American Idol (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
American Idol, titled American Idol: The Search for a Superstar for the first season is a reality television singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by 19 Entertainment, and distributed by FremantleMedia North America. It began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, as an addition to the Idol franchise based on the UK show Pop Idol, and has since become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television. It was the most watched TV series from 2005 to 2011 in the Nielsen ratings, and it is the only program to have been number one for seven consecutive seasons.
The series employs a panel of judges who critique the contestants' performances. The original judges were record producer and music manager Randy Jackson, pop singer and choreographer Paula Abdul and music executive and manager Simon Cowell. The upcoming season's judging panel consists of Jackson, R&B singer Mariah Carey, hip hop artist Nicki Minaj, and country singer Keith Urban. Radio personality Ryan Seacrest is the emcee of the show. Season 12 premieres on January 16.
The series was described by a rival TV executive as "the most impactful show in the history of television." It has also become a recognized springboard for launching the career of many artists as bona fide stars. According to Billboard, in its first ten years, "Idol has spawned 345 Billboard chart-toppers and a platoon of pop idols, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks while remaining TV ratings juggernaut."
American Idol was created based on the British show Pop Idol, which was in turn inspired by Popstars, a show TV producer Nigel Lythgoe saw in Australia and brought over to Britain. Using the idea from Popstars of employing a panel of judges to select singers in audition, then adding other elements such as telephone voting by the viewing public (which at the time was already in use in shows such as the Eurovision Song Contest) and the drama of backstories and real-life soap opera unfolding in real time, Simon Fuller then created Pop Idol. The show debuted in 2001 in Britain with Lythgoe as the producer and Simon Cowell as one of the judges, and was a big success with the viewing public.
Fuller and Cowell attempted to sell the Pop Idol format to the U.S. in 2001, but the idea was met with poor response from U.S. TV networks. However, Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox's parent company, was persuaded to buy the show by his daughter Elisabeth, who was a fan of the British show. The show was renamed American Idol: The Search for a Superstar and debuted in the summer of 2002, and became one of the summer hit shows that year. The show, with the personal engagement of the viewers with the contestants through voting, and the presence of the caustic-tongue judge Simon Cowell, grew into a phenomenon. By 2004 it had become the biggest show on U.S. TV, a position it then held on for seven straight years. Unless renewed, the show is scheduled to remain on air until 2013.
Judges and hosts
The show had originally planned on having four judges following the Pop Idol format, however only three judges had been found by the time of the audition round in the first season, namely Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. A fourth judge, radio DJ Stryker, was originally chosen but he dropped out citing "image concerns". In the second season, New York radio personality Angie Martinez had been hired as a fourth judge but withdrew only after a few days of auditions due to not being comfortable with giving out criticism. The show decided to continue with the three judges format until season eight. All three original judges stayed on the judging panel for eight seasons.
In season eight, Latin Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi was added as a fourth judge. She stayed for two seasons and left the show before season ten. Paula Abdul left the show before season nine after failing to agree terms with the show producers. Emmy Award-winning talk show host Ellen DeGeneres replaced Paula Abdul for that season, but left after just one season. On January 11, 2010, Simon Cowell announced that he was leaving the show to pursue introducing the American version of his show The X Factor to the USA for 2011. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler joined the judging panel in season 10, but both left after two seasons. They were replaced by three new judges, namely Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Nicki Minaj, who joined Randy Jackson in season 12.
In a series of steps, the show selects the eventual winner out of many tens of thousands of contestants.
The eligible age-range for contestants is currently fifteen to twenty-eight years old. The initial age limit was sixteen to twenty-four in the first three seasons, but the upper limit was raised to twenty-eight in season four, and the lower limit was reduced to fifteen in season ten. The contestants must be legal U.S. residents, cannot have advanced to particular stages of the competition in previous seasons (varies depending on the season, currently by the semi-final stage), and must not hold any current recording or talent representation contract by the semi-final stage (in previous years by the audition stage).
