We'll see, er, what caused Idol's harm in the mainstream, below the jump:
As usual, let's look at the top selling albums of 2008:
1. Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne 2,874,000
2. Viva La Vida, Coldplay 2,144,000
3. Fearless, Taylor Swift 2,112,000
4. Rock N Roll Jesus, Kid Rock 2,018,000
5. Black Ice, AC/DC 1,915,000
6. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift 1,597,000
7. Death Magnetic, Metallica 1,565,000
8. Paper Trail, T.I. 1,522,000
9. Sleep Through the Static, Jack Johnson 1,492,000
10. I Am...Sasha Fierce, Beyonce 1,459,000
This year was very interesting. I bet James Durbin was salivating to have Memories of A Beautiful Disaster released in 2008--because this was the year when the old timers reminisced about the good old days when metal was relevant, and started buying albums from AC/DC and Metallica again. Overall, the wide encompassing genre of rock had a strong showing--alternative rock in the form of Coldplay and Jack Johnson sold well, so at this stage there was still a market for the WGWGs on Idol's show, actually. Kid Rock's country rock stylings were again selling as well, which should have boded well for Bo Bice or Bucky Covington, actually, had they sold out in that fashion. Taylor Swift shows how powerful it is to combine country and teen pop fans, and R&B/hip hop has three representatives, with rap being predominant in the form of Lil Wayne and TI. So this was a year of rock (5) and R&B/hip hop (3) more or less, and then country pop (2).
Top 10 singles of 2008:
|1||Flo Rida feat. T-Pain||Low|
|2||Leona Lewis||Bleeding Love|
|3||Alicia Keys||No One|
|4||Lil Wayne feat. Static Major||Lollipop|
|5||Timbaland feat. OneRepublic||Apologize|
|6||Jordin Sparks Duet With Chris Brown||No Air|
|7||Sara Bareilles||Love Song|
|8||Usher feat. Young Jeezy||Love In This Club|
|9||Chris Brown||With You|
Yeap, again it's all R&B/hip hop that's dominating the singles...and then there's Sara Bareilles (pop). Several key points though: Simon's X Factor winner, Leona Lewis, scored a top single, and she leeched off Alicia Keys of last year and Beyonce of this year for that, so it wasn't surprising. Jordin Sparks, again who's leeching off those two, also got her single hit and got a coup by performing with Chris Brown. It's a coup because Brown was getting singles left and right played all the radio in 2008. He had three top ten hits, and that wasn't seen at all since 2002. Sparks really played the game well: she was piggybacking off the hottest genre on radio, hip hop, as well as Keys/Beyonce, and she collaborated with someone who was a major star on the radio already. So it's not surprising that she might have also caught on with the teens--I think her "No Air" holds the record for most youtube views among all Idol music videos. With that single alone, she's proven too be the most contemporary of the Idols.
Albums sold, 2008:
David Cook (WINNER)
David Cook 1.3mil
Jennifer Hudson (7th)
Jennifer Hudson 839K
David Archuleta (2nd)
David Archuleta 765K
Kellie Pickler (6th)
Kellie Pickler 451K
Clay Aiken (2nd)
On My Way Here 165K
Josh Gracin (4th)
We Weren't Crazy 86K
Analyzing the albums sold, Cook was able to sell by piggybacking off Coldplay and Jack Johnson--the light alternative rock was selling back in 2008. I really wanted to classify JHud as R&B/hip hop, since she's recently moved into that direction, but back then she was more or less urban--not quite in the Alicia Keys vein, but judging from the sales I wouldn't be surprised if she piggybacked off Alicia and Beyonce's fanbase. Archuleta essentially flopped in sales, and I think he could have maximized those sales had he released the album in 2006 or 2007, when he could have taken advantage of the High School Musical/Hannah Montana craze that was going on. As is, there was no teen pop in the charts in 2008, so no one to seriously leech off of. Kellie Pickler was smart--she capitalized on Taylor Swift's new country pop fanbase and maintained her identity after previous leechings, and still sold well for a 6th placer. Same goes for Josh Gracin, who still sold even though he came from four seasons ago. Clay Aiken by this time was already fading.
