Is 'American Idol' losing its starmaking power?

Chrisdaughtryamericanidol_lJust in time for the new season of Idol, here comes Chris Daughtry to bite the hand that fed him. He tells Rolling Stone he thinks the show is in a slump, and judging by the ratings for last night’s premiere (the lowest-rated Idol kickoff in four years, according to TV Week), he may be right. Meanwhile, this article in the Boston Globe implies that nearly two thirds of the six dozen finalists in the show’s history have dropped out of showbiz. Add these dissenting voices to the news that Katharine McPhee, Taylor Hicks, and Ruben Studdard have been dropped from their major label deals, and it seems fair to ask if American Idol is losing its starmaking power.

Or is it? Low-rated for Idol (33.2 million viewers last night) is still huge for any other show. And as for the alumni success rate, one out of three finalists becoming established stars (of widely varying prominence and career success, to be sure) isn’t a bad batting average, is it?

PopWatchers, do you think Idol is losing its ability to mint new stars, or is it still doing just fine, thank you? And did anything you saw on last night’s show sway your opinion?

addCredit(“Chris Daughtry: John Parra/”)

Comments (42 total) Add your comment
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  • Stephanie T.

    I don’t think so. But I am just curious: if the producers just had a rule that forbid talent agents to set up auditions for professional singers would the show be fair?

  • Sally in Chicago

    Good question and this will be analyzed for months to come. AI borrowed from Star Search and star search produced a few name artists, but not a lot. I remember Sinbad (where is he now?) and some others. I don’t know if any spokesmodels had a successful followup career.
    To get back on track, American Idol has to produce a big BIG star. But let’s face it — some of the finalists just didn’t have “IT”. We can name quite a few: Trenyce, Jasmine, Christina, Justin, so many. AI isn’t going to make stars out of every single contestant. the only one that need be a star is the finalist, and I think 19E is taking the eye off the ball. They need to push the top finalist. They also need to throw in something more than a record contract – maybe a starring role in a movie? $1Mil — someting to make the top prize more worthy. Heck anybody can cut a CD and release it.

  • Lora

    How many of the contestants have really become “stars”? 3…Clarkson, Daughtry and Underwood. Face it, AI is like America’s Next Top Model (i.e. only one of their winners (Adrianne Curry) ever really became famous…and that was for b*nging Peter Brady).

  • Lora

    I do think it’s lame that all the contestants bad mouth the show after they are off…

  • Chanie

    What is the percentage of singers who become stars? Tiny. I think it’s just normal that only a few AI alumni will be remembered after a while.
    I only watched one whole season of AI, the second one. With nothing on TV this winter, I may start to watch it again, but not the whole season. I can’t stand the initial auditions and the prelim, when there are four groups. I will probably watch the “Hollywood” episodes and the finals. That’ll be more than enough to last me for a few more years.

  • Mike

    Can’t Clay Aiken and Fantasia be considered successes of some sort?

  • Jeremy

    No offense, but why are your posts always like a day behind all the other blogs? (This one, Diane Keaton, etc?)

  • T-Rex

    It has never been about Starmaking power for the audience. It is entertainment, pure and simple. I’ve never bought an AI contestant’s album and I probably never will. But I’ll watch the show.

  • John

    Ok, before you mention star search as “only” producing a few…let’s look at the ones it did produce:
    Britney Spears
    Christina Aguilera
    Justin Timberlake
    Rosie O’Donnell
    Sawyer Brown
    Brad Garrett
    LeAnn Rimes
    Rissi Palmer
    Lisa Tucker (pre-Idol)
    Q’orianka Kilcher
    Tiffany Evans
    Linda Eder
    Jenny Jones
    Alanis Morrisette
    And those are the ones I remember right off the top of my head. Now, some of you are forgetting Jennifer Hudson and her Academy Award with many movies lined up and a CD out soon. Kat McPhee is going to be an actress. Kellie Pickler has gone gold and is almost platinum in country, with Bucky Covington hot on her heels. Jordin, from last season, is considered a disappointment, but since when is selling over 100,000 copies in a week a disappointment for a brand new artist. Her song Tattoo has been in the top 10 for weeks, and her follow up has already broken the top 100 even though it has not been officially released to radio! Not disappoin

  • Steven Cuk

    The big question is: Will American Idol play host to a WGA picket line?

  • Stacey

    American Idol is a crap shoot. You’re not guaranteed superstardom. You’ve given the spotlight, a record deal. It’s up to you do with it as you wish. Make it more. Most of the failures fit a niche that just don’t sell and aren’t popular. Or just aren’t the right people to get noticed. Kelly fit the pop/rock category perfectly. Carrie found the perfect spot in Country. Chris Doughtery while finished fourth found a home in band Rock. I loved Katharine McPhee’s CD, but I can see that it didn’t capture what she sang on the show. So fans were alienated. Taylor was never going to get the success. He had the personality, but his music was never going to sell. Jordin is still a work in progress. So American Idol never claimed to make everyone a superstar. It depends on your talent, what kind of music you sing and if you can make it work. You get a stage on AI, the spotlight. It’s up to them to make it big.

  • Broadway Baby

    I think all that AI has lost is the novelty. Kelly Clarkson made it hard for any other winner to be considered successful because she was able to do it right out of the box. I think their record of producing top money entertainers is pretty good – but just like Star Search this show will eventually be put on cable and then cancelled. That’s just the lifespan of any television series.

  • Jaime

    Alot of stars come from some type of television show, look at the Disney Kids (Spears, Xtina, JT) they are alot older now, but we have a fresh crop of young talent coming in. Its just a fact of showbiz some people make it and some dont. Thats 100% up to the people.
    I still believe the best AI alumni is Kelly Clarkson im one of her hugest fans i have everything she has done or been on (I know freaky even magazines shes been on the cover of) I so wish i can get a copy of the EW issue with her and other finalist on the cover from AI s1. I get upset when they say Underwood is the #1 AI album seller Im sorry but breakaway sold over 12million coppies WORLD WIDE. Kelly is the only INTERNATIONAL AI STAR. . .SHE HAS A HUGE FAN BASE AROUND THE WORLD! AND MY DECEMBER IS ONE OF THE BEST AI ALBUMS EVER IF NOT THE BEST. . .I WISH PEOPLE WOULD HAVE GIVVEN IT A CHANCE.

  • Matthew Lingo

    The problem with a show like American Idol is that people are voting based on star power and charisma, which doesn’t always have that much to do with recorded music and non-live presentation. Sure, Taylor Hicks was charming and all, but how do you translate that to his recorded music? People saw the man dance around and sing his heart out for weeks and even months, so of course it wasn’t as exciting to them to just hear him sing. That’s the problem with the show really, we only see them covering well-known songs for most of the run, which has nothing to do with how good the eventual CD/single will be. Ultimately, the American Idol alumni is only as good as the people who write and produce his songs. If the contestants were asked to write and perform their own original songs, there might be less disconnect between who wins the show and who wins the charts.

  • Verener

    The audience drop-off last night was more than just a slight drop-off.It was an 11% dive. And that with the writers’ strike leaving it with no competition. That equates to a 15%-20% dropoff from a normal year.
    It’s actually not Idol’s job to “produce stars.” That’s the job of the record labels and the promotion they give the artists. The recording industry is going through a period of great change right now. It’s the age of the download, leaving cd sales at a low point. So the labels really can’t afford the money to promote these people the way they want to. I wouldn’t be surprised if the unholy alliance between Sony-BMG and American Idol goes belly up very soon.

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