What I Learned from American Idol

Season Ten of American Idol ended last night, and Scotty McCreery was crowned the winner.  I had a good time this season.  I also learned a few things as a writer. Here’s my list . . .

Dude! You are IN IT TO WIN IT!   Can’t you just hear Randy saying those words for, say, the hundredth time?  It turned into shorthand for, “You took a chance and it paid off” or “You dug deep and found something extra.  Authors are “in it to win it” too.  The best stories come from taking chances, digging deep and then writing with as much drama as we can dig up.  It’s a great phrase, but Randy did say it a lot, which leads to  . . .

Repetition isn’t good.  Did anyone else get a tad bit tired of Stephen saying, “Man, that was beautiful.”  If Randy said “in it to win it” a hundred times, Stephen said “beautiful” two hundred times. You could see it coming, too.  He’d get a dreamy look, and then we’d hear the “beautiful” word.  It was kind of strange in a way, because he could also . . .

Be original. I’ve never been an Aerosmith fan, but I can see why the band did well.  Stephen Tyler is full of surprises. I enjoyed most of them, but I could have done without the four-letter words that led to a regular visit from that little Idol logo blocking out stuff that I’d prefer not to see or hear during a family-oriented show. Speaking of family viewing, I could have done without some of the . . .

Secondary characters aka guest performances shouldn’t overwhelm the story.  Two words: Lady Gaga.  I’m feeling very old fashioned right now, but some of the dancing and costumes reminded me why I like historical romance.  And that reminds me why I’m a fan of Scotty McCreery. Scotty has  . . .

Heroic qualities that rock!  I like country music and I adore Scotty’s deep voice, but he won me over during Hollywood week when  he decided to “man up” about the mess with the kid named Jacee Badeaux, the young boy who got rudely booted out of the group Scotty was in.  Scotty is only seventeen, but he’s got character. It shows in how he tells a story when he sings. At the same time, I think all of the contestants could have used a few more . . .

 Critiques that make us shine. I missed Simon and I didn’t.  I missed his honesty but not the meanness. The new judges were fun and entertaining, but I have to wonder if the contestants might have improved more with a more meaningful direction.  For instance, take a look at how  . . .

The underdog factor pays off.  I didn’t like Haley’s voice very much, and her music didn’t appeal to me. So why did I vote for her (along with Scotty and some for Lauren) the night of the Final Three?  This girl hung in there.  She took criticism on the chin and kept taking chances.  That Led Zeppelin  song was awesome and bold!  I wasn’t a Haley fan, but I was still rooting for her to do well. Would she make it or wouldn’t she?  And that leads us to  . . .

 Hooks! I got hooked on Idol at the very end of Season Two.  I was flipping channels when I landed on the sing-off between Rueben Stoddard and Clay Aiken.  Until then, I hadn’t seen the show and had no interest.  It took all of five minutes for me to become a dedicated fan.  The next night I turned into to see who won . . . It was Rueben by a narrow margin. Since then, I’ve been a dedicated viewer.  It all comes down to one thing: I want to know what happens next, that’s how writer’s creative compelling stories.

So that’s my take on American Idol, Season 10.  Did you watch?  Who was your favorite?  What were your Idol moments?

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Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

30 thoughts on “What I Learned from American Idol”

  1. For the first time in years, I actually watched a lot of this season. My favorite was James. What a talented singer and performer! Maybe I’m Amazed was done so beautifully! What a life he’s lead too. Since he was voted off I only saw fragments of the last three shows. Scotty always sounded the same to me. I’m not a country music fan. Lauren occasionally used the full range of her vocals but again was too country for me. Haley’s voice too raspy. Casey too growly. He was a talented musician but I didn’t like his singing. Pia wonderful, powerful voice. But she came across as a prima donna.

    I don’t like how the voting has been taken over by electronics…computers voting over and over again…I think something has to change to make it more fair.

    Also how did all the storms in the South effect the votes for Lauren. Power was down for days!

  2. Hi Laurie, I thought for sure it would be James and Scotty in the final. James has so much stage presence, and he picked some great songs. As much as I enjoy Scotty, James’s performance stand out more, especially Carol King night — “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

    I bet we see some changes in the voting next year, maybe something where the public votes for the bottom three but the judges make the final selection.

  3. I totally missed the mess about Jacee. You must fill me in.

    I loved James, as much for his backstory as anything. Yes, I am a rocker at heart, warring with my country side.

