CAN X FACTOR PRODUCE A RELEVANT CONTESTANT, LIKE IDOL (ONCE COULD)?
*EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS POST WAS FIRST WRITTEN IN NOVEMBER 27TH, 2011, WHEN I BRIEFLY WATCHED THE X FACTOR AND WONDERED IF IT COULD PRODUCE A RELEVANT CONTESTANT. THE RESULTS FOLLOW.
I ask this because American Idol's track record of producing modern, current music (aka music seen in the 'top 40') is growing worse and worse by the second. Think of this as the "outside bubble". This is the only way you'd really get the exposure, unless you're country. Let's bring out the big guns, er statistics, shall we? (By the way, songs that lasted on the charts <5 weeks won't be counted; they're pretty much irrelevant).
--Song (Year Released)--(Peak position-Number of times)--(Weeks in the chart)
Kelly Clarkson (WINNER)
--A Moment Like This (2002)--(#3 1 time)--(13 weeks)
--Miss Independent (2003)--(#1 5 times)--(23 weeks)
--Low (2003)--(#6 1 time)--(14 weeks)
--The Trouble With Love Is (2004)--(#8 1 time)--(14 weeks)
--Breakaway (2004)--(#2 1 time)--(23 weeks)
--Since U Been Gone (2005)--(#1 8 times)--(33 weeks)
--Behind These Hazel Eyes (2005)--(#2 1 time)--(28 weeks)
--Because of You (2005)--(#1 5 times)--(28 weeks)
--Walk Away (2006)--(#3 1 time)--(23 weeks)
--Never Again (2007)--(#13 1 time)--(13 weeks)
--My Life Would Suck Without You (2009)-- (#2 1 time)--(23 weeks)
--I Do Not Hook Up (2009)--(#7 1 time)--(17 weeks)
--Already Gone (2009)--(#5 1 time)--(25 weeks)
--All I Ever Wanted (2010)--(#35 1 time)--(6 weeks)
--Mr Know It All (2011)--(#15 so far) --(10+ weeks)
Kim Locke (#3)
--Eighth World Wonder (2004)--(#7 1 time)--(18 weeks)
--Wrong (2004)--(#22 1 time)--(7 weeks)
What a massive flop this season was. No one.
Carrie Underwood (WINNER)
--Before He Cheats (2006)--(#27 1 time)--(8 weeks); but reentered charts (2007)--(#6 1 time)--(23 weeks)
Bo Bice (#2)
--The Real Thing (2006)--(#8 1 time)--(22 weeks)
Mario Vazquez (dropped out)
--Gallery (2006)--(#8 3 times)--(25 weeks)
Katharine McPhee (#2)
--Over It (2007)--(#16 1 time)--(12 weeks)
Elliott Yamin (#3)
--Wait For You (2007)--(#4 1 time)--(29 weeks)
Chris Daughtry (#4)
--It's Not Over (2007)--(#1 2 times)--(25 weeks)
--Home (2007)--(#4 1 time)--(21 weeks)
--Over You (2007)--(#6 1 time)--(23 weeks)
--Feels Like Tonight (2008)--(#12 1 time)--(18 weeks)
--What About Now (2008)--(#17 1 time)--(12 weeks)
--No Surprise (2009)--(#12 1 time)--(21 weeks)
--Life After You (2010)--(#23 1 time)--(20 weeks)
--September (2010)--(#19 1 time)--(15 weeks)
Jordin Sparks (WINNER)
--Tattoo (2008)--(#4 1 time)--(25 weeks)
--One Step At a Time (2008)--(#4 1 time)--(20 weeks)
--No Air (feat Chris Brown) (2008)--(#1 1 time)--(26 weeks)
--Battlefield (2009)--(#7 1 time)--(22 weeks)
David Cook (WINNER)
--The Time Of My Life (2008)--(#22 1 time)--(15 weeks)
--Light On (2009)--(#18 1 time)--(18 weeks)
David Archuleta (#2)
--Crush (2008)--(#11 1 time)--(18 weeks)
Kris Allen (WINNER)
--Live Like We're Dying (2010)--(#10 1 time)--(22 weeks)
Adam Lambert (#2)
--Whataya Want From Me (2010)--(#12 1 time)--(21 weeks)
--If I Had You (2010)--(#15 1 time)--(18 weeks)
What a massive flop this season was. No one.
So see the trajectory of AI is revealing--right now, it's just leeching off Kelly Clarkson, who obviously stands out among this ragtag group in terms of still being able to chart even after spawning so many singles, ever since 2002. Idol has gone through 10 seasons and over 120 contestants in the top 12, and she's the only one still charting today (Mr Know It All at #15). She's way more relevant than many of the recent contestants.
Let's go over a brief history to summarize what was up top:
AI2's Clay Aiken and Kim Locke were, for the most part, 1-hit wonders who are now extinct in terms of top 40 marketability. Ruben Studdard with all his gospel soul wasn't even commercial back in 2003. AI3 flopped hard and no one was commercial.
AI4 saw Carrie actually make a slight dent on the top 40 with her signature song, but for the most part she's country and country is generally exclusive of top 40 hits. But the fact that she was able to get one there speaks to why she's still successful right now. And Mario Vazquez, a guy who had a smooth R&B voice and who dropped out of Idol to make it on his own, was more successful than Bo Bice (#2) commercially--while both were 1 hit wonders and completely extinct now, it was the beginning in terms of proving that Idol was producing non-commercial types at the top.
