I admit it, I like reality shows. But I am starting to feel a bit of singing competition overload. In the past year, we have seen “The Voice,” “American Idol, “The Sing Off,” and “The X Factor” not to mention “America’s Got Talent” and “The Glee Project” too which have singers on them. It seems like America is searching for new talent year round now.
“American Idol” is still the best of the bunch as far as I am concerned. There is something about taking someone who was an unknown and turning them into a star. You can’t deny the track record: all the album sales, concert tickets, Grammy Awards and even an Oscar winner from their ranks. It is a pop culture institution at this point. It introduced the world to Simon Cowell and reinvigorated the career of Paula Abdul. Sure there have been some weaker seasons and winners, but overall it is the one I still love the most. And the one I follow pretty religiously. They have 3 genuine stars from their ranks: Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood.
“The X Factor” was supposed to knock “Idol” out of the water — but it hasn’t. It has done decently in the ratings, but to me, it is not that different than “Idol.” It was renewed for season 2, but there are some things that need to be fixed. Nicole Scherzinger needs to go, she brings nothing to the competition. She is a good singer and I enjoyed her when she played in “Rent” on stage but not here. I don’t like the drastic cuts, having 2 cuts where 2 acts go. If you need to start earlier to avoid things like that, then do it. The same thing happened to “So You Think You Can Dance” when it was on in the fall (since there is a shorter time span in the fall from Sept to Dec. than when shows go in the spring from Jan. to May). The arrangements and production are so overblown. Do we need all the fireworks, and backup dancers? Sure these people want to be touring artists… but they will only get there based on vocals and great songs. I would like to see more of the actual mentoring of the contestants with their mentors. I do like the idea of having older singers and groups too, so keep those categories. It is supposed to be about the SINGERS and not the judges, so remember that!
“The Voice” was a surprise hit last spring for NBC, who has been lacking in hits in the last few years. Based on a Dutch show, it also has mentors like “The X Factor,” but one of the major differences are the blind auditions. This is where the mentors have their backs to the singers on first listen, only to turn around if they want them on their teams. I also liked the fact that they had duos in the mix, as well as a number of openly gay and lesbian contestants in the contest. We’ll see what the show brings in season 2.
Besides being overloaded with the actual competition, the winners of these contests, all have albums out now or coming out in the next 6 months. So we’ve got reality contestant’s CDs on overload too — competing for our attention on the charts and on radio too. Last season’s “Idol” finalists that released albums recently are Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, and James Durbin. Haley Reinhart has an album coming too. From “The Voice,” we have Javier Colon, Dia Frampton and Xenia releasing CDs. Plus there will be the winner’s albums from “The X Factor” (Melanie Amaro) and “The Sing Off” too. Not to mention the fact that the finalists have to compete with all past contestants too — like Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Adam Lambert and more. And the judges albums too: Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Nicole Scherzinger, Blake Shelton. It is definitely a crowded marketplace!
So you see my point! One thing I would love to see added (to any of these shows) is a song-writing part of the competition. You can be the best singer in the world, but if you don’t have the songs, you won’t last long. Just ask Ruben Studdard…