It's going to be a bummer summer for fans of Canadian Idol.
The show has been cancelled for the 2009 season, ostensibly due to the global economic meltdown. According to a statement from CTV, "as a result of the current economic climate, production of Canadian Idol will rest for the 2009 year."
This doesn't mean that the hit show which made household names of Rex Goudie, Craig Sharpe, Tara Oram (above), Jason Greeley and Jenny Gear is gone for good, though it doesn't bode well either.
I watched the show almost every week for one season, when Rex Goudie made it into the top two. After that, I lost interest. The free-for-all voting system, in which individuals voted as many times as they could get through on their jammed phone lines, was bizarre beyond belief.
If the local favourite had won, what would that have proved? That we had the most reliable phone circuits in the country, despite the overload? I remember some people bragging that they had voted more than 100 times.
To mark this occasion, I contacted two individuals with fairly strong views on Canadian Idol, and asked them to submit a few words possibly an epitath for the program. First, we will hear from Kevin Kelly, senior editor with The Newfoundland Herald; then from Craig Welsh, a former reporter with The Express who now lives, works and blogs in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
First, let's hear from Kevin Kelly:
I've covered Canadian Idol from the beginning, and on a Newfoundland and Labrador level, Canadian Idol gave a shot to some of our local talents that wouldn't have been there otherwise. Do you think Rex Goudie, from small town Burlington would have been discovered without it? Very likely, no. He sold a platinum record (Under The Lights) in Canada because of it and was even nominated for a Juno. He sold over 100,000 copies of that CD, a remarkable achievement.
For people like Tara Oram, (Top 6 in 2007) she's also reached the heights of national stature, with a hit single (Fly Girl) her own TV show (The Tara Diaries), a national Chrismas special, and most recently, three ECMA nominations.
The problem with the show was that it provided instant fame, but little guidance to the hills and valleys of the music industry. I still think of Craig Sharpe, a young guy with a voice that was made for pop, but he wasn't accustomed to the business side of things and he put out an album, and then faded away. I still think he has a bright future, with the right guidance.
Goudie also saw the fickleness of the record industry firsthand, getting dropped from his label, but he has enough star power to at the very least, maintain his provincial stature if not nationally. Jason Greeley is signed to Royalty Records, and recently showcased at the Canadian Country Music Association conference. His new album is expected next year. He performed for many years before Idol, and I think could make a big impact on the country music industry, with the right attitude and drive.
Jenny Gear was probably not accustomed to the instant fame Idol brought her, but she has moved on her music career on her own terms. She still performs regularly around town, and is one of the best singers I've ever seen.
Mark Day was an unlikely Idol last season, but he's learning and I heard from many people he was the best thing about the Divas show recently. A career in musical theatre is a natural for him.
Canadian Idol, at its very best, gave a shot to any singer in Newfoundland and Labrador (from outports to town) to give it their all, and they discovered some great young local singers in the audition process over the years, such as the award winning Kelly-Ann Evans and Dana Parsons, Adam Baxter, Melanie Benson, Leanne Kean, Todd Scott, Chloe Abbott, Dameion Moores, Keely Hutton (who eventually went on to Triple Sensation), Justin Fancy, and one of my personal favourites, Lindsay Barr. All of these singers went through the experience, got some exposure, and learned from it, becoming better musicians, making industry contacts, and getting good advice, at least for the time they were on the show.
At its worst, Idol was a cheesefest that focused less on actual talent that it did on image. Plus they had no women in the Top 5 last season. It was all about the votes, which mostly came from teenage girls.
For us at The Herald, we tried to rally behind our people each time they did well on Canadian Idol, with stories, covers and followup on their careers post show. We also tried to do what Idol couldn't do, namely continue to support their efforts long after the TV lights had faded, and we'll continue to do so in the months and years ahead.
Supporting our talent was the best part of Idol, and it instilled a sense of pride that our talent was among the best in the country. It's something I've always believed in personally, and the loss of the show is one less way that talent can get attention from the rest of Canada. That's the sad part about the loss of the show.
Now, here's a commentary from Craig Welsh:
It's no secret I hated Canadian Idol. If you wanted proof on how much I hated it, go here.
So news that the show is on hiatus for at least year and might never be coming back should fill me with glee, right?
Well, hell yeah!
Yes, it's tinged with some remorse. I read a story talking about how many people will lose jobs over this show not going ahead. And I do feel bad about people not getting work during these rough times.
But let's be honest, it was a piece of shit show. And at its absolute worst, it made Newfoundlanders look like raving morons. Every single time I read a story about phone lines being tied up on Idol nights, or groups being organized for mass phone calls, or, God help me, people calling open line shows outraged that their favourite lost and whispering darkly about conspiracy theories to keep their favourite from winning and Newfoundlanders down, I despaired.
It made everyone in Newfoundland looked absolutely touched in the head. Like we were so desperate for a bit of love and recognition from the Mainland that we were losing our collective shit over an updated Gong Show reject.
I also hate the show's producers. The show really gave very little to the performers in return for making a lot of people very rich. Yes, they got some experience, training and a temporary boost into the national spotlight. And all it cost them was a good measure of respect, often forcing them into signing terrible contracts, and only gave them a taste of fame before casting them most of them off to become a "whatever happened to..." question.
But I almost maintain a measure of contempt for the people who boosted these people into the spotlight. Because once the frenzy of the Idol spotlight passed, how many of these people stuck by the contestants? How many bought albums? How many went out and supported local musicians like Colleen Power, Ron Hynes, The Kremlin or the hundreds of others working hard to be successful in Newfoundland's music scene? Far too few. Let's support local musicians - but only in national talent contests. Christ preserve me...
Canadian Idol was a hackneyed talent contest to be sure and its insane popularity is mystifying. But while people praised it for exposing Newfoundland talent to a wider audience, they often missed the point - the show was just as likely to show some of the very worst aspects of Newfoundlanders in the process. Here's hoping the hiatus is permanent.
Finally, a closing remark from Ken Meeker.
No, not my dad... my 16-year-old son. He left the following comment at the Protest to Save Canadian Idol group on facebook:
I hope Canadian Idol never comes back on TV. No teenager deserves to be cruelly told that they aren't good enough for television. You could have a beautiful voice, but be rougher looking, and never see the Canadian Idol stage. However, those who can't really hold a note or sing but are physically appealing stand a greater chance. I hope that this disgusting show never gets another season on TV.
Interestingly enough, they deleted his comment almost immediately. Welcome, my son, to the world of media manipulation.