Ever since Jasmine Trias rose to fame in the country after being one of the Top 12 in American Idol Season 3, I became an American Idol (AI) fan for its succeeding seasons.
I witnessed how Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, and Lee Dewyze became each season’s winner from audition weeks to weekly elimination. But then, I am thinking of not supporting the upcoming season next year that much.
Controversies envelop every show and AI is no exception. AI’s Season 9 is dubbed to be ‘the worst season ever’ and known by critics to have the lowest ratings since the show was launched in 2001. Some say it is about getting Ellen Degeneres to be one of the judges or having a very amateur top 12. In one way or another, I agree with those. But I became more upset when Alex Lambert, one of the Top 16, got eliminated so early and the ones who did not deserve spots in the Top 12 got in (mmm, Tim Urban?).
Alex has definitely have the potential of being a star from being a raw and undiscovered talent. The night before the eliminations, I labeled him as my ‘favorite’ without me knowing that I was about to hate the season the following day. This incident in fact opened my eyes for two reasons.
First, it made me realize that America is no smart. I don’t want to sound racist here but I was really disappointed with them.I have been watching American dramas ever since childhood- among them were Dawson’s Creek and Charmed- and I can say they had influenced me to conclude that Americans are intelligent. I know it’s a hasty generalization but could I blame myself for being a ‘victim’ of mass media? So here goes, I was full support of AI contestants because I know that whoever gets eliminated, America will surely pick the right one. The best one. But then, I was wrong. I did not know what went through my mind that time but I just wanted to yell at the TV, “Hey! Get lost, America!”. They picked Tim Urban, who cannot even sing well (I mean, if you are on AI, you should sing at least very well),to be on the Top 12 over Alex Lambert, but who might be very nervous each time he gets on stage, whose voice is just one-of-a kind. Oh well, AI is a popularity contest and not a singing one even before.
Second, it made me realize the power of new media nowadays. One is the anti-AI website, Vote for the Worst, attracts supporters to vote for the worst contestant every week to stay on the show. Yes, this is a very good counter-attack for the show’s haters. AI is able to get money from the call and text votes but at the same time, is also getting the incompetent contestants stay longer. For some reason, this website is totally a hit and a success in its own right. Another is the campaign on Change.org to bring Alex Lambert back on AI.
Well, this one has got another story. Hours after Alex got eliminated, a fan named Jessica Bongiorno started a campaign via Change.org for the cause of having Alex back and give him another shot for a slot in the Top 12. I was able to check on this site 2 days after it was created and found that there are already around 4,000 fans who signed up for the petition. Not surprisingly, I signed up and advertised the site to my friends in Facebook (actually, they grew tired of it already as I am posting updates every hour). After 24 hours, the number of those who signed up rose to 9,000. I think at least 5 supporters all over the world sign up every minute. The last time I checked the website, about three months ago, the figure went up at 19,000.In this sense, it was creepy.
But then, it made me believe that social media is really powerful because it…brought back Alex, not to be on AI, the chance to pursue his talent. The management of 19 Entertainment and AI’s creator, Simon Fuller, were impressed on how the fans united to have their idol back. Simon Fuller, then, decided to cast Alex as the 6th dreamer in his Internet show, If I Can Dream. Fans definitely felt their victory and maybe some of them gained confidence in Idol again after that announcement.
This is a lesson for organizations- whatever line of work they are into. Outside forces, like the fans, will always influence an organization’s decisions and strategies. They cannot keep themselves shut from their external environment. In this case, 19 Entertainment was able to compromise on what they are going to offer Alex Lambert without sacrificing the credibility of Idol and disappointing its fans. Organizations should be aware that their publics are in control at some point, and that they really have to be effective in dealing with them.
Thanks to the new media, the Internet in particular, the “Magic Bullet” Theory of mass communication starts to lose its applicability I bet. However, Goldhaber’s organizational communication’s definition, “the process of creating and exchanging messages…to cope with environmental uncertainties”, will never lose its place to the real, competitive world.
By the way, I watched AI Season 9’s Finale. But everything was not the same anymore.