AI5 generated one hit wonder Elliott Yamin and a one mediocre song wonder in Kat McPhee in terms of commercial appeal, and Taylor Hicks couldn't even be seen in this list (see comment about Mario Vazquez and Bo Bice). Chris Daughtry had a good run from 2007 to 2010, but I think it's the beginning of the end for his commercial success. He's relegated to hot AC now, whereas his past songs used to score well at the top 40 (the Nickelback effect). But, like AI4, this was a good season--at the least it generated a "star" at the time.
AI6 only had one person with commercial appeal--Jordin Sparks. She's still going, obviously, but her last CD flopped and only produced 1 hit. She needs to change her direction or get some good collabs. But at least she generated three hits out of her first CD, and her genre is something that allows her to have more staying power than others.
AI7 pretty much defined the term "the bubble contestant". It was perceived as a good season by the masses but the two contestants it tried to propel were either mediocre mainstream flops (David Cook) or one hit wonders (David Archuleta). If both couldn't have staying power with their first attempt, their next attempts will be even more gruesome. I doubt both would ever see the mainstream chart again.
AI8 was similar. Mediocre-charting contestants. Amazingly, of note was that Kris Allen saw more chart success than David Cook in his initial attempt--"Live Like We're Dying" was received better mainstream than "Time of My Life" or "Light On" for that matter. Then again, Kris Allen's Rob Thomas sensibilities (Matchbox 20 was still charting) might have helped him, while the grunge movement was fading when Cook won. The label fed a lot of $$$ into Adam Lambert's venture and while he had two mild hits of sorts, have to wonder about his staying power if that's all his first attempt is able to generate.
AI9 was a massive flop. No one was commercial, and we knew that once we knew who was in the top 24. Lee DeWyze's song couldn't even chart, but that's no surprise. I think the tapes for this season have been burned in a storage house already.
My opinion is that AI10 won't produce anyone who will chart in the top 40 either. Lauren, who Nigel stubbornly once dubbed a mixture of "Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood", is way more Underwood and has fully embraced country and turned her back on a more commercial sound. She won't be accepted. Scotty is even more roots country and that stuff will never see the light of day in the top 40 either. But both, as I said about country, will sustain careers in that genre. James Durbin looks like he's flopping already, no surprise. We'll see about Haley's venture, but if she insists on a jazzy sound she'll probably not make it anyway. Pia Toscano seems to have faded out of the public eye already, not surprised if Interscope has given up. So in terms of commercial marketability, yeah, not looking good. We can see zero (ouch!) contestants here, but maybe two if the cards fall right (Haley and Pia).
So having informed yourself of the history of AI's marketable contestants, and it's trajectory into producing non-commercial contestants recently, what do you make of this year's X Factor crop?
A lot of this just involves simple looking at the charts. It's important to do what I call "piggybacking"--Daughtry did that with Nickelback, and Jordin was a quasi- fit with Alicia, Beyonce, etc who were hot at the time (2008). Kelly Clarkson caught fire at a time when Pink, Avril, Michelle Branch were on the charts and the public were far more receptive to the pop rock sound in 2002.
So, let's start with LA's boys because it's the easiest: with Chris Rene, I already see Mike Posner, Gym Class Heroes, Andy Grammer on the charts, and that reggae-soft rap style is something that he can piggyback off of. With Marcus Canty, I see Usher and Jason DeRulo in the charts, and that will help a lot. With Astro, well, Lil Wayne and Drake are charting right now. Rap is charting mainstream.
Simon's girls--Rachel--nope, there's no one like her. I think that's a problem for her, if we look at the history of these shows. I don't think she's marketable in this current landscape. Drew--that sound is also not charting nowadays. Even Selena Gomez, the closest comparison, now has delved into the electropop. I really wonder if she's marketable. Melanie--Well, we do have that Adele gospel/soully voice charting. But what are the odds that she'll catch lightning in a bottle like that? I think she's too bland personality-wise to make a dent, but she's still the most commercial of the girls as there's precedence in the charts.
Paula's groups--Lakoda Rayne--Hey, Lady Antebellum's still charting right now. But the Dixie Chicks have stopped charting a while back. So it's a toss up. Hey, at least that's better than two of Simon's girls for mainstream-ness. Stereo Hogzz--Some look like members of the Black Eyed Peas, who are charting, but their style is so dated you have to wonder. Look the part but don't play the part. Again a toss up, but still better than Simon's girls for mainstream-ness. InTENsity--Nothing like this on the charts. If they went far enough, it would have to be a new Glee on a TV show, not on the charts. So no mainstream-ness.
Nicole's overs--All of them are hopeless and they're the most obvious to cross out. Let's start with Josh, since he'll most likely win and we'll likely be speculating about his chances come Christmas. Just look at how David Cook (2 mediocre singles), Kris Allen (1 mild hit) and Lee DeWyze (major flop) did. And that was back when it was more rock--now, in the top 40, all we have is "pop rock" like Maroon 5 and the Script. Josh doesn't "pop". Thus, he's screwed in this new environment. LeRoy--we don't see any 60 year olds on these charts, and he's by default hopeless for mainstream. Stacy--same. Don't see anyone her age there either.
So I'm thinking that LA's boys are the most marketable in this environment--Astro, Chris, Marcus, probably in that order. Then we'll have Lakoda Rayne, Melanie, Stereo Hogzz, Drew and Rachel. And then the overs and InTENsity are all hopeless. I'm thinking that the only ones we might ever see on these charts are Astro and Chris, and Marcus if he's lucky. The rest I'm not betting on at all.
But hey, having three people charting is better than Idol recently only putting two people charting. And urban/pop music is more sustainable than the pop rock stuff that Idol was attempting.