    But I am from Scotty’s hometown area. He went to middle school where my kids went to school. He represents all that we want in a hero: God, family, well-rounded and polite as all get out. I think he has a strong enough family bond to keep him on the straight and narrow. But secretly, I wish he had come in second as much for the potential ego deflation as a better contract possibility. I think the coming record may be bumpy but I think he will eventually “grow into his paws”, as I have been saying all season.

    They mentioned changing the voting. I limited myself to six votes which turned out to be the average per viewer. It makes more sense to have true limits rather than depend on ATT making money from every call you make.

    This was the least watched AI finale of all but the show still beat out every other show to win the spring season. With the Voice, X Factor and other shows coming along, I wonder how much longer it will continue.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to vent!

    Peace, Julie

  4. Hi Julie, We’ve got similar musical tastes. Right now, I’ve got Bruce Springsteen, Gary Allan and Nickel Creek in the CD player. The iPod’s full of all sorts of stuff.

    The thing with Jacee involved Clint Gamboa — remember him? He didn’t think Jacee fit with their group and basically ordered the kid to get out. Scotty was in that group. He later said he felt bad for not standing up for Jacee. Jacee went home before the Top 24, but the judges told him to come back in a few years. He was soooo young. He had a great voice and will only get better as he matures.

    I wonder about Lauren, what might have happened if she’d auditioned at 18 instead of when she did? And I worry about her vocal cords . . . to have trouble this early has got to be a concern.

  5. Hey Vicki, great post! I thought it would be James, Scotty and Haley in the final 3.
    – James, because he’s such an energetic entertainer. I never got bored watching James perform. Almost guaranteed to give his audience their money’s worth.
    – Scotty, because his deep voice sent shivers up & down my back and arms while looking in my eyes and making me believe I was the only girl in the world.
    – Haley because her voice was different. I heard her singing country and rock – the classic cross-over artist to appeal to all audiences. I believe her downfall was her need to pick one genre and stick to it for the duration of the show so the audience could identify with her.

    Hmmm…pick one genre… sounds familiar, doesn’t it. LOL

    Anita mae.

  6. Hi Anita Mae, We had the same picks for the Top 3. I thought for sure Lauren would go home sooner. I hope James is a “Lucky No. 4” like Chris Daughtry. I hardly remembered the Top 13 girls, even Pia, but she’s amazing.

  7. I didn’t watch Idol, Vicki (I’m a dance show junkie) but your comparisons of the show with the craft of writing were spot on. Thanks for a fun and thoughtful blog.

  8. I watch it but I don’t vote. I liked Scotty, too. What I wondered about is how young the last two performers were. Why do you think that is? I don’t think a 16 year old is probably using her time wisely to leave school and try to become a singing sensation. Though Lauren will probably make a fortune. And if she doesn’t follow other child performers into drugs and other madness, she’ll be fine.

  9. Hi Elizabeth, I like DWTS, too. It really is about plot and character. We want to know what’s going to happen next, and we care about the participants. In a weird way, we don’t know our neighbors, but we know the people on TV. I haven’t gotten into other reality shows, in part because I know I’d get hooked with just one episode.

  10. Hello Mary! It’s such a mixed bag. On one hand, I can understand Lauren capitalizing on an amazing opportunity. On the other, I think the age should be raised from 15 to 18. There’s something just not right about a teenager blowing out a vocal cord. It’s like boys and baseball. If they start throwing curve balls at an early age, they can ruin their pitching arms. And what happens when these kids end up being kicked to the curb? It’s not pretty.

  11. Oh, one more thing. I watched Elton John week and it gave me a huge respect for Elton John. A lot of his songs are just plain ODD. But he does them all, wildly different, across the spectrum, so well. Then someone NOT so good does them and you realize he is a master.
    Please, Benny and the Jets. I could NOT believe it when that was a choise.

  12. Great blog, Vicki! I don’t watch AI (I’m a DWTS facn) but you made some important points. I especially like what you said about secondary characters. As a reader, I get turned off by too many secondaries running around stealing the spotlight from the hero and heroine.

