*”American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest looked just as nervous as its finalists, singers Trent Harmon and La’Porsha Renae. Under the weight of tension, emotion, and a pending series conclusion, April 7th marked the 15th and final time Seacrest would announce the season’s winner.
And despite the contestants ethnicity – Trent, a Caucasian male; La’Porsha, an African-American female – guessing who’d be announced the winner wasn’t black and white. If you’ve watched any or all of “Idol’s” 15-year run, building a connection with one or many of its hopefuls vying for viewers’ votes, you’d know it never was.
Whereas these contestants were expected to impressively, and consistently, intone a variety of songs for several consecutive weeks until one stood out from all the rest, “American Idol’s” universal tune was always diversity.
Each of “American Idol’s” champions – Kelly Clarkson (2002), Ruben Studdard (2003), Fantasia (2004), Carrie Underwood (2005), Taylor Hicks (2006), Jordin Sparks (2007), David Cook (2008), Kris Allen (2009), Lee DeWyze (2010), Scotty McCreery (2011), Phillip Phillips (2012), Candice Glover (2013), Caleb Johnson (2014), Nick Fradiani (2015), and finally Trent Harmon, are as different originally and aesthetically as they are audibly.
The creation of English television producer Simon Fuller, the Fox television staple introduced us to thousands of uniquely talented and not-so-talented vocalists from across the United States, from all walks of life and circumstances. Each person had hopes of hearing Seacrest announce their name as the next “American Idol” on live television.
First, contestants needed to pass auditions before enduring grueling tests of their vocal and character stamina. Those who didn’t hold their breath found themselves exhaling harmony at the center of spectacular Idol stage sets in front of opinionated studio and television audiences, and a panel comprised of expert celebrity judges.
“Idol” debuted in 2002 with an eclectic mix of Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul seated at the table, ending with Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr., and Jennifer Lopez. Contestants’ performances were critiqued to facilitate their growth and improvement as a marketable artist regardless of where they were from. At the same time they were encouraged to be themselves. Finding victorious individuality was proved to be a group project.
Viewers decided if they agreed with the judges’ evaluations or not. Given the right to vote for their favorite, viewers could base their decision on any aspect of the contestants they wanted, be it origin, looks, sound, or an infinite number of other possibilities. The contestants with the least amount of votes were eliminated. The contestant with the most votes on the finale was declared the winner.
Trent and La’Porsha held each other close as they awaited Seacrest’s announcement; Trent didn’t care La’Porsha’s African-American, she didn’t care he’s Caucasian. The universal language of music brought them together, and how well they spoke it influenced viewers from across the nation to cast a vote that could further change their lives.
If asked to describe their voters’ ethnicity, neither La’Porsha nor Trent, neither the previous 14 Idol winners nor the hopefuls who also sang at the center of those spectacular “Idol“ stage sets, could do it. They could, however, tell about the diversity of their “American Idol“ journey. They could share how it felt to stand there nervously awaiting Ryan Seacrest to announce their fate. Guessing whether they’d advance to victory or be cut wasn’t black and white. It never was.
Watch as Trent Harmon, not La’Porsha Renae, is crowned as the very last “American Idol” winner:
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker is an entertainment journalist, columnist, and biographer; currently Liquid Arts & Entertainment managing editor, and writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com, and Hood Illustrated Magazine. Also co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Like him on Facebook, follow on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit his official blog.