Idol songs, 2008:
Chris Daughtry (4th)
--Feels Like Tonight (2008)--(#12 1 time)--(18 weeks)
--What About Now (2008)--(#17 1 time)--(12 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)
David Cook (WINNER)
--The Time Of My Life (2008)--(#22 1 time)--(15 weeks)
David Archuleta (#2)
--Crush (2008)--(#11 1 time)--(18 weeks)
Daughtry, still capitalizing on America's appreciation for metal/soft alternative rock, still was churning out singles that were playing on the radio at this time. Jordin Sparks saw the most radio success of all the Idols this year--yeah, her singles were lagging behind, but at the end, she's R&B. That doesn't matter. R&B types sell singles, and Jordin at least for this year did a good job of that, particularly with No Air, which as mentioned might have been her signature song. The leeching from Daughtry and Sparks really helped their cause. Cook as mentioned was able to leech off the soft rock movement and did have the coronation song chart, and Archuleta was able to get a single to chart despite the declining market for pop (Bieber was not in the scene, yet, and really Archuleta chose the wrong time--in between High School Musical and Bieber, so no one to leech off of--to make an album).
On to 2009:
1.Fearless Taylor Swift
2.I Am...Sasha Fierce Beyonce
3.Dark Horse Nickelback
5.Hannah Montana: The Movie Soundtrack
6.Circus Britney Spears
7.808s & Heartbreak Kanye West
8.The Fame Lady Gaga
10.The E.N.D. The Black-Eyed Peas
Let me just emphasize this: 2009 was the year where dance/electro-pop made an introduction to the United States, between Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West and Britney Spears (the last three started doing electro music). The lines between hip hop and pop became more blurred--before that, we'd have our Ashlee Simpsons, our Eminems, and they'd stay away from each other. Now they're combining. So pop/electropop (3) sold, R&B/hip hop (4), country pop (1), and 2 grunge/emo alternative rock types (2). Angsty alternative emo and teen pop still sold, between Paramore/Linkin Park who were featured in the Twilight soundtrack and the Hannah Montana stuff which still was going strong in 2009, so again, had Archuleta released the album in 2009, maybe there was a better chance. Taylor Swift still holds down the fort for faux country pop, and Nickelback still proves that post grunge can sell even in 2009.
Top 10 singles, 2009:
|1||The Black Eyed Peas||Boom Boom Pow|
|2||Lady Gaga||Poker Face|
|3||Lady Gaga feat. Colby O'Donis||Just Dance|
|4||The Black Eyed Peas||I Gotta Feeling|
|5||Taylor Swift||Love Story|
|6||Flo Rida||Right Round|
|7||Jason Mraz||I'm Yours|
|8||Beyonce||Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)|
|10||The All-American Rejects||Gives You Hell|
Again, the lines between Lady Gaga electropop and The Black Eyed Peas hip hop/electropop whatever are a little blurry, as they've synergized. Still, that electropop brand of hip hop, and electropop in general was selling, making up 6 of the top 10 singles. Beyonce holds down the fort for the R&B types who don't use autotune, but she's largely living off reputation in 2009. Taylor Swift with the #1 album scores with "Love Story", and alternative rock types and soft rock types are still going strong, between Jason Mraz and the All-American Rejects. Combined with Nickelback selling and the emo Twilight movement, this should bode well for WGWGs, right?
Idol alums, 2009 albums sold:
Chris Daughtry (#4)
Leave This Town 1.33mil
Kelly Clarkson (winner)
All I Ever Wanted 944K
Adam Lambert (#2)
For Your Entertainment 838K
Kris Allen (winner)
Kris Allen 331K
Jordin Sparks (winner)
Allison Iraheta (#4)
Just Like You 103K
Taylor Hicks (winner)
The Distance 52K
Ruben Studdard (winner)
Love Is 50K
Elliott Yamin (#3)
Fight For Love 49K
Blake Lewis (#2)
Heartbreak On Vinyl 10K
*Other Idols released albums, again, irrelevant to the discussion.
By this time, people were buying less albums and downloading more singles, but still, Idol was churning out more albums with lesser returns. Kelly again sort of flopped from an album selling standpoint, but it's understandable given that she's been carrying Idol's weight for the longest time. Still, piggybacking was still occurring: Daughtry, capitalizing on Nickelback's still continued fortunes in 2009, as well as maybe getting some Mraz/All-American Reject types to buy his album, sold the most of all the Idols. Lambert pulled the switcheroo, going from singing old-age rock into electropop and effectively leeching off Lady Gaga's purchasers--actually, he was sort of lucky: 2009 was the beginning of electropop, and by branding himself as such then, he was able to sell the third most albums of any Idol that year. Yeah, in an aggregate it's still poor, but I doubt he could have done better, he took advantage of that craze.