  13. Hi Karen! When seconary characters take over, they need a book of their own. I’ve done that a couple of times, but the clearest was John Leaf in “West of Heaven,” and then in “Abbie’s Outlaw.” He *had* to have his own book. No two ways about it. And it’s one of personal favorites 🙂

    Hi Mary, I so know what you mean about someone like Elton John. When Scotty sang with Josh Turner, I thought, “Oh man, Josh is so much better.” He’s also older and far more experienced, and he wasn’t all emotional and competing on AI. Some performers really are above and beyond.

  14. I do watch Idol and have been for the past few years. I was a Scotty fan from the very beginning. I did like Lauren also, she was good. I wasn’t much on Haley and was disapointed when they kicked James off before Haley, James was a rocker and he was awesome at it. Husband was for Haley through most of it.

  15. I have not watched Idol the last couple of years but did enjoy it when I watched. I am a big fan of Dancing and the judges there do tend to repeat themselves also.

  16. Hi Quilt Lady! I enjoyed just about all the contestants this year. Pia was classy, and then we had Naima who was totally unique. They had a lot of personality and tons of talent. Remember Thia? She was an early favorite too.

  17. Vicki – I don’t watch idol but I have started watching The Voice and imagine they are similar. And I so agree with the lessons you drew from that as a writer – great post!

  18. I watch every year. My criteria for voting is: Will I buy their album?

    My blog today is about the finale!
    Tonight is So You Think You Can Dance, my summer fave.

  19. Hi Connie! It has to be hard to come up with original stuff when you’re a judge. I tend to repeat myself on contest entries when I judge them, but that’s not network television, either. I’ve enjoyed DWTS when I’ve watched it.

  20. Hello, Winnie! I’ve heard good things about “The Voice.” It sounded like a cool twist on a tried and true concept.

    Hi Cher, I’m on my way to read your blog 🙂 I have CDs by David Cook, Jason Castro, Kris Allen and Bo Bice. The only one that fizzled for me was Kris Allen’s. I liked him on the show, but the music he recorded didn’t sound the same. I think that happens a lot.

  21. I’ve never watched Idol, like Elizabeth I’m into
    dance shows! Give me lots of dancing. In fact,
    back in the medieval days, my CB handle was
    “Dancing Lady.” LOL.

  22. The week Sheryl Crow was on she sang a few duet lines with someone in the practice time. I think it was James, but maybe not.
    So they were singing together and I just thought, STOP!!!!!!! She was so much better it was killing her duet partner by comparison.

  23. Hi Vicki, awesome post. I’ve been a Scotty fan from Day One…oh, my, him and Tim McGraw together. Be still my heart. But Lauren stole my heart, too. I like that she’s a regular-sized curvy young woman and flaunts it!

    IMO neither of them could do any wrong.

    But…my favorite moment was Haley getting to sing while her dad riffed it on the guitar. I love daddy-daughter moments, and that one rocked.

    Great post today, filly sister! oxoxox

  24. I haven’t watched Idol. Passed through it a time or two, but never really followed it. I did get caught up in the A Capella competition, The Sing-Off last year. I will probably watch it again this season. I think I like it because it is more about the music than personality driven, at least for me. I have watched DWTS a few times, but prefer the national dancing competitions. Again, it is more performance driven than personality driven.

    Good comparison between being a writer and Idol. In a way, they are both performances and do have much in common.

  25. Hi Pat! The dance shows are such fun! I’m amazed by how much people improve.

    Tanya, I like how you think! Ditto to Haley and her dad. They’ll never forget it. The Scotty / Tim McGraw duet was really good. I saw Scotty interviewed where he said Tim gave him some tips. It showed!

  26. Hi Mary! I like how they did the mentoring this year. Jimmy Iovine had interestng comments, though I think it was crazy for everyone to tell Pia to go uptempo, that just wasn’t her strength.

  27. Hi Patricia, You’re so right about different programs being driven by different factors. With Idol, personality and performance can trump talent. Then the producers build up the back stories . . . camera time can make a difference, especially early on.

  28. Hi Dina! I liked Naima a lot. She wasn’t my favorite performer, but she had such a sparkly personality. The word “authentic” fits. I hope she’s able to forge a career from the experience.

  29. I did watch. I thought all the contestants did well. I really like Scotty and Lauren. What I didn’t like where the performers like Lady Gaga. A lot of the performers were just about ugly in their dancing. There are so many young people and even children watching this show. I know it’s not a good example for them. A lot of times folks wonder what’s wrong with some of our kids today – well- just look at the examples of how adults are leading them.

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