The Lasting Draw of American Idol

Updated on June 25, 2018
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Everyone 's favorite Singathon, American Idol, returns to our small screens, with Katy Perry at the helm.

It is a lasting draw, but it has The Voice as a fierce competitor. Why does it continue to fascinate viewers and music lovers? How has it changed pop culture, and how has Simon Cowell's departure impacted it? We take a look at this mesmerizing, newly revived singing competition series.

What is American Idol?

For the less initiated, American Idol is a singing competition series created by television producer Simon Fuller.

The concept of the series is the discovery of raw, unsigned singing talent. American viewers vote for the singer they think performed best. Winners of the series include Kelly Clarkson (winner of Season 1), Reuben Studdard, Carrie Underwood, and Jordin Sparks.

The winner of the competition emerges after a lengthy selection process, a series of elimination rounds, and finally, audience voting.

A panel of judges critiques the contestants' performances. They included Music Manager Randy Jackson, singer-choreographer Paula Abdul, and most famously, music executive Simon Cowell, who has gained fame for his harsh criticism. In fact, it kept audiences glued to their screens.

American Idol has enjoyed unprecedented popularity. The media industry has described it as being ' unparalleled in broadcasting history. It is the show that has the most impact next to The Voice and has launched the careers of many celebrities.

The host, Ryan Seacrest, himself has drawn many viewers because of his boyish looks and impeccable sense of style.

The series lasted for an incredible 15 seasons before ending in 2016. The 15th season ended with Ryan Seacrest saying 'Good night America, for now.' It's now returning with megastar Katy Perry as one the permanent judges on the panel.

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What Makes American Idol So Popular?

So, why does American Idol get such a warm reception?

For a start, the format of the show is evergreen. People never tire of the concept of the everyday person winning a singing competition. Talent offerings vary every season; they can be exceptional or poor. Besides, talented singers are always a draw. People enjoy watching people grow as artists.

Idol alumni, like Kelly Clarkson, are genuine talents. The winners of each of the 15 seasons have become music forces. Consequently, they attracted cool, entertainment-savvy contestants.

They have outstanding, engaging, and most importantly, 'real' personalities. For example, the show had Carrie Underwood, the small-town girl who managed to achieve her dreams. Idol has the empathy factor. People can connect with contestants because they are ordinary folk with ambitions, not distant pop stars.

The show has become a way for the everyday musician to launch his or her career. It has enabled people to say, 'Hey, this could be me.'

Another element that allows viewers to connect with the show is that they get to choose who wins. Viewers feel that their opinions matter.

The show has had its share of controversies. There have been conspiracy theories, revotes, and legal charges. Then, there were the obligatory 'affairs' between judges and contestants. 'No-no' elements are audience magnets; people want to be in the know about them.

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How American Idol Changed Pop Culture

American Idol has changed the face of pop music in more ways than one.

The series was more than a talent quest. It created links between artists and audiences, giving the latter the ability to decide which ones they felt deserved success.

This program increased the influence of social media platforms on the success of artists. People could decide their fate via social media platforms. A negative vote or rumor on Facebook could spell the end of a star’s career. The distance between audiences and critics also narrowed; with increased exposure to their views, they could decide the worth of artists. And social media itself started to grow.

The program enabled online communities to boom. As the conversation around the program developed, online forums and comment threads did as well. An Idol ecosystem emerged, with fans forming communities and groups on social media to discuss the show.

Do you watch American Idol?

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Comparing American Idol to The Voice


1. Total viewers

American Idol was one of the top-grossing programs on television back its heyday, drawing about 30 million viewers per episode. However, the numbers fell and never recovered. The reboot premiere, with Katy Perry, drew only 10.48 million viewers. The winner is obvious.

2. All free

Advertisers are most often interested in the youth demographic, which often impacts a show's future. American Idol's producers had hoped that younger viewers would tune in to see pop-star Katy Perry, and they achieved measured success.

Demo ratings for the first episode stood a 2:3 ratio, which is impressive for a show's revival. That said, they are still low compared to its earlier seasons. The Voice is the winner; its demo ratings fluctuated between 1.3 and 1.9 for episodes that didn't feature new performances.

In all, the newly revived American Idol has regained some, though not all, of its pull factor.

Questions & Answers

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      • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

        Michelle Liew 

        3 weeks ago from Singapore

        The X Factor's pretty popular too! Making it a point to catch a few episodes when it next airs.

      • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

        Michelle Liew 

        3 weeks ago from Singapore

        Thanks for coming by, Chitrangada! Since AI started, there have been shows of this nature the world over!

      • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

        Michelle Liew 

        3 weeks ago from Singapore

        Thanks for your comment, Jay. I am sure that Idol will survive for many seasons yet!

      • rickyboom profile image

        Jay Mitchell 

        3 weeks ago from Bay Area, CA

        Great breakdown of the show, my favorite contestants where Jennifer Hudson and Ruben Studdard. Haven't really watched the show much since then, but it's not doubt this show still has more seasons left in it.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        3 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

        I have watched the American Idol show many times. It is entertaining no doubt. In India also there are shows on the same lines.

        These talent shows are good because they provide a platform to common persons, who otherwise may not be able to get such opportunities.

        Nice article, well written! Thanks for sharing!

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        3 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

        We have a similar show in England called The X Factor. I never watch these types of shows though, but realise how popular they are.

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