It strikes me as odd that the writer of this AP story about the show biz success of American Idol contestants seems somewhat surprised by the show biz success of American Idol contestants:
As the third season of Fox’s hugely successful reality contest gears up for the May 26 finale, numerous former contestants — some dishonorably discharged — are signing major record deals, appearing on television and singing on Broadway.
The show “has gotten the public captivated,” said Geoff Mayfield, director of charts for the Billboard music-industry magazine. “I think that the viewers feel an investment in ‘American Idol.’ Now, I kind of take it as a matter of course that this is an event that sells music.”
And jump-starts careers:
William Hung, the laughingstock of the third season, already has an album out. The 21-year-old engineering student performs comical covers of popular tunes by R. Kelly, Elton John, The Beach Boys, Enrique Iglesias and, of course, the Ricky Martin numbers that made him infamous.
….Although Hung’s popularity is based on his awfulness, “you can’t blame a person for taking an opportunity,” said season two finalist Kimberley Locke. “That’s why we all do it.”
….Locke just released her debut album, “One Love,” on Curb Records
…She admits that “Idol” has accelerated her career. “For the rest of my life I’ll have to talk about ‘American Idol,’ which is a good thing because I’m proud to have been a part of the show,” she said.
RJ Helton, the top-five finalist from season one, released his debut album, the Christian-oriented “Real Life,” on B Rite/Zomba last month. The Latin crooner is managed by Beyonce’s father, Matthew Knowles.
….Former child star Marque Lynche, who got the boot on February 10, recently joined the off-Broadway musical “Fame On 42nd Street,” based on the popular 1980s film and television show.
“The reason that I got ‘Fame’ was because (the producers) saw me on the show and they said (I) was perfect for this role,” said Lynch, 23,
….Other contestants taking on theatrical gigs include Vanessa Olivarez from season one [two, actually], currently playing the lead in the Toronto version of the hit Broadway musical “Hairspray,” and season two semifinalist Trenyce, who recently wrapped a national tour with “Not A Day Goes By,” based on the best-selling E. Lynn Harris novel.
And then there’s Frenchie Davis – clearly Ruben and Clay’s biggest competition from season two. The voluptuous vocal powerhouse, bounced after her pictures surfaced on an adult web site, is on board for another run in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical “Rent” this summer. She recently performed a leading role in the touring company of the legendary musical “Dreamgirls,” and she’s negotiating a record deal.
I see the equation as follows: American Idol is an immensely popular show with millions of devoted viewers, many of whom express their identification with the show not only by watching, but by voting for their favorite contestants.
By an imperfect but roughly “objective” system of “expert” judging and viewer voting, talent slowly rises through the the show’s pyramid structure, gaining a fair amount of exposure to dozens of contestants per season, more exposure to the 32 semi-finalists, and a lot of exposure to the 12 finalists, who as they move forward in the competition become celebrities in their own right, people the viewers feel they know and like (or they wouldn’t vote for them).
Due to the exposure, and the fact that THIS IS A TALENT SHOW with the express purpose of exposing and developing talent, doesn’t it make sense that a goodly amount of the talent exposed and developed would find a place in the greater show biz structure? Seems pretty obvious to me.
What does suprise me, though, and what the article doesn’t get into, is not just that some of the more prominent contestants have found a place in professional show biz, but that the show has thus far generated at least three (Kelly, Clay, Ruben) genuine (at least so far) recording stars with real hit albums, singles and a legitimate shot at a real recording career. THAT is not something I expected to necessarily see: TV and recording are very different endeavors and success on one is not necessary and sufficient for success in the other.