In 2001, my father was overseas for a work trip for a couple months. It was much longer than he was usually away, and my mother was looking for things to occupy the time. It just so happened that a brand new competition reality show was getting ready to start on FOX. It was called American Idol, and it planned to be the best singing reality television competition in existence. No matter how ratings fluctuated over the years or how many other singing competitions arose, American Idol still remained on top.
Now, in 2016, season 15 of American Idol, the final season, has just ended. The final season was full of nostalgia, and the finale episode brought back as many former Idols as they could manage. Consistently throughout the finale I found myself saying, "Oh, I remember her!" or "I remember him!" For those singers I hadn't thought about in over a decade, that was a pretty strange rocket powered trip down memory lane. I was pleased with the finale, as my favourite of the final two won the final year of competition. As with many other years of American Idol though, I'm most excited about what all the other competitors will be up to, regardless of the fact that they didn't win.
My relationship with American Idol was pretty consistent from year to year. During the auditions round, I would pick a handful of favourites to pay attention to more closely than the others. Almost without fail, my batch of favourites would make it to the top twenty-four, and usually at least some of them would be in the top ten. Notably, the year Scotty McCreery won, he and runner-up Lauren Alaina were my two picks from auditions that I wanted to follow, and they were the last two standing. This goes back to the beginning of American Idol for me though. In 2001, I watched a denim-clad Kelly Clarkson audition for the brand new show. Then, in 2002, I watched her take the title, hugging Justin Guarini and tearfully singing her way through A Moment Like This. My favourites don't always win, but American Idol is about discovering singers, and that meant you didn't have to win to make a career for yourself.
My absolute favourite example of this is Chris Daughtry. The rocker came in fourth place the year that Taylor Hicks won. The winner of that season hasn't gone on to be a large name per se, although his runner-up Katherine McPhee has done pretty well. Chris Daughtry, by contrast, went on to become the number three best selling artist of all time to come out of American Idol. Only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood surpass his album sales. His band, Daughtry, has made their stamp firmly on the rock music scene. He's one of my all time favourite contestants, and he didn't win. He didn't even come in second. Other favourite not-winners of mine include Adam Lambert, Diana DeGarmo, Clay Aiken, Allison Iraheta, Colton Dixon, Danny Gokey, and more I'm sure I'm forgetting. I don't still love all of those artists, although I do still believe they're all incredibly talented. However, I loved them during their seasons, and I wished success for all of them.
American Idol made a huge impact on an entire generation, and it has produced more successful recording artists than any of the other reality television singing competitions that came after. Even when something like The Voice achieves better ratings on television, the winners just don't find the same commercial success that contestants from American Idol do. The show may be over, but it's created a legacy that will continue for decades to come. As someone who grew up with American Idol, I'm really going to miss it. It was obvious from the finale that I'm not alone in that, with both judges, contestants, and the legendary Ryan Seacrest all just barely managing to hold it together as the final episode closed. It's the end of American Idol. For now, anyway.