Losing Credibility: Why Idol Doesn’t Sell Big (Like It Used to)

Someone on the previous thread posted a link to an article about some former Idols only attracting a crowd of 50 (older audience members at that), really projecting an idea that former American Idols are now just “has beens” (and they haven’t even reached middle age!).

So, why is it that only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood (and to a lesser extent Jordin Sparks and Fantasia) are the only Idol winners to really achieve what the show promised them – pop stardom – while the male winners have yet to reach their level?  Indeed, in the wake of David Archuleta’s season, it would seem that the Idol winners – all cut out from the same WGWG cloth – are not reigning supreme like their female counterparts, even though audiences have been picking them as winners.

In short, why are the latest Idol winners not “selling” or “crossing over” into pop stardom like they used to?

Perhaps this is all tied to what I think is the loss of credibility that the latest wins reveal about the competition.

Consider: When Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood won their titles, nobody but nobody questioned their rightful win.  Sure, a runner-up like Bo Bice gave Carrie Underwood a run for her money, but Justin Guarini was no where near Kelly’s level.  Their wins were a foregone conclusion.

People were still biting their nails during David’s finale, and critics even called the competition for Archuleta.  After Cook won, the media still treated David as if he were the defacto Idol winner.

It just goes to show: the audiences might want “the guy next door,” but everyone else recognizes a star when they see one.

When “the guy next door” beats out the “obvious winner,” wouldn’t you say a show premised on finding the “next big pop star” has a credibility problem?

And say what you will about Adam Lambert the following season: he definitely had more “star” potential than “guy next door” Kris Allen.  Crystal Bowersox the next season may not be “star quality,” but her talent definitely trumped eventual winner Lee DeWyze.

Season 10’s “Country” finale doesn’t even count, as far as I’m concerned since neither winner Scotty McCreery nor runner-up Lauren Alaina come close to pop crossover country like Carrie Underwood.

And Season 11’s Phillip Phillips as a “pop star”?  Sorry, but – despite her imitative performances – runner-up Jessica Sanchez could easily fit the “pop songstress” mold.

In short, Idol has stopped becoming a “star finder” and instead became a “pick-your-favorite-coffee-shop-or-bar-singer.”

And you know me: in my David-centric universe, I blame David’s loss of the crown on this state of affairs as well. Had he won his season, justice would have been served, and all would be right in the Idol world following his wake. 😛

So, I’m saddened to hear that really talented Idol finalists like Elliott Yamin and former Idol winner Ruben Studdard – two male contestants who I really admired during my early Idol-watching days – are struggling for an audience (and for promotion).  Sadly, their soul-singing talents have been trumped by the mediocrity of WGWG in recent years, and no one is as interested in genuine male vocalists anymore.

Will this uninterested audience be equally uninterested in David when he returns in 2014? I really am hoping for a culture change by then. Perhaps David picked the best time to “disappear” while completing his mission in Chile.


Posted on June 2, 2012, in American Idol. Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. hell0g0rge0us

    In other news, David Archuleta BEGIN is trending on Twitter! Get out!! 😛

  2. Hg, I tend to agree with you about David being in a hiatus for a while that it might be the best thing for his career. Other than Carrie and Kelly, it seems like all contestants that come out of AI machine are grouped differently than other artist. After 4 years that David was on AI, he is still referred as a runner-up on AI. Carrie and Kelly are no longer referred to as AI winners, they are refered as stars.

    • Very thought provoking and interesting post, hg. I agree that David just might have picked a good time to take a break. I have to admit I too find it rather sad that some of these male idols, specifically Ruben and Elliott, are struggling to find an audience and promo. Great that BEGIN is trending.

    • Good point about Carrie and Kelly, cq

  3. Yipee! BEGIN. trending!!!!! . Hope that there are going to be a few promos from David’s camp, but how cool is it that the fans are trying hard to keep the buzz going.

  4. David does have great fans. It is amazing he has been able to retain fans 4 years after idol. I just hope this continues while he is gone. I think his popularity in Asia greatly helps. Once a AI season is over fans move on to another and another. Very few fans remain loyal and buy or go see the artists once their season wraps. That is the true problem with the AI show for these ex idols that struggle. AI ex idols also have the stigma of the show losing it’s credibility due to the lack of success of its winners and not producing a huge star winner in the past 7 years. Carrie and Kelly are the only exceptions.