Contestants go through at least three sets of cuts. The first is a brief audition with a few other contestants in front of selectors which may include one of the show's producers. Although auditions can exceed 10,000 in each city, only a few hundred of these make it past the preliminary round of auditions. Successful auditions then sing in front of producers where more may be cut. Only then can they proceed to audition in front of the judges, which is the only audition stage shown on television. Those selected by the judges are sent to Hollywood. Between 10-60 people in each city may make it to Hollywood.
Hollywood week and Las Vegas round
Once in Hollywood, the contestants perform individually or in groups in a series of rounds. Until season ten, there were usually three rounds of eliminations in Hollywood. In the first round the contestants emerged in groups but performed individually. For the next round, the contestants put themselves in small groups and perform a song together. In the final round, the contestants perform solo with a song of their choice a cappella or accompanied by a band"depending on the season. In seasons two and three, contestants were also asked to write original lyrics or melody in an additional round after the first round. In season seven, the group round was eliminated and contestants may, after a first solo performance and on judges approval, skip a second solo round and move directly to the final Hollywood round.
Starting in season ten, a further round was added in Las Vegas where the contestants perform in groups based on a theme, followed by one final solo round to determine the semi-finalists. At the end of this stage of the competition, 24 to 36 contestants are selected to move on to the semi-final stage.
From the semifinal onwards, the fate of the contestants is decided by public vote. During the contestant's performance as well as the recap at the end, a toll-free telephone number for each contestant is displayed on the screen. For a two-hour period after the episode ends (up to four hours for the finale) in each US time zone, viewers may call or send a text message to their preferred contestant's telephone number, and each call or text message is registered as a vote for that contestant. Viewers are allowed to vote as many times as they can within the two-hour voting window, however, the show reserves the right to discard votes by power dialer. One or more of the least popular contestants may be eliminated in successive weeks until a winner emerges. Over 110 million votes were cast in the first season, and by season ten the seasonal total had increased to nearly 750 million. Voting via text messaging was made available in the second season when AT&T Wireless joined as a sponsor of the show, and 7.5 million text messages were sent to American Idol that season. The number of text messages rapidly increased, reaching 178 million texts by season eight. Online voting was offered for the first time in season ten. The votes are counted and verified by Telescope Inc.
From seasons one to three and eight to eleven, the semi-finalists were split into different groups to perform individually in their respective night. In season one, there were three groups of ten, with the top three contestants from each group making the finals. In seasons two and three, there were four groups of eight, and the top two of each selected. In season eight there were three groups of twelve, with three contestants moving forward - the highest male, the highest female, and the next highest-placed singer. In season ten and eleven, the girls and boys perform on separate nights and five of each were chosen. These six seasons also featured a wildcard round where contestants who failed to qualify were given another chance. In season one, only one wildcard contestant was chosen by the judges, giving a total of ten finalists. In seasons two and three, each of the three judges championed one contestant with the public advancing a fourth into the finals, making 12 finalists in all. In season eight, four were chosen by the judges to produce a final 13. In seasons ten and eleven, three wildcards were chosen, again making a total of 13.
From seasons four to seven and nine, the twenty-four semi-finalists were divided by gender in order to ensure an equal gender division in the top twelve. The men and women sang separately on consecutive nights, and the bottom two in each groups were eliminated each week until only six of each remained to form the top twelve.
The finals are broadcast in prime time from CBS Television City in Los Angeles, in front of a live studio audience. The finals lasted eight weeks in season one, eleven weeks in subsequent seasons until seasons ten and eleven which lasted twelve weeks. Each finalist performs songs based on a weekly theme which may be a musical genre such as Motown, disco, or big band, songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley or The Beatles, or more generic themes such as Billboard Number 1 hits or songs from the contestant's year of birth. Contestants usually work with a celebrity mentor related to the theme. In season ten, Jimmy Iovine was brought in as a mentor for the season. Initially the contestants sing one song each week, but this is increased to two songs from top four or five onwards, then three songs for the top two or three.
