Friday, February 15, 2008

Conspiracy At American Idol?

Now you know I don't watch the show anymore, and usually don't even care about anyone on it, but I just had to talk a little about this latest little issue. Lyndsey Parker over at Yahoo Music wrote a really great piece last night about one of the Top 24 named Carly Smithson. It really is good and I promise worth your time reading even if you can't stand American Idol.

The premise of Lyndsey's article is that Carly Smithson nee Carly Hennessey is a former teen pop star who despite the backing of MCA and the expenditure of several million dollars could not sell any records and should not be allowed to compete against inexperienced singers.

Lyndsey goes into a great deal of depth about her indignation at this injustice, but what she glosses over is this. Carly Hennessey was supposed to be the next big thing. She was big in Ireland when she and her family decided to come to the US to get a recording contract here in LA. Upon hearing her demo tape, the label boss at MCA signed her on the spot. This was back in 2001. It is inconceivable to me that the people over at 19 Management didn't know exactly who Carly was when she auditioned. Carly was the subject of newspaper articles all over the world at the time her album failed. There was so much money spent on it for so little return that she became the lesson on marketing and how not to market new acts.

I want to be clear that there is no way, despite what everyone thinks that American Idol can be rigged in favor of the show up to a point. What they can do though is to load the show with as many ringers as possible so they don't end up with a Taylor Hicks again.

Instead of spending the money to try and release a new album by Carly Hennessey the Irish failure. They instead remake her into Carly Smithson, put her on American Idol and let the show do the publicity for them and the marketing. Even if she gets voted off tomorrow, she has been given more publicity than she would have ever otherwise received without a huge expenditure of money. The longer she stays, the better for 19 and Jive.

Make no mistake though. They know who she is, who she was, and will sign her to a record deal when the show is over. They can't control if she wins or not, but they sure as hell can control the way that you the viewing public sees her, and the way to make sure each and every person out there remembers who she is so there will be no more multi-million dollar failures when her new album comes out.

Below is a video off the bomb of the record. The video cost $250,000 to make which in 2001 was much more expensive than most videos.


DNfromMN said...

ugh, that song was horrible. that's how not to market an album - don't make crap.

captivagrl said...

i hate this show and never watch. fake,fake,fake.

Twisted Sister said...

Apparently she was signed with MCA Records and worked with Randy Jackson in the past. This doesn't sound good.

GammaGirl said...

woohoooo! can fox cancel AI now?

@captiva: I watch for Paula's drunken shenanagains. But yeah, I hate AI with a passion too!

Kristen S. said...

That's #2 for this year...apparently some boy was also signed previously, and was on national TV performing as a child act a couple times.

Francoise said...

What part of this video cost 250k? It's just a girl singing in a room.

Kristen S. said...

That song was from 2001?!?!? It sounds really late-80's/early 90's. No wonder she had no career. Let's keep it that way.

Twisted Sister said...

Kristen, David Archuleta was on Star Search, but wasn't signed for any deal, I don't think.

captivagrl said...

kelly clarkson had already put down 6 tracks for an album in a deal before they put her on idol. they said it didn't break idol rules because she hadn't signed a deal. she did everything but "sign". you cannot buy the publicity idol brings, i agree with ENT. this show is completely orchestrated behind the scenes. the public will believe what they want to believe. some day we'll find out that all that texting and dialing meant nothing. zero.

Trix said...

Uh, so basically, they're trying to revive her career, this time with a little publicity boost of being an AI contestant. Trying to cover their butts so she already has a fan base to draw on....ugh.

Mooshki said...

The AI conspiracy theory thread on Television Without Pity is a fun read. The Grassy Knoll

Kristen S. said...

twist...oh, got it. I had heard a teaser on TMZ tv about him being signed. Shows what taking teasers at face value is worth!

Twisted Sister said...

Oh no, Mooshki! You've linked those batshit crazy beeyotches here? If I see one "Word!" I'm gonna vomit.

Twisted Sister said...

Kristen, maybe they're right, though. That's why I added "I don't think". I'm not 100% positive. I covered my ass. ;-)

Vote said...

Of course the people at AI knew who Carly was. Randy Jackson was at her record label when she was signed. Find out more here.

Moonmaid said...

Bad song, bad video.

The wind machine rental alone must have been in the tens of thousands. That's a mighty wind....

Moonmaid said...

"Boy I'm gonna blow your mind
Hit me baby one more time"

Wow, that's deep.

sauvage said...

Incredibly boring.

Pamela said...

I'd be asking for my $25G back! I mean really, what did it cost em - $2,000 at the most? Maybe they told her the leaf blowing was "special effects".

Gayla said...

Profiles on the female contestants
Profiles on the male contestants

I'm obsessed with AI, not going to lie. I've been a conspiracy theorist since day one, though so it's very much a love-hate relationship. And I'm one of those nutty people who used to hang out at twop's grassy knoll all the time (I know, I know, but in their defense there were much better posters when I joined...I don't know where or why most of them went).

Anyway, Carly is not the only 'second chancer' this year. Kristy Lee Cook used to have a contract with Arista Nashville, under the name Kristy Lee. She also had a video, which is on the first page linked above. Robbie Carrico used to be a member of the group Boyz-N-Girls United, and even used to 'date' Britney Spears (like, right after the Mouseketeer days, before Justin). There's a pic floating around of them sitting together at some event. His story is really funny b/c now he's supposed to be a 'rocker.'

Most of the bunch is made up of people who have lots of experience as independent performers, but have never signed to a label. Not sure how I feel about that as any truly raw talent often gets overlooked for those with more polish. OTOH most who want to be in music are not going to just sit at home and wish their time away, so some experience is inevitable. Two of the girls are models (JoAnne Borgella-plus size, and Amy Davis, regular skinny) and another one, Syesha Mercado, has a bit of commercial work under her belt. So they aren't 'singing' ringers but they defintely have some more finesse than a typical AI auditioner.

