My Favorite Idol Memories

It was May of 2003 and because I am a music snob, I was an automatic American Idol hater – without having watched a single episode. And in a horrible hotel room in Indianapolis[1] with nothing to do, I channel-surfed my way to a large, black guy singing Luther Vandross. Fairly typical. Not interested. Keep surfing. A little later, I surfed my way back to that channel only to find some skinny, white guy over-dramatizing Bridge Over Trouble Water. Fairly typical. Not interested. But wait.

THIS must be that American Idol thing,” I mused to myself and the bed bugs that I was sure were eagerly awaiting me. “Why would anybody want to watch people imitate good singers and wreck great songs?”

Three years later, I decide to tune in. First, because I was shocked to find out the Randy Jackson on Idol was the Randy Jackson who played bass for Journey[2]. That was certainly worth a look-see. Second, because by now 30 million people were watching this show in its fifth season. The time had come for me to do my duty as an American and set people straight with the facts to end this plague upon our civilization.

And then there was the adorable and dumb-like-a-Dolly-Parton-fox Kellie Pickler. And the preternaturally talented teen Paris “Miss P” Bennett. And a soul-singing Jewish guy who worked in a drugstore in Richmond (Elliott Yamin). And a menacing, bald rocker dude (Chris Daughtry). And Randy from Journey, the cute but incoherent Paula Abdul and this snarky, soul-crushing British guy named Simon.


And so began my civic duty to use my music snobbery to tell everybody watching who was good and bad on this show and why. I started with an email to friends and family that went out with the same subject line each night: Idol Musings. And then I found that my people were forwarding it to their people. And their people were forwarding it to their people. And if I was late, my people would be asking on behalf of their people where was the email? And finally, a friend kept after me to start a blog.

Those are my first Idol memories. And out of a decade of too-many-to-list memories, here are the ones I remember the most.

Daughtry albumMy Daughter Diandra (MDD) declaring that she was going to buy Chris Daughtry’s album – after his initial audition! She and I always worked collaboratively to identify which Idolists we thought would emerge as successful artists in the business – and by now you all know I mean the industry. But she called this one all on her own. I’ll bet Simon Cowell, Clive Davis, Jimmy Iovine and Scott Borchetta never discovered a star that fast!

No Shining Stars Yet But a Few Bright SpotsThe Omnipotent Idol Clipboard Ever the organizer, MDD created Word documents for each voting week of Idol that had the voting info and spaces for notes for the exact number of Idolists competing each week. That document was placed on a clipboard for her to record her own observations which often included reviews such as on 2/24/2010: “GO! LEAVE! DEATH! DESTRUCTION!” It’s unclear who that unfortunate review was about.

Before there was voting on the interweb, knowing the phone numbers to dial for our favorites was crucial and we relied on The Omnipotent Idol Clipboard for that info.

Footnotes. I stole the idea of creatively using footnotes in the blog to add peripheral content from Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball. Bill is a smart, snarky, subversive know-it-all. As such, he’s a great role model for me. So of course I could be smarter, snarkier and even more subversive by adding clever (at least in my mind) footnotes to the blog.

JPEG image-7C6D5671C8CB-1My Girls. A My Girl history I wrote four years ago can be found here. Sabrina Sloane (Season VI) was the first My Girl and occasionally I’ll still fire up the YouTube and watch her sing Whitney’s All the Man I Need or En Vogue’s Don’t Let Go and get angry over an Idol career cut short too soon – sadly, she was eliminated after that Don’t Let Go performance and fell just short of the final rounds.

In similar fashion, My Girls didn’t always last long. While Syesha Mercado (3rd place Season VII, Book of Mormon) and Lauren Alaina (runner-up Season X, successful country career) did well on and off the show, My Girl of Girls Alexis Grace went out in 10th place in Season VIII; Siobhan Magnus finished in 6th place on Season IX. And Never Got to Be My Girl Brandy Neelly, who completely rocked my world in her Season XII Chicago audition, unjustly didn’t make the final rounds in that season and the next.

