With the current season of Mnet’s Idols reaching the point where viewers have to endure hours of pain filled screeching and low bellows which are justified as talent, I thought it best to have a look at why it simply doesn’t work in South Africa.
Before we start playing the blame game, we need to take a look at some of the past winners and what they have actually done with their “fame”.
Heinz Winkler who won the first season managed to sell 100 000+ copies of his first single “Once in a lifetime”. He then moved on to the US where he played in some musicals before returning to South Africa to straf die volk with an Afrikaans CD. The latest news from his camp is that he is now hosting The Heinz Winckler Workshop – Steps to becoming a successful performing/recording artist in S.A.
I will now allow you to have a sip of whiskey to kill the taste of puke in your mouth after reading that last sentence.
Anke Pietrangeli dropped from the face of the earth and the last real interview I read, she was working at a gym.
Karin Kortje lost her contract with Sony BMG.
Jody Williams??? Who knows? Who cares?
You can catch Jason Hartman on 94.7FM doing crappy ads to promote Music Mate.
Last but not the least, Elvis Blue is actually doing something with his live shows and his touring. This guy actually impressed me since he already had an album written when winning the competition. He presented it to the record label, recorded it and it actually isn’t bad for a first album.
Why Idols in South Africa fail
First of all you need to ask yourself the serious question: Would I buy an album recorded by a glorified karaoke singer?
The simple answer there is, no. Unless you are the love child of Steve Hofmeyr and Patricia Lewis.
Aside from that we need to take a serious look at the judges that Mnet appoints to sift out the Top 10 from the thousands of hopefuls who enter the reality show.
Randall Abrahams might have a vast knowledge of music but that does not mean he has the ability to identify talent. Gareth Cliff is a Radio DJ. Since he is instructed by a playlist on what to play on air, he should not be allowed to judge cake competitions at the local church fair. That and the fact that he has a pink website makes him a BIG no-no in my book.
Mara Louw and Dave Thompson were actually the only judges in the competition’s history with any valid industry experience. Unfortunately the viewing audience are like sheep and votes are based on the commentary produced by the leaders of the pack; Gareth and Randall.
Now we have Unathi Msengana who joined the panel this year and is a singer, songwriter and host on Metro FM. By all means she is actually the only worthy judge with two SAMAs behind her name. But is it enough?
The basis of support
Winning a record and management deal means nothing if the artist (for the lack of a better word) has no appeal.
The bottom line is that the only reason we watch the Idols franchise is because we love the weakest link factor. After the lights go out on the final show then the glamor is gone and the artist needs to produce an actual act. An actual act made up of more than 1 song per week. They need to entertain you across ten songs at least.
No more presenters to introduce you to the audience. No professional lightning and sound team to make you look good on stage. No camera to stare into with those puppy “vote for me” love sick eyes. It now comes down to the mere fact that you have to entertain a crowd to stay alive. And staying alive now isn’t to survive until the next week on the show, it is about surviving in life and actually making a living out of music.
I personally don’t think the record company cares that much about what happens to the artist after the first album. They probably have a look at the album sales after the first year and then say “fuck it, that one didn’t work either.” They already made their profit with the money you spent on the SMS voting. Album sales are simply a bonus to cover additional costs and pay the judges for their awesome work.
Some past winners complain that in SA we don’t have the budgets to turn them into international stars to the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or Jordin Spark. I put it to you that we would find the budget if we had actual talent. Chris Daughtry didn’t even win his season but still managed to launch a stellar career riding on TALENT. Adam Lambert came second in his season and is wowing crowds with his brilliant talent to entertain on stage.
Reality Shows aren’t that real
Idols will never produce a worthy winner simply because at the end of the day when all the smoke has been blown up our asses, it still remains a show.
A brilliantly constructed show with one purpose in mind, to entertain and make a quick buck for the network airing it. Looking at the viewership it certainly succeeded in that department. Looking at the fact that no South African can truly recall Idol winners without Googling them first, it fails.
In real life we have real South African bands who play the local pubs, manage to scrape together petrol money to perform at festivals around the country and maybe record a decent album. Once they come close to recording even a song or two they face the next battle, getting play listed.
Once again they are met with a new set of challenges since local radio stations are promoting international sound more than local sound…
But that is another topic for another day.