‘American Idol’: An Entertainment Phenom That Transforms Lives, Entertains Those Who Change Them

Penny Starr
By Penny Starr | August 6, 2009 | 4:18 PM EDT

With Congress on the eve of its summer break, it seemed appropriate for a political reporter to fit in a little R&R, even if it’s a safe bet that politicians who hold town hall meetings on health care reform back home shouldn’t plan on a picnic.
My own break from hearings and press conferences was a trip to the Verizon Center on Tuesday night to get the final fix on my ‘American Idol’ addiction – the 2009 summer tour by the Top 10 vote-getters from the hit program’s eighth season.
Say what you will about the gimmick of the entertainment phenom where talented 16-to- 28-year olds are plucked from virtual obscurity and regular Americans pick the 10 people whose lives will be forever transformed.
This year’s No. 1 pick, dark horse Kris Allen who edged out over-the-top favorite Adam Lambert to become the newest American Idol, summed up why Americans idolize the show after he opened his set with the Kayne West tune “Heartless.”
“Thanks to all of you, we can do what we love to do for the rest of our lives,” Allen said.
That may not be true for all of the winners, but certainly the show has launched some “Idol” winners into super stardom – Carrie Underwood, who won, and Jennifer Hudson, who should have – are two perfect examples.
Clay Aiken and Fantasia Barrino went from the American Idol stage to Broadway and Adam Lambert went from Broadway to American Idol and who – as second runner-up who is not tied down by the AI branding machine after the summer tour – will write his own ticket to fame and fortune.
I got hooked on “American Idol” during season seven, when the two Davids battled to take the top spot. Like a lot of other fans, I was drawn to the idea that dreams really can come true, if you are brave enough to pursue them.
That was what made Tuesday’s concert so enjoyable: witnessing 10 people who less than a year ago walked onto the stage with an awkwardness and uncertainty (sans Adam) that was replaced with showmanship, style and song that wowed the crowd and rocked the house (the outstanding “back-up” band and lighting design should get a little credit too).
In fact, some of those performances were so good they may have changed the outcome of last season if votes were cast at the show’s conclusion. Matt Guiraud and Scott MacIntyre – neither of whom ever got my vote – were standouts and I look forward to what the future holds for these two talented guys.
It is the future, after all, that has thousands of singers lining up across the country to audition for next season’s show and millions of fans waiting to see what happens when the stage lights go up in January.
One thing is certain. Lives will be changed and watching that happen is entertainment at its best.