American Idol’s Swan Song

The 15th and final season of the acclaimed reality competition, American Idol, premiered for the last time on January 6, 2016. Being called American Idol: The Farewell Season, this season promises to be the perfect conclusion for the longstanding and groundbreaking television series.

Paving the way for later shows, such as the Voice and X Factor, American Idol was one of the first shows to revolve solely around musical talent. For those unaware, the show starts with auditions spanning across the country where the show’s panel of judges see hundreds of contestants and give them feedback on their auditions. They then decide whether each contestant should move in the completion.

Still, the winner is ultimately determined by the American public and remains in the public’s hands. Once the judges have narrowed down their contestants to the top 24, the winner is chosen by viewers through telephone, Internet, and text voting.

In its prime, American Idol was a cultural phenomenon. With high points of over 30 million viewers, the show became a major catalyst for up-and-coming artists.  Introducing the world to superstars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson, the show truly shook up the modern music industry.

However, American Idol has not only been a catalyst for its contestants but for its judges as well.  For the iconic original judges of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul, the show’s success made them into household names. With later additions such as Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj, the show’s high achievements attracted a wide variety of personas to get involved with the show’s judging.

In recent years, the show’s ratings seem to be in a nose dive. Taking in about one third of the original audience size, American Idol no longer seems to hold its obscenely high fan base. In addition, with the last few winners failing to draw much attention after the show, many questions the show’s purpose and influence. Because of the massive decline in ratings and winner success, the producers were forced to call it quits.

The cancellation was “not an easy decision,” stated Fox Networks Group co-chief Gary Newman in an interview with USA Today, but he and his colleagues “all felt collectively it was time to bring American Idol to an end.” Even though the show is coming to an end, a larger audience has seemed to emerge as the ratings have drastically increased from the previous season.

With the last season still holding tremendous weight, the network has gone all out to give American Idol the finale season it deserves.  With last season’s Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick, Jr. still holding the reins, many look forward to seeing the group’s goofy and silly dynamic. The group’s comedic relief helps create a more dynamic and lovable show. Ryan Seacrest will also be returning as the host for the final season.

Even though the show may have the same judging panel, the producers have promised to “surprise… the fans” this year with the return of past winners and contestants to help with the selection process. It is already confirmed that fan favorites Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard, Kris Allen and Taylor Hicks will each be making an appearance. Many past viewers are expected to tune in for the show’s farewell season.  

From the few episodes released, many agree that this season has some of its best talent yet. With some early stand outs such as La’Porsha Renae and Tristan McIntosh, the show already shows a high caliber of talent. One can easily see this show is worth watching, not only for its being the end of a series but for its enormous talent.

In addition, one defying characteristic that elevates this season is its immense difficulty. Only the best of the best are making it through. There are no more iffy calls where “okay” singers make the cut. This year the judges are taking their jobs seriously and making sure this year’s winner is one to remember.

Although the series is coming to an end, the 15th season “will be a true season-long celebration,” said Gary Newman. The networks goal is to make sure that this farewell season as “significant as the run it had on our network.”  

As seen before, there are many flashback moments on the previous seasons. Enhancing this season, the usage of the past really amplifies the importance of the preset. It reiterates the idea that one of these nobodies could become the next superstar.

Even the cast and crew are getting welled up at the thought of this legacy coming to an end. Seacrest said in ABC interview, “American Idol has been a big part of my life for so long, it’s frankly hard to imagine it without it. It’s been a remarkable journey, and I feel very fortunate to have been part of a show that made television history in countless ways. It’s a show about chasing and fulfilling dreams, and truth be told, it helped some of my own dreams come true too.”

With its ample support, American Idol 15 seems to be heading in the right direction. From the network promising surprises that have never been seen before to the massive talent already seen, the American Idol: The Farewell Season seems to be in a good place to end this long standing legacy.

Rate: B+