Nashville Idol?

Joe Elefante

I found this season of American Idol utterly fascinating.  The winner, Scotty McCreery is someone I wouldn't have picked in a million years to win the pop music contest.  Scotty, 17 years young and, by all accounts, pretty easy on the eyes of teenage girls, is nonetheless an old-fashioned country baritone (think Randy Travis as a senior in high school).  The runner-up, Lauren Alaina, is more of a pop/country singer.  Even second runner-up, Haley Reinhart, comes out of the Janis Joplin southern blues/rock mold.  Two of the other top thirteen singers were country boy Paul and southern gospel singer Jacob.

Noticing a pattern?  Idol, though never afraid of pleasing its country fans (see Carrie Underwood, Kelly Pickler, et al), has seemed to almost demand their adoration this season.  I and many others were confused by this strategy.  Although country music certainly has an enormous and growing audience, Nashville artists are rarely seen on the pop charts.  It seemed, to me at least, that they were cutting off a large part of their audience by putting country in the forefront.  
I was dead wrong.  The fact that Idol had as popular and critically-acclaimed a season as ever (even after the departure of iconic judge Simon Cowell) is a testament to the fact that country was exactly what Idol needed to reinforce its position as the number one show on television.  It will be especially interesting to see if the trend continues into next season, or if Idol's producers feel that it would be better to broaden their audience a little bit.  
Either way, one thing is certain: Idol has uncovered a few legitimate country superstars this year.
Any question or comments?  Send me an e-mail at

Joe Elefante has traveled 4 continents as a pianist, saxophonist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He has musically directed, conducted or played countless musical theater productions, including several at the Paper Mill Playhouse and Jersey Boys on Broadway and National Tour. Joe founded the Joe Elefante Big Band in 2001, which was the house band at Cecil's Jazz Club for three years, and was featured on ABC's Nightline and in The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Joe is a freelance composer/arranger/ performer, is very active as a school clinician and is Artistic Director of Elefante Music & School for the Performing Arts.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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