  5. I’ve been giving this some thought and have a different take on why Kelly and Carrie are the only superstars from Idol. I believe Kelly is because she was the first winner and this was unique to T.V. and pop radio embraces unique for a new artist and played her song. The same with Carrie as the first female country artist. They both were given good songs to sing and radio played their second songs. They were eventually established artists and now radio will always play their songs. David’s problem was that by season 7 artists coming off Idol were no longer considered unique so it was harder to get radio to play their songs. He got the one hit because Z100 NY premiered it and added it to their playlist so all other stations followed. His second single they played for two weeks and then dropped it. I never understood why it was dropped and that was the end for radio hits for David. The whole problem is it is extremely hard to get Pop radio play unless you are a handful of established artists who are played to death.

    On TheVoice a very interesting article link was posted where in today’s music environment it is all about connecting with fans and thinking outside of the box. I think David and his team needs to concentrate on this as the old model of major label and radio play is going out the window. I do think David can succeed in this new model of doing business as he does have dedicated fans.
    Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model


    • Interesting article. I agree that you need to think outside of the box and have a marketing plan in place in today’s music industry. Even Lady Gaga last year had a one day promo deal to download her album for a $1. Connecting with fans is the way to go for long-term success. David just needs the right team in place for that. I think Kari knows the music industry and has connections. That is why I am glad at least she is still involved with David’s career.

  6. From what I’ve heard, Branson ran a very brief & impersonal TV ad a few times a day. Like, a 2-second pic of Ruben & Blake, a list of names of the other alum, & no mention of what season they were on or what they’ve done since being on the show. Plus, Branson caters to retirees, & that part of the country thinks AI is a joke. They wouldn’t know an AI alum if they bit ’em in the face. lol. Unfortunately, I think David’s included in that. 😦

    And I agree with what everyone has said so far in this thread. I just want David to have enough fans to keep going, but I dunno…I guess we’ll find out what happens in 2 years.

  7. Although…David definitely has that “extra special something” that keeps fans coming back. Peeps adore him. I might be biased, but I don’t see that in the other alum. lol. So I think that if he really WANTS a comeback, & if he plays his cards right & does what’s needed to put himself back in people’s minds, it can definitely happen…

  8. Thanks GJ for that great, great article! I loved all the examples given.

    I really feel more could be done on David’s side to work many of these concepts out if he were interested and especially after being out of the limelight for 2+ years. It is already a given that many archies are extremely talented in many areas. Fans could also vote on album covers, song choices etc. I also feel it could be in management’s best interest to communicate with all the prominent fansites – there are not too many right now – other than say FOD, when a new album or project is pending. Has HG or Angelica of the Voice ever gotten a “great job” kudos for continuing to keep David’s name out there? Not that what they do is for that reason but it would be nice.

    Early on in David’s fanship years, many wondered it it would have been possible to have a fan convention ending with an intimate David concert. I remember writing a couple years ago that TSwift used to have “fan days”. It was not short like ILOVEACCESS. Fans would have access to her for hours at a time just hanging out with her. Here’s an example:-

    • joymus, I agree with all of your comments. Great comment. David’s management should try and communicate with all of his fan sites as there are not as many left. All of David’s fan sites deserve so much credit for trying to keep David’s name out there while he is gone. HG and the others do deserve getting at least some acknowledgement for being such great fans and trying to keep these sites going for David and his fans.

    • Fan fests occur in country music. i believe with the state of the music industry other genres would be smart to put these on too. Taylor really worked the fan fests and social media in the early part of her career which IMHO led to her popularity. I remember when several fan-sites tried to get a special concert with David but it was shot down probably by Jeff. At that time David was extremely busy and very popular. I’m sure Jeff didn’t think it was needed then. However, David has been great to all his fans doing countless signings, his VIPs were special enough that people that could went to more than one, and he did a good job with social media – tweets and vlogs. Cook and Kris Allen fans complained that they did not do much of a job with social media when they recorded their albums which put them out of sight of their fans for much of a year and a half.

  9. I’m really interested in how BEGIN will be marketed and where it will be available to buy. Since David is out of the country and has no label for this album other than an independent LDS label it will mainly be up to David’s team. The fans can help through social media, and, of course, purchasing the album.