The most popular contestants are usually not revealed in the results show, instead typically the three contestants (two in later rounds) who received the lowest number of votes are called to the center of the stage. One of these three is sent to safety, the two remaining however need not both be ones with the fewest votes. The contestant with the fewest votes is then revealed and eliminated from the competition. A montage of the eliminated contestant is played and they give their final performance. However, starting in season eight, the judges may overturn viewers' decision with a "Judges' Save" - they can save a contestant on a unanimous decision, but two will be eliminated the following week, except for season 11 when only one was sent home after the save. The save can only be used once, and only before top five.
In the finale, the two remaining contestants perform to determine the winner. For the first six seasons, apart from season two, the finale was broadcast from the Kodak Theatre, which has an audience capacity of approximately 3,400. The finale for season two took place at the Gibson Amphitheatre, which has an audience capacity of over 6,000. From season seven onwards, the venue was changed to the Nokia Theatre, which holds an audience of over 7,000. A special two-hour results show the next night follows where the winner is announced at the end.
Rewards for winner and finalists
The winner receives a record deal with a major label, which may be for up to six albums, and secures a management contract with American Idol-affiliated 19 Management (which has the right of first refusal to sign all contestants), as well as various lucrative contracts. All winners prior to Season 9 reportedly earned at least $1 million in their first year as winner. All the runners-up of the first ten seasons, as well as some of other finalists, have also received record deals with major labels. However, starting in season 11, the runner-up may only be guaranteed a single-only deal. BMG/Sony (season 1-9) and UMG (season 10- ) had the right of first refusal to sign contestants for three months after the season's finale. Prominent music mogul Clive Davis also produced some of the selected contestants' albums, such as Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo. All top 10 (11 in season 10) finalists earn the privilege of going on a tour where the participants may each earn a six-figure sum.
Each season premieres with the audition round, taking place in different cities. The audition episodes typically feature a mix of potential finalists, interesting characters and woefully inadequate contestants. Each successful contestant receives a golden ticket to proceed on to the next round in Hollywood. Based on their performances during the Hollywood round (Las Vegas round for seasons 10 onwards), 24 to 36 contestants are selected by the judges to participate in the semifinals. From the semifinal onwards the contestants perform their songs live, with the judges making their critiques after each performance. The contestants are voted for by the viewing public, and the outcome of the public votes is then revealed in the results show typically on the following night. The results shows feature group performances by the contestants as well as guest performers. The Top-three results show also features the homecoming events for the Top 3 finalists. The season reaches its climax in a two-hour results finale show where the winner of the season is revealed.
With the exception of seasons one and two, the contestants in the semifinals onwards perform in front of a studio audience. They perform with a full band in the finals. From season four to season nine, the American Idol band was led by Rickey Minor; from season ten onwards, Ray Chew. Assistance may also be given by vocal coaches and song arrangers, such as Michael Orland and Debra Byrd to contestants behind the scene. Starting with season seven, contestants may perform with a musical instrument from the Hollywood rounds onwards. In the first nine seasons, performances were usually aired live on Tuesday nights, followed by the results shows on Wednesdays in the United States and Canada, but moved to Wednesdays and Thursdays in season ten.
Main article: American Idol (season 1)
The first season of American Idol debuted as a summer replacement show in June 2002 on the Fox network. It was co-hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman.
In the audition rounds, 121 contestants were selected from around 10,000 who attended the auditions. These were cut to 30 for the semifinal, with ten going on to the finals. One semifinalist, Delano Cagnolati, was disqualified for lying to evade the show's age limit. One of the early favorites to win the show, Tamyra Gray, was eliminated at the top four, the first of several such shock eliminations that were to be repeated in later seasons. Christina Christian was hospitalized before the top six result show due to chest pains and palpitations, and she was eliminated while she was in the hospital. Jim Verraros was the first openly gay contestant on the show; his sexual orientation was revealed in his online journal, however it was removed during the competition after a request from the show producers over concerns that it might be unfairly influencing votes.
