The Truth About the Contestants of American Idol 7
When American Idol debuted in 2002, its supposed goal was to find the best undiscovered talent in America. Singers like Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken, who had dreams of stardom but never had the connections, were catapulted to megastardom. The producers found diamonds in the rough and launched their careers. But a disturbing trend has surfaced with the spoiled contestants of American Idol 7 - they're no longer even remotely undiscovered talent. A large percentage of them are failed singers and entertainers who have already had their shot at fame. Yet Idol thinks that repackaging these failures is a good idea to make us watch their show. Gone are the days where you or your friends could try out for Idol and make it big. Now you have to already have connections. Read on to find out more about how this year's show will just be a boring hash of recycled pseudo-celebrities who weren't good enough to make it the first time around. Thanks to sources like JoesPlace, Vote for the Worst has been checking out the contestants who have allegedly made it to the top 50 of American Idol 7. The top 24 has not yet been decided, and the dreaded chair episode has not yet been filmed. But already, we're seeing a disturbing trend. To try to combat Sanjaya fever from last year, American Idol producers have gone out of their way to place people into the top 50 who already had a shot at stardom in the past. It seems like a good idea at first- they're stacking the deck with professionals to try to prevent a Vote for the Worst takeover. But then you realize- if these people didn't make it big before, it's highly unlikely that people will care any more about them now. And if all of these people with industry connections made it to the top 50, what about the average Joes who are looking for their shot at stardom? Were they just cast aside this year to make way for the plants? It's likely that if you tried out for the show and failed, or if a friend with an amazing voice tried out and was turned away, it was to make room for the established professionals. This is not to say that these ringers are any less deserving of stardom, or any less decent or nice, but that the days of everyday people becoming the next American Idol are over.
The biggest offender by far is Irish singer Carly Hennessy. During season 5, Carly was pimped by Simon Cowell before the show even started as "the only person I can genuinely remember from the auditions." Simon said something similar about Carrie Underwood the season prior. Carly was fortunately dropped from the ranks for not having a visa. Nigel Lythgoe, one of the obnoxious executive producers of Idol, is already back to hinting about her even though she's never said a word on the show. So why is Carly getting so much hype, and what happened in her past?
Carly Hennessy is the epitome of a record industry failure. She was brought to America by MCA Records and recorded a bland pop album that sold only 300 copies (that's not a typo). Then she faded into obscurity. Now, a mastermind behind the scenes at Idol has decided that instead of just signing Carly to an Idol-affiliated record label, she should be pushed down America's throats as a contestant on American Idol. Back with brand new tattoos and an "edgier" sound, the record execs connected to Idol are probably hoping that Carly will finally catch on when she's featured on the #1 TV show in the country. To make things even messier, one of the songwriters for Carly's album also wrote songs for the debut albums of Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, and Kimberley Locke. There's a definite Idol connection here, folks.
So what's wrong with this? Well, it's forcing Idol to expose its hand as the premiere marketing tool for struggling artists. Instead of discovering the next big superstar, music executives are deciding who should be popular and getting them on to Idol. Many people watch American Idol because they think they can help make the next big music star out of an Everyday Joe or Jane. But Carly and her large number of has-been companions are merely failed artists who are being planted on the show by their sources to promote themselves. Would the hundreds of thousands of people who auditioned this year be happy to learn that their spot was given to someone who already had connections?
American Idol judge Randy Jackson was quoted in a Rolling Stone article as saying that people watch Idol for "the Rocky story in it…We're not out to find the poster kids and say, "Let's sign them." We're out to find the best undiscovered [talent] and really herald that."
"The best undiscovered talent", eh? Apparently that quote was only valid back when it was said to Rolling Stone in 2006. And when he said it here in 2005. And here. And about 1000 times on the show. Simon says it here, that they ask every contestant when they try out if they think they are the best undiscovered talent in America. What is someone like Carly supposed to say? "Well, I'm talented, but technically not undiscovered."
The sad part is that Carly is not an exception this year. There are many, many more contestants who are supposedly in the top 50 and have failed careers. Michael Johns is another notable contestant. An Australian import, he was formerly the lead singer of a band called The Rising and changed his name from Michael Lee. Michael was signed to Maverick Records and was supposed to release a debut album in 2003 after allegedly screwing over The Rising by leaving the band. Apparently, many of the band's fans hate Michael for doing this and for claiming that he wrote some of their most popular songs (he didn't). This guy sounds like a real winner. I wonder why he isn't already famous?
It doesn't stop there. Here are some more has-beens who have failed at becoming famous yet snuck their way onto the show:
Kristie Lee Cook was signed to Arista Nashville, had Britney Spears lined up to appear in her debut video in 2001, and is managed by Marty Rendleman, who previously managed Leann Rimes. She also apparently loves to alienate most of America by singing in front of a Confederate flag in a video. Looks like her connections may not help her after all...
Lorena Pinot was in a post-Gloria-Estefan version of the Miami Sound Machine and toured internationally. She has recorded a solo CD and was planning on releasing it this year. How convenient.
Jason Castro was on the television show Cheyenne and played the love interest of the main character.
Syesha Mercado was on the failed television show The One and is the daughter of a Motown backup singer.
Shaun Barrowes is an established songwriter and producer for artists on Sony and Universal Records. His website states that he has "recorded, collaborated, and trained with some of the best musicians and music producers in the country; musicians with artist credits such as Madonna, Michelle Branch, Destiny's Child, Stacie Orrico, Joe Cocker, ZZ Top, No Doubt, and many more."
Joanne Borgella is a plus sized model and won the televised beauty pageant Mo'Nique's Fat Chance in 2005. She previously sang with Patti Labelle, Mary Mary, and American Idol's own Bo Bice for a Christmas special. Joanne also appeared on the Tyra Banks Show, Good Morning America, and Hot 97 with Miss
Samantha Sidley is currently pursuing her degree at the Berkley College of Music, which seems innocent enough. But no, in August of 2002 she performed "The YaYa Sisters - An Evening With Samantha Sidley and Katharine McPhee" at the Gardenia in West Hollywood. The same Katharine McPhee who became runner up during American Idol's 5th season. The site also says Sidley's "first tentative steps in the performing arts were as a 12 year old in a performance workshop with Peisha McPhee at Los Angeles City College. Samantha was also quoted as saying she would never try out for American Idol because she's a jazz singer and not a pop singer. Odd that she changed her mind, huh?
Amy Davis sang in a band with 2 members of Survivor and was a round 2 qualifier for 2007's Nashville Star. She is also a fairly successful model.
David Archuleta won Star Search at age 12. During Idol's first season, he met all of the finalists and even sang for Kelly Clarkson and the gang. A few days later, David met with a host of record labels and producers with connections to the show
And last but not least, Jermaine Paul made the top 50, but according to JoesPlace, he smartly dropped out. The biggest plant of all, Jermaine was already signed to J Records (home of Clive Davis, he who signs most of the winning Idols) and was nominated for a Grammy for a duet with Alicia Keys on her second album. Alicia Keys is known as Clive Davis's most recent pet project. Jermaine also appeared on a remix to Kanye West's "Gold Digger" as a part of the group Focus. Jermaine's website has mysteriously disappeared recently.
These are only the backgrounds from the contestants we know so far. There are still plenty more names to come, and we're sure most of them have connections as well.
So were the auditions just a formality this year? Because we're fairly sure that if you have a Grammy winning duet with Alicia Keys, a producer credit on famous artists' albums, or a prior relationship in show business, you probably weren't waiting in line like the rest of the people who mistakenly assumed American Idol was a competition to find "the best undiscovered talent in America". Then again, we all know what happens when you assume.