  10. Interesting article Hg, this really made me think about what I hear every day at work.
    My company has 7 thousand stores. We have music piped in, and each store can choose a certain genre. Every day, all day, we hear certain idol’s songs. They are mixed in with artists like Gavin DeGraw, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, etc. I had never even heard a Taylor Hicks song until we played him. (his coronation song) I hear Fantasia, Ruben, Clay, Carrie, Kelly, Jordin and lately, a ton of D Cook. The only ones who have songs other than their AI coronation song played are Kelly, Carrie, Jordin (No Air, Battlefield) and Cook. (Light On, Come Back to Me, The Last Goodbye) ) (I also hear Flying without Wings by Ruben, not sure if that was his single or AI song) Never our D, never once. :((((
    I don’t know what this has to do with Branson, 🙂 all I know is that 1) My company clearly has some deal going with Idol to play their music (and everyone in the Simpson family, including Nick Lachey lol, but that is neither here nor there) and 2) I would keel over and die if David ever performed in Branson. Please God don’t ever let it come to that.
    Now I need to figure out a way to get David on our satellite.
    And Joymus, yes to every word you said.

  11. My guess is that Idol has lost its credibility due to lack of diversity within the senior ranks of the show production (e.g., no women or minorities). Those in charge of production have no clue how to change the show up to make it more relevant. Consider if Jayz or Madonna were running the show.
    They would not have had Jessica singing ballads Celion/Whitney style; that era is over. And they would never allow contestants to perform those Brady Bunch-like duets and group numbers.

    Re. Branson, I’m laughing at all the negative comments; it must not be what I thought it was, lol.

  12. Somehow I’m feeling a little mad today that David is taking such a long break from his career. I know that it’s not my life, but as a fan, that’s what I’m feeling today…..Still a fan and will wait for him. Feelings are feelings and I just needed to vent.

    • cq~ I have days like that, too~ believe me. 🙂

      • Thank you for sharing, glad I’m not alone.

      • You know what made me frustrated today is when I read that Bieber sold out his entire North America tour in 1 Hour and both MSG shows in 30 seconds. The music industry makes no sense as so many very talented music artists are struggling. The tours are where music artists make the money. JB can’t even sing. When is his 15 minutes of fame going to be over. lol cq, with David I just think anymore “it is what it is”. It really is on David now as to what happens with his music career but yes it is hard as a fan to see him take such a long break.

      • Yes, we are David’s ODD fans and we all miss him. I too wish his break was not two years. It’s almost like being in the military with all of the rules except he could probably contact us more if he was in the military!

        I read in the Parade insert in the paper that Demi Lovato has a tour this summer. Obviously JB must put on quite a show and continues to have lots of fans. Adele, who can sing sells out her tours as well.

  13. Yeah. it is hard to hear this JB news. Again he makes more money. Again he gets acclaim for mediocre talent. Guess his recent public antics fueled sales. How much more longer can David fans not feel frustrated.

    CQ – the back and forth between anger and acceptance is expected and perfectly normal. Uggh! Has it even been 3 months yet? Sigh…lol.

    • I think that if David had not vloged and tweeted so regularly for the past, say I guess, three years, I might of not been so invested into David’s career and David himself. We all were going on this wonderful ride with him and we (at least I ) felt like he wanted us to experience what he was experiencing. Oh well, as Marie said, it is what it is. Tomorrow is another day, maybe something will happen to make me feel better, like maybe some promos for BEGIN, lol.

  14. Feeling better today, Kari has confirmed a single will be released this month, YIPEE!!!

    • That’s a second single to be released in the Philippines off the Forevermore album. Kari didn’t say which song it would be but did say that it’s not Rainbow, which many fans thought was planned to be the next single. I’ll be interested to see which song they picked.

      • Love them all, You Are My Song might be a good single, what do you guys think? Have to run for now…real life stuff. Will check in later about everyone’s thoughts.

      • David’s trip to the Philippines is the gift that keeps on giving. Kari gave us a new picture and the promise of a new single to be revealed soon. I would assume that Rainbow will be a third single since I believe a MV was filmed for it. Rumor is that David was dancing or at least it looked like it. I like all the songs on Forevermore so I don’t care which one it is.

      • I thought it was supposed to be Rainbow too, grammyj, but Kari says no. I think one of the producers on the album had hinted it might be Rainbow and then we saw that little piece of video where he was filming and singing a few words from the song.

        Since its not Rainbow…hm. Just guessing maybe Wherever You Are or Hold On. I would love it was You Are My Song since that’s my favorite song on the whole album. I think it might be a better decision to go with Hold On though since its a little more uptempo whereas Forevermore was not. That’s also one of the reasons I thought Rainbow would be next given that its more uptempo.

        Here is the picture that Kari posted, btw, for those who haven’t seen it yet:

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