Last night American Idol finished its 11th season. Or is it 12th? I’ve lost track. But one thing that is very clear is that ever since David Cook won in 2008, Caucasian men who play instruments enjoy an inestimable advantage in the reality show competition. Kris Allen won in 2009. Lee DeWyze won in 2010. And Scotty McCreery won in 2011. With Phillip Phillips winning the competition this year in 2012, it is clear that “white guys with guitars,” as the folks on Television Without Pity refer to these winners, have the edge. However, these young men do not tend to sell as well as they might hope (with the exception of McCreery). Cook, Allen and especially DeWyze have sold disappointing numbers. Here are some of the reasons why I think this happens.
During the competition, a lot of teenaged girls, cougars, and elderly, grandmotherly types vote for the young men they’ve taken an interest in. Teenaged girls have their fantasy boyfriends, cougars have their dream dates, and grandmothers have a grandson to take an interest in, who is cute and adorable. However, this does not translate into record sales.
On American Idol, the singers do not sing their own songs, even if they have written some. Instead, they sing covers of already-recorded songs. This lends an advantage to the men as opposed to the women. Men do not belt out in a fancy way when they are singing usually, compared to women. It is a lot easier to sing a song that was formerly done by Dave Matthews, for example, than it is to sing one that has been done by Celine Dion or Whitney Houston. So women routinely suffer from the comparison.
However, women enjoy a distinct advantage after the show is over, and it is time to sell records. Women also sell more magazines when they appear on the cover than men do. Women are seen as more glamorous than men. And women are more likely to buy magazines than men. So it makes sense to me that people are more likely to buy records by someone like Carrie Underwood than they are by Lee DeWyze. It’s all about the glamour. And the support of publicity.