“Your Mom”. My tribute to my mother aka “Your Mom” is here. Within the community of the blog, I was a lower court. If a reader disagreed with me, they could appeal to Your Mom[3] whereupon they would revel with unrestrained joy should she overturn my opinions. Her phone calls during or after each show are a big part of my Idol memories and I miss knowing how much she would have LOVED La’P this season. She would have enjoyed Trent, too.

IMG_1139Albums. This is why the show existed and proof that the show worked. Raw amateurs learned and grew and made records that people would buy. For the record – pun intended – Idolists made over 400 #1 singles and over 50 Billboard Top Ten albums; sold 60 million albums; and won thirteen Grammy Awards.

The Birth of Adam Lambert. 
The event was the Season VIII Top Thirteen’s first week on the big stage for Michael Jackson Week. I have two favorite memories from that event. The first was My Daughter Cassandra nicknaming Adam “Emo-chic”. We still laugh about that to this day; and the last time it came up she admitted that she didn’t really like him all that much on the show but she liked how much I liked him!

The second memory from that performance was the judges gushing over Adam’s performance of Black or White for a longer time (3:25) than he actually sang (2:50)!

It was the judges’ confirmation of what we at home had just seen – the astounding and unexpected emergence of a special talent. Eventually we would get to Ring of Fire and Mad World and all the daring performances that would eventually compel Simon to say, “You know the point of doing a show like this is that you hope to find a worldwide star. I genuinely believe with all my heart that we have found that with you.”

Simon uttered those words after Adam’s final performance of that season and Adam proved him right. But the dawning of one of Idol’s most successful careers began ten weeks earlier.

JPEG image-29FC14FC7DD0-1The Adam vs. Kris Great Debate. While I was incredibly frustrated that this was even a debatable topic, I was equally energized by having the argument. Enjoying Adam Lambert’s brilliance was one thing. Defending it took my enjoyment to another level. Vindication came swiftly within just weeks after the end of the season, when Adam was on magazine covers everywhere including Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and even Rolling Stone Japan!

Idolists/-and by the business I mean the industry/Evil Genius Producers/etc. Maybe these are my favorite Idol memories of all – any of the times a blog reader would use my made up words and phrases in an email, text or conversation.[4]

“The blog.” Yes, Idol Musings was the name. But everybody simply called it “the blog.” Much like Idol’s steady decline in ratings, my interest in the show waned over the years, too. But I always couldn’t wait to write the blog. I could easily have written twice as many entries.

I always joked that this blog was never about American Idol. It was always about me. I made this sandbox to play in and some of you thought it looked fun enough to come in and play with me – from six continents no less![5] All the nights of pouring a glass of wine, putting on my headphones and wrestling with how to quickly turn a page of notes into something that would be interesting to somebody other than my mother and my two imaginary friends will always be among my favorite Idol memories.

In the end, Rolling Stone never offered me an Idol column. Jimmy Iovine never offered me a job. The Evil Genius Producers never considered me as a judge. They all blew it – I would have been great at any of those. But I had fun writing about this show, anyway. And I’ll remember that you had fun reading me writing about it, too.

This isn’t the end of the blog. But it is the end of its present era.

Kieran! Dim the lights!


[1] I’m sure they aren’t all horrible. But mine sure was. And I still swear that big red stain on the carpet was blood.

[2] 1986-87 on their album Raised on Radio.

[3] As if her classical vocal training and acclaimed singing career should matter.

[4] Seriously, haven’t you been wondering lately who Ryan was referring to when he said “Dalton” instead of “Boy Band Dude”; why he said “La’Porsha” instead of La’P; and why he refused to acknowledge the existence of MacKenzie’s Swaybots? I hope you did.

[5] I’m still frustrated I couldn’t get anybody in Antarctica to read the blog just once.

Explore posts in the same categories: Much ado about nothing

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