The final showdown was between Justin Guarini, one of the favorites, and Kelly Clarkson. Clarkson was not initially thought of as a contender, but impressed the judges with some good performances in the final rounds, such as her performance of Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman", and Betty Hutton's "Stuff Like That There", and eventually won the crown on September 4, 2002.
In what was to become a tradition, Clarkson performed the coronation song during the finale, and released the song immediately after the season ended. The single, "A Moment Like This", went on to break a 38-year-old record held by The Beatles for the biggest leap to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Justin Guarini did not release any song immediately after the show and remains the only runner-up not to do so. Both Clarkson and Guarini made a musical film, From Justin to Kelly, which was released in 2003 but was widely panned. Clarkson has since become the most successful Idol contestant around the world, with worldwide album sales of more than 23 million.
Starting September 30, 2006, this season was repackaged as "American Idol Rewind" and syndicated directly to stations in the US.
Main article: American Idol (season 2)
Following the success of season one, the second season was moved up to air in January 2003. The number of episodes increased, as did the show's budget and the charge for commercial spots. Dunkleman left the show, leaving Seacrest as the lone host. Kristin Adams was originally announced as a co-host, but her role was reduced to special correspondent upon airing.
Corey Clark was disqualified during the finals for having an undisclosed police record, however, he later alleged that he and Paula Abdul had an affair while on the show and that this contributed to his expulsion. Clark also claimed that Abdul gave him preferential treatment on the show due to their affair. The allegations were dismissed by Fox after an independent investigation. Two semi-finalists were also disqualified that year - Jaered Andrews for an arrest on an assault charge, and Frenchie Davis for having previously modelled for an adult website.
Ruben Studdard emerged as the winner, beating Clay Aiken by a small margin. Out of a total of 24 million votes, Studdard finished just 134,000 votes ahead of Clay Aiken. This slim margin of victory was controversial due to the large number of calls that failed to get through. In an interview prior to season five, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe indicated that Aiken had led the fan voting from the wildcard week onward until the finale.
Both finalists were successful after the show, but Clay Aiken out-performed Ruben's coronation song "Flying Without Wings" with his single release from the show "This Is the Night", as well as in their subsequent album releases. The fourth-place finisher Josh Gracin also enjoyed some success as a country singer.
Main article: American Idol (season 3)
Season three premiered on January 19, 2004. One of the most talked-about contestants during the audition process was William Hung whose off-key rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" received widespread attention. His exposure on Idol landed him a record deal and surprisingly he became the third best-selling singer from that season.
Much media attention on the season had been focused on the three black singers, Fantasia Barrino, LaToya London, and Jennifer Hudson, dubbed the Three Divas. All three unexpectedly landed on the bottom three on the top seven result show, with Jennifer Hudson controversially eliminated. Elton John, who was one of the mentors that season, called the results of the votes "incredibly racist." The prolonged stays of John Stevens and Jasmine Trias in the finals, despite negative comments from the judges, had aroused resentment, so much so that John Stevens reportedly received a death threat, which he dismissed as a joke 'blown out of proportion'.
The performance of "Summertime" by Fantasia Barrino, later known simply as "Fantasia", at Top 8 was widely praised, and Simon Cowell considered it as his favorite Idol moment in the nine seasons he was on the show. Fantasia and Diana DeGarmo were the last two finalists remaining at the finale, and Fantasia was crowned as the winner. Fantasia released as her coronation single "I Believe", a song co-written by season one finalist Tamyra Gray, and Diana DeGarmo released "Dreams". Fantasia went on to gain some successes as a recording artist, whilst Jennifer Hudson, who placed seventh became the only Idol-contestant so far to win both an Academy Award and a Grammy.
