As you may know, either firsthand or from its ubiquitous audition clips, “American Idol” has begun its annual plunder of the hearts and souls of millions of Americans. Although the judges eventually weed out the clinically insane and extremely misinformed of the semi-semi-finalists, we are still stuck with the “it seems so wrong but feels so good” mockery we like to call: the audition episodes.
Watching Simon, Randy and Paula dash people’s hopes and dreams sure does a number on ratings, though. According to Neilson ratings, “American Idol” ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the TV listing rankings for its Wednesday and Tuesday airings, respectively.
Just be patient, America, soon you will be the ones responsible for the broken hearts and future lawsuits filed on the behalf of top 24 contestants on season six. Though, as much as we will love them all, there can only be one “American Idol.”
But what happens to the rest of those who were hand-selected by the judges and thrust into the spotlight only to be swiftly kicked out of it? Sure, placing second isn’t a death sentence – just look at Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard (on second thought, don’t look at them). Although Studdard was voted “Idol” by fans, it was his album sales that turned out to be “idle.” After all, season four contestant Jennifer Hudson practically came out of nowhere to win a Golden Globe, a SAG award, and perhaps an Oscar for her work in “Dreamgirls.” And Chris Daughtry currently has the best-selling album of the year (all several weeks worth of it).
So which talented losers of “Idol” will be the next to pursue a career hanging from the bootstraps of the ever-capricious fan base of “American Idol”? And what is it like to have a taste of stardom, but left only with its bitter aftertaste and a coveted CAA agent? To take a look behind the scenes of the music industry’s tribute to democracy, Mustang Daily probed season five veteran Stevie Scott for the truth about instant celebrity status, the audition process, and Paula Abdul’s intoxication rumors.
Scott, a 20-year-old singer/songwriter from Sacramento, Calif., auditioned for the show to fulfill a running joke at the opera caf‚ where she worked.
“When I was hostessing, I would stand by the door and people would come up to me and say, ‘You should be on Idol,’” Scott said. “I think the highest we got in one night was 13, or 15, or 18. It was ridiculous.”
Despite her growing fanbase, she was still reluctant to audition until a family friend called her the night before the audition, encouraging her to satisfy her curiosity. She finally decided “why not?” and went to the audition on a whim. Obviously, her last minute decision payed off, because it earned her a golden ticket to Hollywood and a spot in the top 24.
Although Scott has performed her whole life, garnering her much positive feedback, she couldn’t help feeling discouraged as she watched hundreds of talented and terrible singers alike getting turned away in droves.
“I turned to my friend next to me and said, ‘We’re not going anywhere today,’” Scott said.
But even though she had a momentary lapse of confidence in her talent, the others around her, some who were “chosen for the novelty of their talent, or look, or lack thereof,” seemed to appear oddly, unfalteringly confident.
“We started wondering if we were just there for comic relief … I had to take a moment to reassure myself, and go on from there,” Scott said.
And with her renewed assurance, she went on to wow the judges with her impressive range and model looks.
For a girl unfamiliar with celebrity parties, red-carpet events, and free swag, being on “American Idol” was a thrilling experience. “The great thing about the show is that you have kind of an instant following from the millions of people who watch the show,” she said.
From the start, she admits to enjoying the instant fame from the show, from getting sapphire necklaces from strangers, to getting to meet superstars like Carrie Underwood and Michael Buble. All contestants were even given a body guard, who made sure that none of the show’s assets left the premises without some form of disguise.
However, the journey wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows for the 23 who are inevitably voted off the show. Contestants face constant reproof from the judges and are perpetually being moved around in order to accommodate the steady flow of eliminations.
Scott said that the elimination is the least glamorous experience:
“One minute you’re in the spotlight, and the next you’re being escorted offstage and they’re doing a photo shoot with the next group,” she said.
But they don’t leave ousted performers completely high and dry; they send them off to a therapy session to make sure no one is going to deal with their rejection in ways the show’s attorneys wouldn’t approve of.
“They asked me ‘How long do you think it’s going to take you to get over this?’” Scott said. “I was like, ‘Well, I’m going to cry now because I’m a girl and I just got kicked off of a huge show on national TV, and I have to call and break the news to my parents who don’t get to watch the show for a few more hours because of the time difference. But then, I’ll be fine.’”
Sometimes fame must be cruel to be kind.
To some of the hundreds of talented rejects, such fame has forced them to face a conundrum: Do I go back to my day job, or continue in my attempt to get back on the metaphorical “music industry” horse? Many former contestants find it difficult to go back to their lives post- “Idol,” and often fail to take advantage of the open doors and opportunities offered to them by the show.
Although Scott has recently taken up residence in West Hollywood to do just that, she said, “It is hard to make a living because I can’t just take up a waitressing job. People would say, ‘Hey, aren’t you that girl from “American Idol”?’ as I’m bringing them their hash browns.” Regardless of her abstainment from bussing tables, she assures us that she has been busy with fashion shows, short films, and has a recording project in the works. Although her song selection on the show was operatic, she plans to steer her vocal career more toward the pop/soul genre.
She is also taking care to write her own music.
“I think it’s more respectable to write your own music; I think people our age appreciate (it more) because it comes from your heart, and it’s good to hear what other people have to say,” she said.
Perhaps we can expect a forthcoming song about the cruel judges? It doesn’t seem likely, as Scott has the utmost respect for Paula, Randy and Simon – even in light of Paula’s recent on-screen behavior.
When asked if she thought Abdul had a drinking problem, she attested: “She’s sweet. No … I don’t think so.” It looks like Paula has finally has gotten a taste of her own “I Love Everyone” medicine, and it tastes like Smirnoff.
Although the year of “Idol” can be a whirlwind of ups and downs for its contestants, many are able to come out on top. With success stories from Hudson and Daughtry, it has become apparent that we have not yet witnessed the talent that is about to reemerge. Keep your eyes peeled, and ears ready for the Scotts of season six. But keep your earplugs handy for the next William Hung.