After a solid two months of auditions, a cappella performances, deliberations, and wild card random death rounds, we finally got to watch the top 13 contestants of Season 13 of American Idol perform Wednesday night without any underlying catches or fears of surprise eliminations. While it was refreshing to finally sit back and watch the contestants sing without feeling on edge, the newest nuisance to present itself on the show came not in the form of cheesy video backgrounds or Ryan Seacrest talking to much, but rather, through Idol's newest push for social media hype.
During every contestant's performance, their lower third would feature not only their name, age, occupation, and city of origin, which has been the standard since the first season, but also now their Twitter and Instagram account names for viewers to follow. Upon searching the contestants' accounts, you will find they have already collected thousands upon thousands of followers — and it's only the first week of top 13 performances.
It's 2014 and it's obvious that in the enhanced social media environment we live in today, it's only a matter of time before these young Idol contestants generate a following through their social media accounts. However, since American Idol will continue to encourage social media interaction, it ultimately does itself a disservice by turning its contestants into celebrities before they even win the competition.
In years past, when social media was not as prominent, contestants wanted to win American Idol because it was the start to a potentially huge music career — a recording contract, a fan base, a name in the American Idol Hall of Fame, and industry connections to Idol's big name former winners and producers. But this was only if they won.
Today, it's clear you don't have to win the show or even make it to the top three to generate celebrity influence. If you have enough Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers willing to interact with you and your accounts on a daily basis, you have enough of a platform right there to launch your music. While this is the perfect resolution for the contestants who lose, it is not so helpful for the show because there is less motivation to actually win — and already, that lack of motivation has been showing in the contestants thus far this season.
Last night, the performances were, for the most part, lackluster. MK Nobilette looked like a dear in headlights performing "Satisfaction" by Allen Stone, Kristen O'Connor sang an underwhelming breathy version of Kelly Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster," Malaya Watson moved so much on the stage, she was obviously too breathless to properly sing Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby," and Emily Piriz's "Glitter in the Air" and Sam Woolf's "Unwell" sounded exactly like the original versions. Yawn.
Unlike years prior, the contestants of this season have every resource available. They can play any instrument they want, use backup singers, create different arrangements, they have the benefit of lighting and stage design customized for their performance, and stylists to make their entire time on stage appear absolutely flawless. This is a far cry from the origins of the show, when the contestants weren't even allowed to use anything other than their voice to win over America. And yet, with all of this opportunity, the contestants fall flatter than seasons past. While American Idol is pushing hard for the contestants to harness their star power via social media outlets, the contestants can't even offer up a decent performance in return.
Our suggestion? Quit the social media pumping. Lighten up on the Facebook and Google integrated voting system. Focus on the voices because ultimately, that is what viewers tune in to hear and so far, there hasn't been much to listen to.