7 Things I Learned From American Idol

American Idol Season 10 will announce the winner on tonight’s results show. This is the second season I’ve watched Idol religiously, being really fascinated by some of the more unique voices and personalities on the show.

With two seasons under my belt, I’m noticing patterns emerge about who wins, who goes home, who has the admiration of the judges and the crowd, and who we could do without. I think there are 7 key lessons from Idol that are universal:

#1: You don’t have to be the front runner to win the game. What you do have to be is unclear–a little bit lucky, a consistent singer, an underdog, perhaps an attractive young guy. But definitely not the front runner. In the past few seasons, it’s been almost impossible to predict who would end up in the final two and compete for the crown.

#2: You have to bring your A-game every week. The audience is unforgiving–you have to give 110% every week or you might quickly find yourself voted off the show. At the same time, the public has a strong desire to vote for the underdog, and they will recognize upward progress over consistency given the right conditions.

#3: If you mess up, you just have to come back stronger. Sooner or later, almost everyone will have a low moment on the show. The ones who stick around are able to put it behind them and come back even stronger on the next performance, proving to everyone that they deserve to stay.

#4: You need to be well-rounded in many aspects. Idol is a singing competition, but it’s also a popularity contest, a test of resilience, humility, passion and personality, and a measure of how good a musician you can be. Singing well is the price of entry, but you can’t fake the other stuff and make it to the end.

#5: Your best critic, and the one you need to trust, is inside you. There are the three judges, which have been overly positive this season. There are the voters, where landing in the “bottom 3” can really shake you. Unless you can get past all that and make decisions about what’s best for you, you don’t survive very long.

#6: The more successful you are, the more the haters come out. It’s tough to find an Idol blog lately that doesn’t present the day’s events in a cynical, nasty manner. The further you get in the competition, the more smaller and smaller nuances of your performance are analyzed. If the judges and contestants took the time to read all the negativity written about them, they could lose their way. It’s all about laser focus in these late stages of the game.

#7: You don’t need to win the game. You don’t need support from the masses. In fact, some of the most successful Idols have been runners-up, 4th place finishers, and worse. Even those that never made it through auditions grew in some way. In the end, uniqueness matters as much as mass appeal, and the process is more important than the result.

Do you watch American Idol? What’s your take-away?

Photo by bestofWDW


6 thoughts on “7 Things I Learned From American Idol

  1. I love these points, especially the ones about bringing your A-game each week, recovering from screw-ups, and knowing that with success come haters. I feel like a lot of people in business or in the professional world who are on the brink of great success get thwarted by these things. I have friends who have been discouraged by the haters and who have beaten themselves up over screw-ups.

  2. I think you also have to be able to fit into a mold. This year Haley was voted off because she really didn’t have a genre to fit into. they have 16 weeks to basically build a fan base in a particular genre and the ones that do it the best, with the most likeability usually win. I’m glad Scotty won though!

    1. Interesting, I never really thought about it that way–as a personal marketing effort. Kind of goes with what Darwin was saying below.

  3. #4 is very applicable to the professional space – some of the best and brightest don’t do the best job networking and “getting exposure” and they’re left behind. Meanwhile, many mediocre and outright terrible performers get ahead (at least for a while) via office politics. Usually, this catches up with people, but not after they’ve built a nice resume and moved on to the next company to leave their mark.

    1. I completely agree–a lot of people believe that their work will speak for themselves, and that’s not always the case. The squeaky employee will get the oil most of the time.

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