10 Years Ago Today, A Superstar Was Found

On September 4th, 2002, American Idol: The Search for a Superstar crowned 20-year Kelly Clarkson its victor.

One whole decade ago.

In a television studies class in college, my professor remarked that Kelly Clarkson winning American Idol was the quintessential television moment, right down to Kelly’s emotional break during her performance of “A Moment Like This.” This was the American Dream being played out live in front of an audience of 23 million people. Only live television could capture that raw, intimate, ephemeral moment of triumph and emotion, and at the same time, bathe it with such pomp and spectacle.

Ten years later, Kelly Clarkson is indeed a superstar, with her 2012 smash hit “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” achieving the status of best-selling American Idol single of all time, with over 3,510,000 singles sold.

Looking back at American Idol’s roots to Kelly Clarkson’s initial audition, the audition room set-up looks small and quaint, amateurish even, appearing certainly more than a just decade old. These humble beginnings are nowhere near the bombast of the current show, with the most recent season’s San Diego auditions taking place on the historic USS Midway.

American Idol was the television show that changed the pop culture landscape forever. As part of its pop culture domination, the hit reality competition and its British counterpart, Pop Idol, spawned numerous copycats over the years, including American Juniors, America’s Got Talent, The One: Making A Music Star, Nashville Star, Rock Star INXS, Rock Star: Supernova, Duets, The Voice, The Sing-Off, The X-Factor…

I attended The X-Factor live auditions at Oakland’s Oracle Arena in June 2012. Believe me, there was no modicum of honesty there, other than Simon Cowell’s harsh, yet truthful critiques. In 2002, Simon’s persona and antics were brand-new, freshly compelling, and wholly shocking. Whereas the American Idol of today embraces an “everyone is beautiful” mantra.

Approaching its twelfth season next year, American Idol looks to continue its dominance with fresh blood on the judging panel. So say hello to Mariah Carey! And goodbye J.Lo and Steven Tyler! And hello to… Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban? And goodbye to Randy Jackson? (OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE!)

Let’s raise a glass to another year of American Idol and ten more years of Kelly Clarkson music!

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