US reality singing competitions advance despite cultural changes

It was June 2002 when the experience of televising a song contest where viewers could determine the results was put to the test. Three months later, that experiment produced a multi-platinum superstar and changed the trajectory of reality TV for decades.

The show was “American Idol” on FOX, and that star, who was voted on by America’s vote, was Kelly Clarkson. After Clarkson’s “One Shining Moment,” other hopefuls decided they wanted to dazzle a panel of judges including Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson and also be America’s next idol.

In its second season, it was obvious Americans wanted to know and play a role in deciding who it was. “American Idol” almost doubled its marks, according to Hollywood-based entertainment newspaper The Wrap.

Fast forward to 2021. Many reality singing competitions have both flourished and abandoned the same pattern that was forged by FOX’s “American Idol” in 2002. Remarkably, despite the test of time and an atmosphere of Ever-evolving pop culture, some of these shows are still afloat after 20 unprecedented seasons on the air. The question remains: how have these shows stayed relevant for so long and where do they go from here?

The reality singing contests have had a plethora of calls to attract audiences. The drama, famous judges, sometimes shocking results and a unique setting that allows contestants a concert experience close to that of a concert in live shows, engaged viewers.

The original “American Idol” judges, left to right, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. (IMDB)

Kyle Miller, a 22 year old music enthusiast and current Chicago resident, still listens to “American Idol” to see what America loves and has to offer.

“I love watching sung reality TV shows because I love seeing America’s singing talent,” Miller said. “It’s even funny what people think is good song.”

While voting for the best singer, which is very subjective, is what the purpose of the show seems to be on the surface, the journey that many viewers take with a specific competitor they become attached to, sometimes manifesting in fandom. , often based on factors independent of vocal competence.

Kelly Kessler, professor of communications and media at DePaul and author of “Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity, and Chaos,” believes live singing competitions took off and lasted a long time due to viewers’ satisfied cravings for factors. emotional and entertaining.

“They provide both hope and schadenfreude,” Kessler said. “They give hope that even the underdog can reach the top. That said, those shows, especially the weeding first weeks of a show like ‘American Idol,’ make us feel better than the listeners falling in their face.

While the factors Kessler mentioned explain why fans remained attached to these shows for many years, these calls didn’t always keep all of their viewers tuned in consistently.

After American Idol Season 5, which had the highest ratings of any season, the hit FOX show steadily declined in viewership. according to The Envelope. This led to the show’s eventual cancellation on FOX ahead of a reboot on ABC in 2018.

In April 2011, in the midst of this drop in audience, NBC’s “The Voice” took on the US reality singing competition market in a different way. To distinguish itself from the struggling “American Idol”, “The Voice” reinvented itself as a show that would offer a unique format with more emphasis on superstar judges.

“The Voice” had an innovative new method of selecting yourloaned out via blind auditions where coaches could turn their chairs if they wanted a candidate on their team. The format matched the brand, as the actual voice would be prioritized by the judges over appearance or other factors.

FILE: THE VOICE – “Blind Auditions” – Pictured: (L to R) Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, Blake Shelton – (Photo by: Trae Patton / NBC) (Trae Patton / NBC)

Judges Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green, all superstars in a variety of genres, had coined terms such as “Team Xtina” or “Team Blake”. win, “The Voice” topped “American Idol” in 2013 for audience ratings, according to Talent Recap.

After the judges’ routine swap on “The Voice” for 20 seasons, even Kelly Clarkson became one of 14 different superstars to be judged on “The Voice,” rather than the show that launched her career.

However, just as “The Voice” overtook “American Idol,” which after its reboot from ABC still remains on the air but not as popular as it was in its prime, both shows must meet the challenges of making a repeated product and avoid the dangers of becoming obsolete in a new age of music and television.

DePaul junior Nathalie Hoste no longer watches TV singing shows, which she attributes to factors of a changing television landscape.

“I think their time to rule television is over,” Hoste said. “Now that we have all these streaming services and stuff, nobody cares about live TV anymore because you can watch them later. “

The current lineup of American Idol judges is made up of Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan. (IMDB)

With TikTok, YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud and a host of other ways to be discovered vocally gaining in popularity, people have had more success breaking into the industry in other ways than “The Voice” and “American. Idol “.

“You don’t really hear from the people who come out of these shows anymore,” Hoste said. There has certainly not been a superstar at the level of Kelly Clarkson, or Carrie Underwood and Jordan Sparks, winners of seasons 5 and 6 of “American Idol”.

The winners aren’t always the most successful either. Notable non-champions include “American Idol” alumni Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson and Tori Kelly. Even the convincing non-champions of today’s shows have struggled to achieve commercial stardom in today’s music industry.

With more competition in the music industry and a bit of a drought in star-making, reality vocal producers have yet to make the product profitable in the television industry.

“Like all reality TV, they shape reality into a salable story,” Kessler said. “I don’t think it always works the way they think it does, but season after season we see the producers and the edit taking hold of a good story.”

Trying to juggle between promoting compelling stories and acquiring industry-worthy talent is an increasingly difficult task for producers and has turned some people away from actual vocal competitions.

“These shows are so over the top now,” Hoste said.

One example that bothers some viewers is a recent trend and producer gadget from the current “American Idol” jury that pretends to trick contestants into believing they are being sent home only to advance them in the competition.

Despite all the potential setbacks that could have derailed the two shows for good, other than the two-year hiatus from American Idol, both shows have managed to maintain an audience consistency that can outlast big network brands with NBC. and ABC.

The desire to promote these shows has not diminished either. Ariana Grande has announced that she will replace Nick Jonas as judge in season 21 of “The Voice” and her fame could certainly attract a younger demographic.

While “The Voice” and “American Idol” don’t last forever, their ability to stay on air in an era of innovative streaming is an accomplishment few shows have managed to achieve.


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