Following an in-depth look at the show’s maiden season, less and less pages are devoted to each subsequent season. This is especially true beginning with season six onward. Rushfield isn’t all that concerned with the viability of each winner and runner-up as a recording artist. Some significant contestants, including season four runner-up Bo Bice, are barely mentioned. In fact, the discussion of season four is very limited, except to portray winner Carrie Underwood as being unpersonable behind the scenes. The most unique Idol champ, season five’s Taylor Hicks, seems to mostly puzzle Rushfield. Aside from a few back-handed compliments aimed at his intense competitiveness, he doesn’t know how to categorize Hicks. Given the book’s focus on the business side of Idol, I expected to read more about Taylor Hicks being the show’s most savvy self-marketer.
At 267 pages, American Idol: The Untold Story is a quick read but one that spends ample time fully exploring its subject. This hardcover volume is an incomplete story in a way, as American Idol is going strong in its tenth season. It seems appropriate though that the story ends with Simon Cowell’s departure. Rushfield spends a great deal of time discussing Cowell’s evolution as one of television’s biggest and highest paid stars. He also tracks the disputes and camaraderie between Cowell and the two other original judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Kara DioGuardi’s two year tenure as the fourth judge is dealt with at some length as well. But the Simon Cowell era is Rushfield’s focus, regardless of who else was sitting at the judges table. He makes a strong case for American Idol as a worthwhile national pastime, despite the show’s critics who believe it has done more harm than good for popular music.