It’s massive. And it’s late. But here it is. Our 2015 year in review. Enjoy!
American Idol is Cancelled
The biggest news story of the year? FOX announced American Idol’s fifteenth season in 2016 will be the iconic show’s last. Calling it a “season-long celebratory event,” FOX brass announced host Ryan Seacrest and judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. would all return to search for the final Idol superstar and pay tribute to the past 14 seasons of “amazingly talented contestants and the millions of fans who tweeted, texted and championed their Idols.” After sitting on the fence for a bit, season 14 mentor, Scott Borchetta also decided to return. Original producer, Nigel Lythgoe will return to co-produce the finale. Speaking of which–not returning? Per Blankens, the Swedish Idol producer hired to right the “wrongs” of Nigel and Ken Warwick. Additionally, the final farewell season will be cut back by 6 weeks, if the rumors are true.
The season 14 finale was the lowest rated ever, 1.7 in the 18-49 demo, and a viewing audience of 8.3M. The season bottomed out at a 1.3 rating for the finale performance show. A far cry from the halcyon days when Season 6 garnered a 15.8 rating in the demo and 37.44M viewers. With steadily dropping advertising rates, and big name sponsors like Coca Cola and AT&T dropping out, FOX had enough.
The season began promisingly enough, but the one night a week live shows featured contestants not only anticipating a live performance, but the possibility of elimination. Light up chairs signalled to the finalists they were safe, and in that moment of relief, were expected to take the stage and sing. Nerves abounded. Early front runner, Sarina Joi Crowe, botched a performance due to nerves, and was tossed out of the finals first. Later in the live shows, Harry Connick Jr. got into a tiff with another fan-favorite singer, Quentin Alexander, pretty much assuring he’d be the next to go. The tour was cut back to five singers, instead of the usual ten, which put even more pressure on the finalists to advance. And then there was the twitter save, which Rayvon Owen won four weeks in a row. Second runner-up, Jax, was rudely dispatched at the beginning of the Top 2 performance show, without an opportunity to say goodbye. Season 14 tweaks made for a show that was at times, mean-spirited and awkward–hampering talented singers’ ability to compete at their best. The show bled viewers. In the end, Connecticut native, Nick Fradiani, sang an emotional “Beautiful Life” while the confetti fell.
With executive producer,Trish Kahane at the helm, and the promise of plenty of nostalgia and warm fuzzies–so far the new season is chock-full of alums and call backs to happier times–fans hope the show that changed the face of television and the music business won’t go out with a whimper.
Phillip Phillips vs American Idol
American Idol, Season 11 winner, Phillip Phillips, petitioned the the California Labor Commission to get out of a contract with 19 Entertainment that he deemed onerous. “I am very grateful for the opportunities provided to me through appearing on American Idol,” said Phillip in the petition. “The value that the fans and the show have given to my career is not lost on me. However, I have not felt that I have been free to conduct my career in a way that I am comfortable with.” In return, Idol sued Phillip’s new management company for $4 million dollars, accusing them of persuading the singer to ditch his contract with 19 Entertainment. There was a hearing scheduled for Dec 4 on Phillip’s petition. No word on how that turned out. In the meantime, FOX is using Phillip’s chart success to promote the final farewell season of the show.
The Voice Can’t Launch Stars Says Adam Levine
A major criticism of The Voice since it debuted on NBC in 2011 is that it hasn’t produced any major stars the way American Idol has. Inevitably, the coaches are asked why, and they usually sidestep the issue. Until now. The last straw for coach Adam Levine may have been Republic Records signing his team member, season 7 runner up, Matt McAndrew, in early 2015, only to drop him 6 months later. The Maroon 5 frontman sounded off on the Howard Stern radio show. When Howard asked why no stars, Adam was ready. “I’ll be relatively cryptic about what I think the big problem is,” he said. “When the baton is passed post-Voice, there’s some problems. People take over after we do this great job of building these people up on the show. There’s some real issues there.” Then, not so cryptically: “The rollout of all that is still such a mess.” Adam insisted the coaches and NBC “do so much great s— for these singers, and then they go to a record label that I won’t mention. But they go to a record label that f—s it up.” Later, during the live shows, Pharrell Williams took a passive aggressive swipe at the label when he warned eventual season 9 winner, Jordan Smith, not to allow a label to change who he is. On live TV, Pharrell said he hoped that Jordan’s dream was realized “in the proper way” and that the singer went to a label that “really understands everything that you need, and everything that these people have come to fall in love with…not becoming something else.”
The Voice in 2015 seemed to hold very little suspense for fans. Season 8 and 9 winners, Sawyer Frederick and Jordan Smith, respectively, ran away with the competition beginning early in their seasons. Topping the iTunes charts week after week, racking up those download bonuses, made it pretty easy to predict the winner. Jordan in particular, seemed engineered to take it all. A gifted singer, it certainly didn’t hurt that producers carefully crafted a narrative that cast the singer as a champion for high pitched outliers everywhere. The audience ate it up. The only suspense to be found was the massive 9 contestant semifinal that eliminated 5 contestants in one fell swoop. The Bloodbath, fans called it. With 5 singers leaving at once and a wildcard determining the 4th finalist, the results show truly was a nail biter.