Allen sold very poorly for a winner, and again, he could have piggybacked off Jason Mraz, so the fact that he wasn't able to really do that was a failure. At this point, between Daughtry and Cook, there's clearly WGWG fatigue, so despite the mainstream environment, the audience wasn't willing to buy any more of that (this will be a recurring theme throughout).
Allison Iraheta is the next Idol to brand herself as pop rock and pseudo-imitate Clarkson, but she flopped: it's pretty obvious, too, in 2009, everyone was going for electropop and hip hop, more or less, and P!nk, Avril were long gone. Yeah, she could have leeched off Clarkson, but she was fading too, as at this point she's living off reputation. So it was unfortunate for her.
Blake Lewis actually could have done well in electropop, believe it or not: the dance beats and the beatboxing are stuff that's common within the genre. Moreover, after 11 seasons of Idol, he stands out, because there's no one else who's really like him. It's like Idol had accidentally casted a "mainstream" guy. But he had a very poor start, as mentioned during Epoch 2, where he was just plainly unlucky as back in 2006, it was the year of R&B divas. Lewis didn't leech off Timberlake successfully, so now, when Gaga/Black Eyed Peas are making somewhat similar styles in music, he couldn't even gain traction. There was just no momentum. So it's not just compatible styles--it's about history as well. The great start is critical, and as you will see, it ends up hurting Kris Allen.
Elliott Yamin, an old soul type who tries to be more hip in sound, finds himself locked out in the new world of autotune and electropop, and Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard by this time are irrelevant.
TOP 10 IDOL SONGS:
Kelly Clarkson (WINNER)
--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)
Chris Daughtry (#4)
--No Surprise (2009)--(#12 1 time)--(21 weeks)
Jordin Sparks (WINNER)
--Battlefield (2009)--(#7 1 time)--(22 weeks)
David Cook (WINNER)
--Light On (2009)--(#18 1 time)--(18 weeks)
Kelly's back carrying Idol's weight on the charts, and here's the annoying thing for Idol: it's 2009, they've churned out a ton of singing bots/winners in their "factory", and there's diminishing returns. Yes, just like fewer Idols are selling large numbers, fewer Idols are charting. By this time, only four Idols are quasi-relevant--Daughtry and Cook as mentioned were leeching off the alt rock/Nickelback fan club this year, but even they were declining. Clarkson couldn't sell well, but at least got singles up there. Jordin, who's unable to leech off Beyonce this year but did in past years, couldn't sell her second album and only had 1 relevant single--she too might have been being squeezed out by the electropop saturation.
Finally, to the last part of Epoch 3, 2010:
|2.||Need You Now||Lady Antebellum|
|3.||Speak Now||Taylor Swift|
|4.||My World 2.0||Justin Bieber|
|5.||The Gift||Susan Boyle|
|7.||Soldier Of Love||Sade|
|8.||Thank Me Later||Drake|
|9.||Raymond V Raymond||Usher|
Rappers and electropop artists intertwine again--Bieber, Gaga and Ke$ha are all practitioners of that, and all teamed up with rappers by this time. Together, dance pop (3) and R&B/hip hop (4) again dominate the charts, although Sade sort of brings back the old school quiet storm and makes a return to the charts. Susan Boyle, like Josh Groban a few years back, shows that people do like the classic songs. Her classics (1) make an appearance. Country pop (2) is strong, as some can say that Lady Antebellum piggybacked off Taylor Swift's success. Oh, and Bieber Fever begins, so there's a market for young electropop-R&B types.
Top 10 singles:
|2||Lady Antebellum||Need You Now|
|3||Train||Hey, Soul Sister|
|4||Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg||California Gurls|
|5||Usher feat. will.i.am||OMG|
|6||B.o.B feat. Hayley Williams||Airplanes|
|7||Eminem feat. Rihanna||Love The Way You Lie|
|8||Lady Gaga||Bad Romance|
|10||Taio Cruz feat. Ludacris||Break Your Heart|
Not just the albums, at this point it's just swarmed with electropop singles. The hip hop duet thing is also working between the B.o.B and Eminem, but 8 of the 10 songs are either electropop or hip hop/R&B. Train carries over the Jason Mraz token soft rock thing from the past year, Lady Antebellum gets a country single to cross over, like Carrie and Taylor.