Main article: American Idol (season 4)
Season four premiered on January 18, 2005; this was the first season of the series to be aired in high definition, although the finale of season three was also aired in high definition. The number of those attending the auditions by now had increased to over 100,000 from the 10,000 of the first season. The age limit was raised to 28 in this season, among those who benefited from this new rule were Constantine Maroulis and Bo Bice, "the two rockers" of the show. The presence of more rock-oriented contestants inspired more rock musicians to audition in later seasons, such as Chris Daughtry in season five.
The top 12 finalists originally included Mario Vazquez, but he dropped out citing 'personal reasons' and was replaced by Nikko Smith. Later, an employee of Freemantle Media which produces the show sued the company for wrongful termination, claiming that he was dismissed after complaining about lewd behavior by Mario Vazquez toward him during the show.
At top 11, due to a mix-up with the contestants' telephone number, voting was repeated on what was normally the result night, with the result reveal postponed until the following night.
In May 2005, Carrie Underwood was announced to be the winner, with Bo Bice the runner-up. Both Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice released the coronation song "Inside Your Heaven". Carrie Underwood has since become the most successful Idol contestant in the U.S. in terms of album sales, selling over 13 million units.
Main article: American Idol (season 5)
Season five began on January 17, 2006. It remains the highest-rated season in the show's run so far. Two of the more prominent contestants during the Hollywood round were the Brittenum twins who were later disqualified for identity theft.
Chris Daughtry's performance of Fuel's "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)" on the show was widely praised and led to an invitation to join the band as Fuel's new lead singer, an invitation he declined. His performance of Live's version of "I Walk the Line" was well received by the judges but later criticized in some quarters for not crediting the arrangement to Live. He was eliminated at the top four in a shock result.
On May 30, 2006, Taylor Hicks was named American Idol, with Katharine McPhee the runner-up. "Do I Make You Proud" was released as Taylor Hicks' first single and "My Destiny" Katharine McPhee's. Katherine McPhee is currently starring in the TV series Smash.
Despite being eliminated earlier than expected, Chris Daughtry a.k.a. Daughtry became the most successful recording artist from this season. Other contestants, such as Taylor Hicks, Katherine McPhee, Bucky Covington, Mandisa, Kellie Pickler, and Elliott Yamin have had varying levels of success. This season remains the most productive in the number of successful recording artists it generated.
Season six began on Tuesday, January 16, 2007. The premiere drew a massive audience of 37.3 million viewers, peaking in the last half hour with more than 41 million viewers.
Teenager Sanjaya Malakar was the season's most talked-about contestant for his unusual hairdo, and for managing to survive elimination for many weeks due in part to the weblog Vote for the Worst and satellite radio personality Howard Stern, who both encouraged fans to vote for him. However, on April 18, Sanjaya was voted off. Semi-finalist Antonella Barba also drew some attention due to racy photographs of her which emerged during the show.
This season saw the first ever Idol Gives Back telethon-inspired event, which raised more than $76 million in corporate and viewer donations. No contestant was eliminated that week, but two, Phil Stacey and Chris Richardson, were eliminated the next. Melinda Doolittle, an early favorite, was eliminated on top three.
On the May 23, 2007 season finale, Jordin Sparks was declared the winner against runner-up Blake Lewis. Sparks has enjoyed some success as a recording artist post-Idol.
This season also saw the launch of the American Idol Songwriter contest which allowed fans to vote for the "coronation song". Thousands of recordings of original songs were submitted by songwriters, and 20 entries selected for the public vote. The winning song, "This Is My Now", was performed by both finalists during the finale and released by the winner Jordin Sparks on May 24, 2007.
Season seven premiered on January 15, 2008, for a two-day, four-hour premiere. The media focused on the professional status of the season seven contestants, the so-called 'ringers', many of whom had prior records deals, such as Kristy Lee Cook, Brooke White, Michael Johns, and in particular Carly Smithson. Contestant David Hernandez also attracted some attention due to his past working as a stripper.
