American Idolatry

The finale of 2021’s American Idol competition this past weekend is a curious reflection of popular culture, a snapshot of our world.

There were three finalists:

Grace Kinstler sang covers, sometimes emulating stars such as Whitney Houston with her powerful sound.

Willie Spence also sang covers with his beautiful voice soaring effortlessly.

Chayce Beckham sang a few covers, but also some original songs he composed himself.

Not only that. Chayce had the foresight to use his temporary fame as a finalist, to launch his single titled 23 that soared to the top of the country charts.

No wonder he won.

I’m just making a few simple observations.

Notice that the demographics of the three finalists–
(a woman, a man of colour, and a white country singer)
–match those for the three judges this year
(Katy Perry, Lionel Richie & Luke Bryan).

Notice that the two most successful contestants ever to appear on the program were not winners, but attained success without much help from the show.

Taylor Swift is the most successful woman in the music business right now, having reinvented the template. No I never remember her melodies. Does it matter? She’s doing very well.

Jennifer Hudson might have the most impressive voice ever heard on the show, but that doesn’t matter. She found fame in Hollywood, singing more Broadway belt than pop music.

But both Swift & Hudson used the showcase of the program to launch careers.

I wonder, does it matter how the show came out, that Chayce won using his original song? I think it’s arguably a step forward, recognizing that while Grace & Willie sang beautiful versions of the songs of other people, Chayce is the first winner who is a complete original.

Next year expect to see more people trying to do what Chayce did.

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