Making more headlines than all the contestants combined, were coaches Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. After both endured high-profile divorces over the summer, that included tales of infidelity and smear campaigns, the unlikely duo began dating in the fall. And that’s all I got. The couple’s every move are recorded by the likes of People, US and E Online. I just can’t muster up the will to follow it all.
Simon Cowell Shakes Things Up on X Factor UK
X Factor UK ratings have been sliding for the past couple of years, leading SYCO chief, Simon Cowell, to shake up the ITV show a bit. He axed longtime judge, Louis Walsh, and added DJ Nick Grimshaw to take his place. Simon also nicked singer Rita Ora from The Voice UK, to join Simon and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini on the panel. Ratings continued to slide anyway, amid a shortened season (due to the Rugby World Cup games) and a winner, Louisa Johnson, who had the lowest selling X Factor winners single ever. With ITV poaching The Voice from the BBC, Simon could be competing with a series on the same network. The Voice won the singing wars in the US, will the popular format reign supreme in the UK as well?
In other X Factor news. A pair of X Factor New Zealand judges were fired practically on the spot after bullying and humiliating a contestant in front of a live audience. Ouch.
One Direction Loses a Member, Takes a Hiatus
Fans were shocked when Zayn Malik announced, in the middle of a worldwide tour, he was leaving One Direction. There were twitter wars with Louis Tomlinson, and a falling out with would-be producer, Naughty Boy. Zayn dissed One Direction’s music, and Simon Cowell called him “rude” and happy to have passed him on to RCA. A few months later, One Direction announced they were going on “hiatus.” They made a few farewell appearances, including a stop on the X Factor finale. And that’s all she wrote. Maybe forever? Sidenote: Louis Tomlinson got a girl preggo, providing even more fodder for the Larry Tinhat Conspiracy Network.
Singing Star Alums Make News!
American Idol 8 alum, Adam Lambert dropped his single “Ghost Town,” released a 3rd studio album, The Original High, and announced a worldwide tour. A band of conservative Singaporeans launched a petition to stop the singer, whom they deemed controversial and immoral, from appearing on a big New Years Eve show. Their mission failed, needless to say.
American Idol 7 winner, David Cook launched a popular pre-order campaign on Pledgemusic. The album, Digital Vein, came out in September. Other artists hitting up Pledgemusic to sell pre-orders/merch/crowdfund, included The Voice alum, Juliet Simms, Idol s9 winner, Lee DeWyze, s10 alum, James Durbin, and current American Idol winner, Nick Fradiani, whose winners’ single “Beautiful Life” was played as the US Women’s Soccer Team celebrated their World Cup win.
Carrie Underwood had a busy year. She released her 5th studio album, Storyteller, in October, months after giving birth to her 1st baby, Isaiah, in February! In other baby news, American Idol season 1 winner, Kelly Clarkson, announced she was pregnant with her second child in the middle of a concert at the Staple Center in Los Angeles. The singer eventually revealed she was carrying a baby boy. Kelly’s latest album, Piece by Piece, was out on March 3.
Jordin Sparks released Right Here Right Now her first studio album in six years, but it may have been too little too late. Despite a run-up of publicity with major music and entertainment publications, the album debuted at #161 on the Billboard 200 and disappeared off the charts shortly thereafter.
After winning The Voice 8 in May, it was reported that Sawyer Fredericks sold over nearly a million downloads during the competition. Season 9 winner, Jordan Smith hit the Top 10 on the regular during the live shows, including kicking Adele out of the #1 spot twice. The Voice 9 contestants held 8 of the Top 10 iTunes positions on the night of both the semi-final and final performance shows.
In the We Did it Our Way category: Several seasons after appearing on The Voice, Melanie Martinez released her debut album, Crybaby to positive buzz for both the record and subsequent club tour. This winter, she’s opening for Adam Lambert on his Australian tour dates. Tori Kelly was cut just short of the American Idol season 9 Top 24. That didn’t keep her from making waves in the pop realm in 2015, followed by a nomination for a Best New Artist Grammy. The Sing-Off 3 winners, Pentatonix, like Tori, parlayed Youtube fame into a major label deal. They released a full length album, and opened for Kelly Clarkson on tour.
You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
There had been plenty of conversation around the dearth of female singers on country radio, but the controversy came to a head when music consultant Keith Hill suggested that female singers serve as the tomatoes in a salad full of male lettuce. His analogy attempted to back his assertion that radio was male heavy because country music fans liked it that way…which our own Deb G promptly disproved with hard data. Her impressive research led to an invite to present her findings at a special “Women in Country Music” conference in Nashville. Billboard magazine devoted an entire column to Deb’s research.