For the finals, American Idol debuted a new state-of-the-art set and stage on March 11, 2008, along with a new on-air look. David Cook's performance of "Billie Jean" on top ten night was lauded by the judges, but provoked controversy when they apparently mistook the Chris Cornell arrangement to be David Cook's own even though the performance was introduced as Cornell's version. Cornell himself said he was 'flattered' and praised David Cook's performance. David Cook was taken to the hospital after the top nine performance show due to heart palpitations and high blood pressure.
David Archuleta's performance of John Lennon's "Imagine" was considered by many as one of the best of the season. Jennifer Lopez, who was brought in as a judge in season ten, cited it as a beautiful-song moment that she will never forget. Jason Castro's semi-final performance of "Hallelujah" also received considerable attention, and it propelled Jeff Buckley's version of the song to the top of the Billboard digital song chart. This is the first season whereby contestants' recordings were released onto iTunes after their performances, and although sales information were not released so as not to prejudice the contest, leaked information indicated contestants' songs frequently reached the top of iTunes sales chart.
Idol Gives Back returned on April 9, 2008, and raised $64 million for charity. The finalists were David Cook and David Archuleta, the first time in the show's history where neither of the top two were ever in the bottom three. David Cook was announced the winner of American Idol season seven on May 21, 2008, the first 'rocker' to win the show.
The American Idol Songwriter contest was also held this season. From ten of the most popular submissions, each of the final two contestants chose a song to perform, although neither of their selections was used as the "coronation song". The winning song, "The Time of My Life", was recorded by David Cook and released on May 22, 2008. Both David Cook and David Archuleta were successful as recording artists.
Season eight began on January 13, 2009. Mike Darnell, the president of alternative programming for Fox, stated that the season would focus more on the contestants' reality and emotional state, much early attention on the show was therefore focused on the widowerhood of Danny Gokey as well as characters like Tatiana Del Toro and Nick Mitchell.
In the first major change to the judging panel, a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, was introduced; Paula Abdul, however, left the show after the season ended. This was also the first season without executive producer Nigel Lythgoe who left to focus on the international versions of his show So You Think You Can Dance. The Hollywood round was moved to the Kodak Theatre for 2009 and was also extended to two weeks. Idol Gives Back was cancelled for this season due to the global recession at the time.
There were 13 finalists this season, but two were eliminated in its first result show of the finals. A new feature introduced was the "Judges' Save", and Matt Giraud was saved from elimination at the top seven by the judges when he received the fewest votes. The next week, Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai were eliminated.
The two finalists were Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, both of whom had previously landed in the bottom three at the top five. Kris Allen won the contest in the most controversial voting result since season two. It was claimed, later retracted, that 38 million of the 100 million votes cast on the night came from Kris Allen's home state of Arkansas alone, and that AT&T employees unfairly influenced the votes by giving lessons on power-texting at viewing parties in Arkansas.
Both Kris Allen and Adam Lambert released the coronation song, "No Boundaries" which was co-written by DioGuardi. This is the first season in which the winner has failed to achieve gold album status, and none from that season achieved platinum album status in the US.
Season nine premiered on January 12, 2010. The upheaval at the judging panel continued. Ellen DeGeneres joined as a judge to replace Paula Abdul at the start of Hollywood Week, however, she left after the season finished, as did Simon Cowell who left to launch the US version of The X Factor. Kara DioGuardi's contract was not renewed for the next season.
One of the most prominent auditioners that season was General Larry Platt whose performance of "Pants on the Ground" became a viral hit song.
Crystal Bowersox, who has Type-I diabetes, fell ill due to diabetic ketoacidosis on the morning of the girls performance night for the top 20 week and was hospitalized. The schedule was rearranged so the boys performed first and she could perform the following night instead; she later revealed that Ken Warwick, the show producer, wanted to disqualify her but she begged to be allowed to stay on the show.
