationally with her band, Hey Monday. When she decided to go solo, she turned to The Voice to help her career. The former pop-punk princess surprised fans when she signed with a country label. However, this turned out to be a very wise decision. Pope has the highest debut at number 9 on the US charts with Frame by Frame. But, according to the RIAA, this album only sold over 180,000 copies. No other Voice winner or contestant has come close to Pope's success post show. So if you look at the numbers for The Voice winners versus the successful American Idol winners- those numbers are tiny. Yet, a majority of people prefer The Voice over American Idol. What is wrong with these shows?
I asked fans what they thought about the show. While some love it for discovering new talent or for the bromance between the judges, others have very low opinions. Yvette Cherkala said she refused to watch these types of shows because she thinks they are scripted. Taylor Fredricks stated “It’s a hit and miss for me. A lot of good singers and musicians get noticed on these types of shows, they might make it far and not win, but they still end up getting some kind of success as well as a broader fan base… These shows end up always having a winner who would be good in a mainstream market, which isn’t bad, but it also can take away the originality.”
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl addressed shows like American Idol and The Voice in a Facebook post back in 2013:
“It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old f***ing drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll f***ing start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll becoming Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana.”
There is something not translating from the television to reality for these artists. Is it, perhaps, a great lack of industry know-how? A lack of performance experience? Are they truly not receiving the help they were promised if they won? There can be many factors and combinations of. America votes and gets a say in who will win. But is it because the person is pretty or handsome? Is it because they hate another contestant? I would love to find out the reasons why people voted a certain way.
These shows are behaving like over-glorified karaoke competitions. Maybe people aren’t buying the music because they liked the contestants’ covers, but found the artists to be terrible songwriters. Or maybe there is just a complete apathy that takes over once the show’s winner is announced. It’s almost like the anticipation and suspense of who will take it all is more important than the actual person. While entertainment value may go up, the artists’ talent gets lost in the shuffle.
American Idol, The Voice, and other talent competition shows have rarely made a superstar out of anyone. Perhaps, the best route is to do what Dave Grohl said: pick up an instrument, practice hard, and just keep going. But whatever these television shows are doing is just not working. It may be time for them to retire and for these artists to take the hard road to superstardom.