"American Idol" has become part of our everyday lives -- so much so it is almost tangible in every sense. From what we watch to what we listen to; from what we read about to how ideas are framed to having food named after finalists. Such a pervasiveness is iconic.
"American Idol" is everywhere. Literally. It's on television. It's on the radio. It's in magazines and newspapers and on the Internet. Although the show just turned ten years old -- it debuted in June 2002 -- and Season 11 just ended, the reality singing competition has invaded every information disseminating outlet we have available. What began as a mere copy of a British talent show has become -- dare it be said? -- a cultural icon.
But it's true. Even in the political arena, while the Republican Party was going through its winnowing season of state primaries and caucuses, there were quite a few, like Jon Stewart, who used "American Idol" as a descriptor. In Stewart's case, he likened the continued calling for new candidates to enter the Republican race as "a season of 'American Idol' in reverse."
"American Idol" is tangibly ubiquitous. You can see, hear, and touch an "Idol" (during meet and greets and such). Since the show started there have been a few hundred potential celebrities created by being on with "American Idol," many following a career in singing but some making a name for themselves in related fields like acting or appearing on reality shows.
Idols can even be tasted -- sort of.
During Season 11, eventual winner Phillip Phillips mentioned his favorite food, which was chicken and cheese nachos at El Maya restaurant in Albany, Georgia. Host Ryan Seacrest -- who is from Atlanta -- knew the place. According to NBC affiliate WALB, the crosstalk between the two brought the Mexican restaurant plenty of business. So much so, the owner said that there would be a dish named in Phillips' honor -- whichever dish he chooses.
In Season 10, eventual winner Scotty McCreery had a cupcake named in his honor -- the Butterscotch Scotty. According to NBC17, near the beginning of his run through the Top 10 on "Idol," The Cupcake Shoppe in Raleigh, N.C. (McCreery's home state) name a butterscotch chip with butterscotch cream topping after the hopeful.
But seeing and hearing Idols and their fellow finalists is where the show is strongest. From Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood to Daughtry and Scotty McCreery (and now Phillip Phillips as well), there are hundreds of songs on the radio played thousands of times weekly by American stations. Brian Mansfield at "Idol Chatter" at USA Today posts a weekly airplay list of the 100 most popularly played "Idol" songs.
And "American Idol" alums are all over the charts. They're on the Billboard 200 (five at present), the country charts, the R&B charts, the Hot 100, the adult contemporary charts, the rock charts, and even the contemporary Christian charts (Season 5, ninth place-finishing Mandisa has been a mainstay on the Christian charts for the past year).
Just the Top 10 bestselling finalists (not all winners, as fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry can attest with a No. 3 ranking) account for nearly 50 million albums sold.
During the Fourth of July celebration, Season 11 winner Phillips will sing his winning song, "Home," on the mall in Washington, D. C. Millions will undoubtedly see him.
And speaking of televised, there have been a number of alums on reality shows lately as well. Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken played runner-up again on this season's "Celebrity Apprentice" on NBC. Inaugural winner Kelly Clarkson currently sits as one of the team coaches on the ABC singing competition "Duets." And Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks was a celebrity bachelor contestant on the new Fox dating show, "The Choice."
From reality to scripted, you can see an "Idol" on television and on film. Season 3 finalist Jennifer Hudson won an Academy Award for her role in "Dreamgirls" and she just signed to appear in Season 2 of NBC's hit show "Smash," where can be found Season 5 runner-up and star of a couple of minor films, Katharine McPhee.
Idols are even in commercials, from Carrie Underwood's Olay to Jennifer Hudson's Weight Watchers.
Try to escape from seeing and hearing "Idol" this and that to simply browsing the Internet and it will be difficult to not come across something referencing "American Idol" as well. TVGuide.com has it listed as the most popular show. Someone or several someones associated with "Idol" is constantly trending on Twitter or on Google Hot Trends. The headlines and taglines are everywhere.
Even hard copy magazines present Clarkson, Underwood, McPhee, Hudson, Seacrest, Fantasia Barrino, judge Jennifer Lopez, Adam Lambert, and judge Steven Tyler (albeit much of Tyler's draw has always been his ties to Aerosmith) on a continuing basis, although some of the media attention is along the tabloid lines.
Yes, in a decade "American Idol" has become culturally pervasive. And when it isn't on television (via one finalist or another -- or one of the judges or producers or just Ryan Seacrest -- he rings in our New Year, you know) or on the radio, it is coming to a town near you in the "American Idol Live Tour." And although the word "icon" has been used nearly to the point of meaninglessness, it is so very appropriate when talking about a show that has entered just about every part of our lives.
(photo credit: HARRO, Creative Commons)
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