Michael Lynche was the lowest vote getter at top nine and was given the Judges' Save. The next week Katie Stevens and Andrew Garcia were eliminated. That week Adam Lambert was invited back to be a mentor, the first Idol alum to do so. Idol Gives Back returned this season on April 21, 2010, and raised 45 million.
A special tribute to Simon Cowell was presented in the finale for his final season with the show. Many figures from the show's past, including Paula Abdul, made an appearance.
This was the second season where neither of the final two contestants, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, had been in the bottom two or three. Lee DeWyze was declared the winner during the May 26 finale. No new song was used as coronation song this year; instead, the two finalists each released a cover song - Lee DeWyze chose U2's "Beautiful Day", and Crystal Bowersox chose Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain". This is the first season where neither finalist achieved significant album sales.
Season ten of the series premiered on January 19, 2011. Many changes were introduced this season, from the format to the personnel of the show. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler joined Randy Jackson as judges, while Nigel Lythgoe returned as executive producer. Jimmy Iovine, chairman of the Interscope Geffen A&M label group, the new partner of American Idol, acted as the in-house mentor in place of weekly guest mentors, although in later episodes special guest mentors such as Beyoncé, will.i.am and Lady Gaga were brought in.
Season ten is the first to include online auditions where contestants could submit a 40 second video audition via Myspace. Karen Rodriguez was one such auditioner and reached the final rounds.
One of the more prominent contestants this year was Chris Medina, whose story of caring for his brain-damaged fiancée received widespread coverage. Medina was cut in the Top 40 round. Casey Abrams, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, was hospitalized twice and missed the Top 13 result show. The judges used their one save on Abrams in the Top 11, and as a result this was the first season that 11 finalists went on tour instead of 10. Also, following the judges using their save, Naima Adedapo and Thia Megia were both eliminated the following week.
Pia Toscano, one of the presumed favorites to advance far in the season, was unexpectedly eliminated on April 7, 2011, finishing in ninth place. Her elimination drew criticism from some former Idol contestants, as well as actor Tom Hanks.
The two finalists in 2011 were Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery, both teenage country singers. McCreery won the competition on May 25, 2011, being the youngest male winner and the fourth male in a row to win American Idol. McCreery released his first single, "I Love You This Big", as his coronation song, and Alaina released "Like My Mother Does". McCreery's debut album, Clear as Day, became the first debut album by an Idol winner to reach number one on the US Billboard 200 since Ruben Studdard's Soulful in 2003.
Season 11 premiered on January 18, 2012. On February 23, it was announced that one more finalist would join the Top 24 making it the Top 25, and that was Jermaine Jones. However, on March 14, Jones was disqualified in 12th place for concealing arrests and outstanding warrants. Jones however denied concealing his arrests.
Finalist Phillip Phillips suffered from kidney pain and was taken to hospital before the Top 13 results show, and later received medical procedure to alleviate a blockage caused by kidney stones. He was reported to have eight surgeries during his Idol run, and had considered quitting the show due to the pain. He underwent surgery to remove the stones and reconstruct his kidney soon after the season had finished.
Jessica Sanchez received the fewest number of votes during the Top 7 week, and the judges decided to use their "save" option on her, making her the first female recipient of the save. The following week, Colton Dixon was the only contestant sent home, as opposed to two finalists as in previous seasons. Jessica Sanchez later made it to the final two (the first season where a recipient of the save reached the finale).
Phillip Phillips eventually won the season 11, beating Jessica Sanchez in a new world record of 132 million votes. Prior to the announcement of the winner, season five finalist Ace Young proposed marriage to season three runner-up Diana DeGarmo on stage; a proposal DeGarmo accepted.
Phillips released "Home" as his coronation song, while Sanchez released "Change Nothing". Phillips' "Home" has since became the best selling of all coronation songs.