With Idol winding down this season, we thought we would take a weekly stroll down memory lane – to take a look at the memorable, the infamous and the entertaining aspects of the show – to collectively share our memories.
As the CMA’s showed us this week, a performance on TV can change careers. Chris Stapleton went from not even being outside the BB200 to topping it in less than 30 hours. The CMA’s allowed Chris to introduce himself and his cover of “Tennessee Whiskey” to the world and the many viewers found themselves a new star and a new song to download.
Idol has long been accused of having a repetitive set list – and it does. If we have to hear “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” again, we may all have to poke our ears out. But, every once and a while, Idol introduces us to a new song or a new cover or a new artist and it is magical. This thread is for each of us to reminisce about such performances. Who or what did Idol introduce you to?
Artists were not always happy to release their songs for performances on Idol. Whether it is because they didn’t want to be associated with cheesy covers, they didn’t like losing control over their song or they didn’t like how Idol injected people into the music business, clearance issues plagued contestants. One of the most famous incidents of this is when Danger Mouse refused permission for “Crazy” to be performed on Idol which prevented us from seeing two highly praised Hollywood performances by David Archuleta and Jason Castro. Sometimes, others intervened to get songs cleared. When the producers could not get “This Love” cleared, Blake Lewis used some of his own connections to get Maroon 5 to clear it. Clive Davis told us that he personally phoned Bruce Springsteen to clear “Dancing in the Dark” in Season 5 for Taylor Hicks while Simon Cowell called up Bono to get “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” for David Cook in Season 7 (whether he wanted to sing it or not). Adam Lambert got even more powerful assistance in Season 8 when he wanted to sing a Led Zeppelin song. The kids of either the manager or a band member were fans of Adam Lambert and insisted that the song be cleared.
Songs by original artists could see a boost after an Idol performance. There was definitely a sweet spot in Seasons 5 through 8 when iTunes came into common use and fans being able to buy performances by their Idols (Idol started experimenting in Season 5 selling official versions of performance videos from their own site, in Season 6 selling recorded versions from their own site (and iTunes after the season) and in Season 7, selling recorded/performance songs on iTunes each week). I don’t have any easily accessible records from the early seasons, but in Season 7 and 8 (and when we got leaks of the top 200 downloaded songs) we started tracking songs that were performed on Idol.
One of the biggest boosts we saw was in Season 7 when Jason Castro sang Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World”. The song sold 62,329 that week up from 7,812 the previous week. That song had quite a long hang time as well still selling 16K three weeks later. In Season 8, when Kris Allen chose to sing “Falling Slowly” for Movie week he was chastised by Randy and Kara for picking such an obscure song. The song saw a 1910% increase in sales (from 1,597 the previous week to 32,015) and went on to become a reality show staple (Randy and Kara praised Lee and Crystal for singing it the next year since it had become such a beloved song). Also from a movie, but from the previous week, Adam Lambert boosted sales for two versions of “Mad World”. The Gary Jul version zoomed up 1220% (from 3,364 to 44,420) and the original Tears for Fears version 1999% (from 472 to 9,905).
Here are some of the songs that Idol introduced me to:
1) Season 6 – Lakisha Jones – “This Ain’t a Love Song”. I thought she was doomed when Bon Jovi was introduced as the weekly theme. She was firmly stuck in her box and how was she going to sing a Bon Jovi songs to sing? When she admitted to them that she didn’t even know any of their songs, I knew she was doomed. She blew me away and this song I never knew existed which is now firmly on my radar.
2) Season 10 – Haley Reinhart – “You and I”. Haley sang this on Idol before it was even formally released by Lady Gaga who had only sung the song in concert. This remains my favourite song from Lady Gaga – both versions are fantastic.
3) Season 12 – Sam Woolf – “Just One” – For “Home” week, Sam picked a song from a very obscure Oregon band – Blind Pilot. This song just resonated with me so I checked out the original version and I bought it.
4) Season 14 – Joey Cook – “King of Spain” – Joey Cook took an even bigger risk auditioning with this song (and later auditions songs were a theme week) from The Tallest Man on Earth. And then she sang it with an accordion. She seemed like a joke audition until she nailed the song that has become a favourite.
5) Season 4 – Bo Bice – “In a Dream” – I wasn’t even watching Idol that year (busy time in my life), but everybody raved about this performance. So I checked out this song I had never heard of from a band that was unknown to me by a hairy guy singing a cappella. I was sucked back into the show.
Bonus: Kris Allen “All These Things That I Have Done” – he didn’t actually get to sing this song on Idol, but he did replace his coronation song with it on tour. The original of this song from the Killers has gotten a lot of spins from me. Here he is singing it at his home town concert (the best attended concert in AI history):
So how about you – what songs or versions or artists did Idol introduce you to? Help us to be re-introduced to them all over again.