Field Guide to ‘American Idol’

I cranked up Fantasia’s new album, Side Effects of You, to get myself ready for writing this piece, so you know where my head’s at, cool? This is only my second listen through the album as a whole and it’s bangin’. I think as a whole, many of the American Idol winners put out at least one really good album and this may be Fantasia’s best. I’m still waiting for her to put out an album of Bonnie Raitt covers, to be honest.

We are just a few hours away from crowning the next winner and just a few months from hearing the next winner’s album. The final two in this year’s competition are Candice Glover and Kree Harrison. Candice lives in South Carolina and, I think, is the favorite to win. She’s had two performances this season that the judges have declared the best in American Idol history – ‘Lovesong’ and ‘Somewhere’. Kree lives in Nashville and has been my favorite throughout the competition. She has been consistently giving great performances throughout, especially ‘Crying’. I have a feeling Candice is going to win, but I would be happy with either winning, really.

This season, we saw a deliberate stacking of female competitors. The last five winners have all been guitar-playing white males. It was not surprising that the final five contestants were all women, although it was clear from the beginning that the final three would be Candice, Kree and Angie Miller. Angie was eliminated in what most people think was a surprise elimination last week.


I can’t imagine anyone reading HelloGiggles doesn’t know that American Idol is a reality singing competition show airing on FOX. The show premiered in June of 2002 and it is currently in its twelfth season. The concept of the show is to find singers where the winner is voted on by the viewers. The 11 previous winners chosen by viewers through telephone, Internet and text voting were Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips.

The show has been hosted by Ryan Seacrest for its entire run, with the exception of the first year when he co-hosted with Brian Dunkleman. There are also judges that chose the top 12 contestants before their fate is determined by the viewer’s votes. The judges also critique the contestants’ performances weekly. Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson were the original three judges – a format that was repeatedly copied by many other reality shows that followed it. In season eight, Kara DioGuardi, a singer-songwriter and record producer, was added as the fourth judge. Paula left after the eighth season and was replaced by Ellen DeGeneres, who stayed for just one season. Season ten of the show saw a giant shuffle in judges. Simon left, as did Kara and was replaced by Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler who stayed for two seasons. The current season judges are Keith Urban, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and original judge Randy Jackson. There will inevitably be more judge shuffling next season as Randy announced that he is leaving the show at the end of this season.

Identifying Characteristics

The show has a very specific format that has been slightly adjusted throughout the 12 seasons. We start off with the audition rounds, which are a blend of the great performers and terrible ones. Some of those terrible performers have had their 15 minutes of fame, like William Hung. Following those initial auditions, the contestants move on to Hollywood week and added in season ten a Las Vegas round. After those rounds, the audience then starts to determine the contestants all the way up to the final two.

American Idol has been a jumping off point for quite a few Grammy and Country Music Awards award winning singers/musicians, as well as one Oscar winner. There are 11 Grammy awards in total, 6 of those belong to Carrie Underwood. Jennifer Hudson, who came in seventh place in season the, is the only contestant to win an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls – she sang ‘And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)’ during the competition too.

Some ubiquitous items pop up every season. These items are media sponsorships and have become, at least in my opinion, a joke. The red Coke cups the judges drink out of from their judging table are always there. The worst are the terrible Ford Commercials where the contestants sing songs and driving around in Fords – it’s all terribly cheesy.

After each season there is the American Idol tour. The top ten contestants get to go on tour all over the world which I think is a pretty sweet deal especially for those eliminated early on.

Image via Examiner