Idol alums, albums sold:
Back To Me 458K
Crystal Bowersox (#2)
Farmer's Daughter 205K
Danny Gokey (#3)
My Best Days 204K
Lee DeWyze (winner)
Live It Up 149K
David Archuleta (#2)
Other Side of Down 67K
Jason Castro (#4)
Jason Castro 54K
*As usual, others released, irrelevant.
Idol alums are just starting to bomb by 2010. Again, Fantasia seems to be R&B, but really she's only catering to the urban markets, having never had a single chart in the mainstream (that's how you qualify to be in the red). But still, for an urban seller, she has a ton of niche fans, as she's all the way back in Epoch 1 in 2004, and went from seeing Eminem and Usher rock it to seeing...Eminem and Usher rock it, still, again, in 2009. I guess being a niche urban artist does have its benefits, as you can withstand the tide of changing mainstream interests, in this case, the sea of electropop. But that didn't benefit Ruben Studdard, so that begs the question whether urban guys have it harder than the girls. Joshua Ledet might have trouble with that, but we'll get to that in Epoch 4, coming up.
Crystal again, I wanted her to be color-coded as country, but really she's folksy, even if she realized that country was the only place Idols could sell, so she tried to convert. She couldn't sell, like most Idols this year, but actually outsold the winner Lee DeWyze, and one could perhaps attribute to slight piggybacking: maybe a little of Lady Antebellum, and maybe she got some Susan Boyle fans who reminisce about the days of old? There was a slight market for that. But still, she was more folk than country, and that didn't sell, so she got dropped.
Danny Gokey sold nearly as much of Crystal, again in the aggregate it's not much, but that's the music industry in 2010. Again, he saw country as Idol's breeding ground, tried to capitalize, and it worked somewhat. Country seemed to like its girls now (Lady Antebellum/Swift) but by virtue of country, he still sold a bit, but he couldn't capitalize on the Chesney/McGraw thing that Carrie had going back in Epoch 2.
Lee epic flopped, and remember what I said about WGWG Idol fatigue that Kris Allen suffered from? There's even more diminishing returns--he currently holds the record for fewest selling albums among Idol winners. Not to mention that by 2010, the whole alternative rock/post-grunge schtick has died--none of them cracked the top 10 in albums sold, and yeah while we had Train this year, they were established from years past. Lee couldn't piggyback off them because the year was dry for rock in general, and the fatigue for WGWGs in general. That's as lethal a combination as the South/WGWG factors that got Lee to win Idol in the first place. And that's why Idol has become a vicious cycle--same winners, changing environment to exclude rock types, flop. Dropped. It can easily be rinse, repeat, and considering Phillip Phillips won American Idol 11, wow...good luck. But again, we'll get to that soon.
Archuleta couldn't capture the newfound Bieber fever of the tweens--sure, it was smart to release an album in 2010 for that, but don't forget--it's how you start. Archuleta flopped because he released an album at the wrong time (see above for the explanation) so he was already losing momentum. That's why he got dropped.
Jason Castro sold meagerly, showing that if you're not in "the selling genre", once again, you're irrelevant. Folksy types just don't sell.
Kelly Clarkson (WINNER)
--All I Ever Wanted (2010)--(#35 1 time)--(6 weeks)
Chris Daughtry (#4)
--Life After You (2010)--(#23 1 time)--(20 weeks)
--September (2010)--(#19 1 time)--(15 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)
Clarkson hit a rough patch in 2010 and didn't sell, as mentioned--not to mention the pop rock craze is pretty much left to her own devices at this point. Daughtry's living off name recognition at this point, but peaked at #19 in the charts and was losing traction. Kris Allen got a single to leech off the Train craze, but due to the fatigue factor and dying mainstream rock, one hit wonder. Adam Lambert as mentioned converted into the electropop craze, got two singles to chart relatively decently, and he sold more compared to the other Idol flops around him at this time.
Epoch 3 by and large was an Idol disaster--three WGWGs as the mainstream adapted into this electropop craze, where pop and hip hop dominated while rock, while relevant in 2008, got increasingly pushed out of the way by 2009-10. In the meantime, Idol didn't recognize that and churned out three WGWG winners--the first one took advantage of 2008, but as the genre died down and Idol WGWG fatigue kicked in that was a lethal combination for disaster--Allen and DeWyze flopped badly. We'll see how this affects Phillip Phillips, AI11 winner, in the next section. But needless to say it doesn't look good.
Check back for Epoch 4.