By Elizabeth Barfoot Christian
It won’t last. American Idol is done. Simon IS American Idol. Can we say ‘over’?
These are just a few of the rantings of American Idol fans last year when it was announced that Simon Cowell was calling it quits after Season 9. And I counted myself among the loudest of naysayers. I mean, it would be like Snow White without the wicked queen, right? Bloody boring without the boorish Brit!
Well, we were all wrong! For once, it seems Americans were in need of some ‘nice’ in their Idol nights.
The infusion of the saccharine-sweet Jennifer Lopez and colorful rock god Steven Tyler onto the judge’s panel with mainstay Randy “Dawg” Jackson has been better than anyone predicted.
Thursday night’s announcement of the Top 24 boasted an impressive 21.8 million viewers, a 19 percent jump over last year’s comparable show. And the week before the Hollywood episode saw a season-high Thursday of 22.2 million. Wednesday, Feb. 2 had a viewership just shy of 25 million. Skeptics be damned. Advertisers take note. It seems American Idol's star is still shining bright.
Along with the return to the three-judge panel, among the best changes in Season 10 has been the second chances afforded those American Idol hopefuls whose nerves simply got the better of them. Before this season, if you forgot the words, you could forget your dreams. It didn’t matter if you were the next Elvis Presley, you were headed for heartbreak hotel at the next cut.
This year’s judges have taken a more realistic approach to untested, raw talent and realize that even stars can have a bad performance and forget the words. Right, Christina Aguilera? Fortunately, for those of us watching American Idol (or the Super Bowl), our slip-ups won’t be broadcast to millions. This type of empathy resonates the American audience.
The show’s creator Simon Fuller said the positive energy this year has emanated through the show’s entire crew, and he told online magazine NOW that he credits Tyler and Lopez with bringing a “new level of understanding . . . to the show.”
As far as the effect “Idol” will have on future music sales of its new found stars, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told reporters that will be determined by the record-buying public. One thing’s for sure, though, this season’s American Idol has had a huge impact on new judge Steven Tyler’s music sales. Aerosmith has seen a whopping 250 increase in sales since its charismatic front man joined the “Idol” crew, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Tyler is attracting a whole new fan base through American Idol, and folks who were already his fans but weren’t American Idol viewers are now tuning in to watch him belt out a few bars with the contenders. His exuberance is enchanting.
The season’s beautiful, bright spot JLo, (A.K.A. Jennifer Lopez) whose singing career has seen better days, premieres her new music video to “On the Floor” on the March 3 episode of the show. This will no doubt spur sales of her single, too.
Also to debut this season is the first-ever Facebook voting for American Idol faves, another sign that social networking has taken over as our communiqué of choice. It will be an interesting technological trend to see how social networking of a reality TV show affects the world of music marketing. Stay tuned.
Elizabeth Barfoot Christian is assistant professor of journalism at Louisiana Tech University and the editor of Rock Brands: Selling Sound in a Media Saturated Culture.
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