Glee Says Goodbye, Empire Soars, and More TV News
Musical comedy, Glee, left the airwaves in March after 6 seasons full of ups and downs. FOX relegated the poorly rated series to an 11 week mid-season run. Despite a ton of publicity around the series farewell, the ratings mostly dwelled below 1.0 in the 18-49 demo. A far cry from the 5+ rating Glee garnered in the early years. Not helping the show’s syndication prospects. Mark Salling, who played bad boy Noah “Puck” Puckerman was arrested for alleged possession of child porn. ugh.
Meanwhile, as Glee made an exit, another music-centric show, Empire arrived. The soapy series, which focused on the family drama around an African American music mogul and his dysfunctional family, soared in the ratings. Season 2 numbers dropped a bit, but it’s still the highest rated scripted show on television right now.
The fall cycle of Survivor allowed fans to vote for former castaways to return for a “second chance” and was a favorite season of fans and critics alike. Bindi Irwin, the impish 16 year old daughter of the late beloved Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, won the fall cycle of Dancing with the Stars, amid dramatic competition ending illnesses for Real Housewife Kim Zolciak (who petitioned to return after she withdrew) and singer, Tamar Braxton.
The FOX summer show, Knock Knock Live, produced by Ryan Seacrest and Idol creator, Simon Fuller was cancelled after only two episodes. It was kind of a trainwreck. Co-host, American Idol 5 alum, Kellie Pickler, went straight to her own CMT reality show, I Love Kellie Pickler. This time, she stars in a hit.
Celebrities do the Darndest Things
Kanye West supplied plenty of entertainment in 2015. At the Grammys he pretended to rush the stage when Beck won Album of the Year, only to reveal to E News, after the ceremony that he really was annoyed and that the winner should “respect artistry” and give his award to Beyonce. Later, Kanye backtracked, softening his comments, insisting he meant no disrespect to Beck.
Singer Ariana Grande got into a heap of internet trouble over the summer after she was caught on camera in a coffee shop licking a donut. She took two or three stabs at apologizing. The first time, hilariously insisting she was concerned with obesity in America, or some such nonsense. “I’m a narcissistic brat, and this is how I roll,” is how she would have responded if really being honest with herself.
Nicki Minaj launched into a twitter rant after MTV failed to nominate her “Anaconda” music video for MVA Video of the Year. Then Taylor Swift butted in. Because her video DID get nominated, the singer assumed Nicki was taking a passive aggressive shot at her. Nicki was all TAKE A SEAT GIRL. Taylor apologized, and then performed with Nicki at the ceremony. And who didn’t see that coming. After Miley Cyrus dissed Nicki for dissing other women, (The 2015 Lack of Self Awareness Award may go to Miley.) Nicki awesomely DRAGGED her on the show with the instant meme, “Back to this BITCH who had a lot to say about me…WHAT’S GOOD MILEY.”
Donald Trump entered the presidential race, made derogatory statements about Mexican immigrants, which caused NBC and a slew of sponsors cut ties. When he blamed former POW, John McCain, for being captured by the Viet Cong, it seemed his candidacy was surely imploding. But the more outrageous his statements, the higher his poll numbers. NBC came crawling back, inviting him to host Saturday Night Live. He’s made the Republican debates a ratings hit. When Paris and the US were hit with terrorist attacks, he shifted his focus to Muslims, suggesting American muslims be registered, banning all muslims for immigration, and basically playing to citizens’ deepest fears. Boo. Stay tuned for next year’s update.
In other news, Trump/NBC sold the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. FOX bought the rights to air, only to have host Steve Harvey crown the wrong winner.
Social Justice for the Win
2015 included some huge LGBT milestones. Bruce Jenner introduced the world to Caitlyn Jenner, in a Vanity Fair cover story. This, after revealing to ABC’s Diane Sawyer, she was in the midst of transitioning from male to female. Caitlyn received the prestigious Arthur Ashe Award from ESPN, and gave a stirring speech at the ceremony. Meanwhile, Big Brother, a reality show with a history of racist, sexist and homophobic houseguests, welcomed their first transgender contestant, Audrey Middleton. The house was unfazed when Audrey revealed the news on camera. They only talked behind her back when it became clear she was a Grade A sh*t stirrer! And in June, the Supreme Court ruled to make same sex marriage legal across the land.
In June, we lost The Voice 8 contestant, Anthony Riley to suicide after a battle with drug addiction led him to withdraw from the competition. American Idol season 3 alum, Marque Lynche, brother of season 9 finalist, Michael Lynche, was found dead at age 34 in December. Cause of death has not yet been revealed. In 2015 we also lost Leonard Nimoy, Lesley Gore, Percy Sledge, Bobbi Kristina Brown, BB King and Scott Weiland.