Since 2002, American Idol has been one of the most popular and influential reality competitions on television. Each year, thousands of aspiring singers audition and compete in front of the judges on live broadcasts. With all the drama, scandals, and sensational performances, audiences tune in and cast their votes for their favorite performers.
Some of the early finalists have been talking about their experiences with the popular singing competition and not all of it is positive. One finalist even went so far as to say the show is “manipulated.”
The original ‘American Idol’
The first iteration of American Idol debuted in 2002 and quickly became a hit. The judges were a panel of music industry professionals including Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson with Ryan Seacrest as the host.
The show’s premise was simple. Auditions were held in major cities and hopeful singers showed up by the thousands to audition in the early episodes of the season. Those selected appeared and competed live on the show. Some of the less talented and unusual singers were also featured during the auditions along with those who had more confidence than aptitude.
During the competition weeks, contestants had a different theme each week and their song selections came from those. They’d perform for millions worldwide, receiving feedback from the judges. American Idol was famous for having a “tough love” slant, particularly in the critiques from Simon Cowell who tended to be brutally honest. The show also highlighted the personal struggles of many contestants and shared stories of how they faced misfortune and incredible obstacles for the chance to follow their dreams.
A combination of the judges’ scores and audience votes determined the winner each year with an exciting competition between the last two contestants in the season finale. Among the winners of American Idol are famous artists like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.
1 finalist claims ‘American Idol’ is manipulated
Is American Idol real or scripted? Are the results of the competition manipulated in any way? A few former contestants have spoken out.
According to ABC News, one finalist from Season 7 claims the show is “fixed. It’s manipulated.” Ju’Not Joyner says the competition is rigged and the contestants are manipulated by the show’s producers. He explained that producers would highlight contestants they felt better resonated with the audience while hiding others in the shadows.
Joyner went on to say that it was scripted and not a talent competition. American Idol, according to Joyner, showed who they wanted to show.
For example, Clay Aiken was the popular runner-up for Season 2. According to Heavy, he’d been favored to win the 2003 competition, leaving fans stunned when Ruben Studdard won. The show Music Mysteries claims that host Ryan Seacrest gave incorrect numbers when answering questions on how many votes separated the winner and runner-up.
Seacrest said it was a margin of just 1,300 votes according to Heavy and another time he said 13,000 votes. A few days later, Fox itself said Studdard won by 130,000 votes. Though there’s no solid proof of voter fraud that year, many fans think the voting was rigged. While Aiken and Studdard are friends, Aiken found greater success as a singer post-American Idol and remains one of the most beloved show alums.
Today’s ‘American Idol’
When ratings for the original show began to fall, it was canceled by Fox after its fifteenth season in 2016. ABC acquired the rights to the show in 2017 and it returned to that network in March 2018. While Ryan Seacrest was still the host, there were three new judges: Luke Bryan, Katie Perry, and Lionel Richie. American Idol continues to feature singers from across the U.S. who hope to win the title and recording contract that comes with it.
While the new version of the show follows the same basic format as the original, the current show is kinder. Auditions from singers who were less talented or controversial are no longer shown. And the current panel of judges is a bit less acerbic than those from the original show.