The reason Carly is getting so much more attention for this, I think, is that she actually auditioned in season 5. There was all this pre-show buzz from Simon and the producers about an amazing Irish girl that Simon was in love with, and then suddenly...nothing. Her work visa suddenly expired on her and so she had to drop out. So the fix was in for her no matter what.

Obviously Carly and/or her people struck a deal with AI in the beginning that whenever she auditioned she would be guaranteed a spot in the top 24 and a lot of 'push.' However, I don't think she is the one who the producers have 'chosen' as the winner this year. They wanted Carly two or three years ago, when she was younger and they knew MCA's exact mistakes; all she needed was a little retweaking. Now she is older, is married, looks rather different (tattoos, more 'rock-ish' relatively speaking) and basically I just feel like she's passed her sell-by date. She has a whole new image that has to be worked with which could be a good thing or a hindrance. Like Ent said though, if she finishes high enough not winning won't matter b/c with that exposure she'll certainly sell more than the 400 or so albums she did the first time around.

I don't know why I'm so stuck on this show but every year I put myself through this mess.

Gayla said...

Er, sorry about that long ass comment. Anyway, as to the budget for the video, I was watching "World on Fire" on youtube the other day - you know, the video where Sarah McLachlan shows how much her video would cost and all the things she could do with that money instead, like saving Africa from Angelina Jolie. Give them $150,000 and maybe they will not be poor enough for her to feel the need to attempt to adopt all their children.

I'm going to hell, aren't I? Angie's not even that bad of a person.

Anyway, the video cost $150,000 and all it is, is Sarah playing guitar in a chair, with footage of poor people in Africa (and India and South America too, to be fair) inserted in and quickie slide presentations that were made in Microsoft Paint, I swear. They couldn't even spring for the Microsoft Suite that included PowerPoint. Telling us the cost of things like one PA for a day ($200). 3,500 for a production supervisor, 3,000 for catering a one day shoot, 5,400 for studio costs, 5,000 for make up and hair. Editing for this video cost 11,500. There was hardly anything to edit! Just putting the slides together (if they'd just used PowerPoint and pressed F5, they could have avoided that). And on and on...I don't think she bothered to name the chair she was sitting in or the piano that was in the corner of the room oddly enough. That was probably stuff she already owned.

So it costs 150,000 just to handle the background costs of a video; anything going into the video itself is extra. Out of the 250,000 spent on Carly's video that leaves 100,000 and probably $50 of that was actually seen in the video itself. The clothes on her back were probably her own and we haven't even factored in how they paid the director of the video (though to be fair he shouldn't have been paid much).

Sweater said...

Interesting and very well put gayla :)

Robin the Mad Photographer said...

Actually, the whole point w/the Sarah McLachlan video was that it WOULD have cost that much IF she had gone the usual video route, and those were some of the typical video expenses. Instead, they did this very simple, cheap video to make a point (can't remember if they donated the money they would have spent to charity, but I seem to think they did).

Oh, and hi there...I've been lurking for a while, and I'll try not to be so quiet in the future!

mngddess said...

Damn, I didn't know that wind-blowing machines cost a hundred thou.

Because the rest of the video (including that horrendous song) looks like it cost about 5 grand.

The record company should have spent some of that money on voice lessons. I sing better than that. Seriously.

Jac said...

I had the unfortunate luck of being in a hotel lobby with Carly when people were blowing smoke up her ass telling her she was the next big thing.
She spent about 30 mins bragging about how great she was and how such and such has said she's going to be huge! Poor deluded teen, being surrounded by all that hype before she was even really know was not good for her.
As for the song its from 7 years ago, its not that bad, in 2001 Bob the builder was number 1 in the charts at one stage.
As for AI being fixed, of course AI has known about this from the start, AI is a huge business and its not as if its a big secret.

Gayla said...

@ Robin the Mad Photographer:

Ah! Now that makes sense, the one thing I couldn't figure out was the end where they put up the number $150,000 one more time and then cut it down to $15. So that is what she was saying, we gave the 150,000 and spent 15 instead. The point is still there though, that it's really easy to blow a bit of money on a video even if it's a crappy one.

And yeah, stop being quiet! Join in the chaos. :-)

@ Jac:

AI has been fixed since season 2, I agree; but I think Carly is the first instance in which the person it was being fixed for actually was IN on it. For example, all of season 2 could see that the show wanted Ruben to win (a few of them have commented on this), but I doubt Ruben was in on it from the get go, as he didn't have that kind of connection. It's just that, they knew they wanted an R&B male and for whatever reason they thought Ruben would be the best guy for that role. And they were very obvious about wanting him to win.

Season 4 they decided they wanted someone country and decided Carrie would be the best person out of all the country people they saw. But I don't think Carrie 'had people' to set this up for her, I think she was chosen. It's almost like a lottery of sorts. You never know if your number is going to be picked.

I vaguely suspect that Jordin had a deal similar to Carly's, because she had auditioned for that Idol Junior show and she also had met the judges before auditioning for Idol (again, there is a picture around somewhere, though I wouldn't know where to find it and knowing AI they've made all evidence of it 'disappear' by now). She had connections that not even previous winners had. However in her case I do not think she *knew* that she had people working behind the scenes to put a fix in for her from the beginning. I think Carly knew her number had been picked.

Mooshki said...

Twisted, I don't spend much time on the TWoP boards, I guess. Are they really that bad? I'll avoid cross-posting in the future. :)


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