The OBB of American Idol's final season namechecked its more successful alumni, including Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, and the inaugural Idol Kelly Clarkson. I thought it was a nice way to remind viewers of the show's legacy.
American Idol means a lot to me. As funny or strange as it may sound to some, it gave me a musical education and many good memories. Let me tell you how.

Before the show began its now-historic run, my taste in music was limited to whatever was in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 at the time. But the House That Kelly Clarkson Built changed that through its theme weeks. They exposed me to different genres of music, including some I might never have listened to otherwise, like big-band songs, country and even heavy metal. All that and more landed in my iPod.

Idol made me a music aficionado and influenced my career goals as well. Watching my favorites perform week after week inspired me to try my own luck as a singer and songwriter.

I’ve been singing since I was a kid, but I lost confidence in myself after I bombed a talent-show performance in high school. So when I signed up for voice lessons with world-renowned singer and stage actor Cocoy Laurel (the uncle of Kapamilya actress and singer Denise Laurel), I half-expected our first session to be an utter disaster.

Me and world-renowned singer and stage actor Cocoy Laurel during one of our sessions at the Laurels' former family home in Wack-Wack. I wouldn't have had the guts to sing for him if it weren't for American Idol. I miss learning from him!
Imagine my surprise when, after leading me through a series of vocal exercises, Tito Cocoy said I had a (and I quote) “great range.” His words emboldened me to pursue music. Since then I’ve had more voice lessons and even started writing songs myself—which I wouldn’t have had the courage to do if it weren’t for Idol.

Before I started training in earnest, most of my early lessons on performing, I learned from Idol. When season three champion Fantasia returned to the show during season four to sing a mashup of her debut single “Truth Is” and her coronation song “I Believe,” she offered some advice to the current crop.

Fantasia said, “Just come out here and act ugly.” It sounds strange, but it makes sense when you think about it. As a singer, you shouldn’t focus on looking good for the camera because you’re not a model. Your job is to communicate an emotion through your voice, so you need to push past what makes you self-conscious so you can “act ugly.” I apply Fantasia’s advice not just when I’m singing, but also when I’m putting up a scene in acting class. It has helped me immensely.

I also have severe stage fright, which is ironic considering I want to perform in front of thousands, maybe even millions, someday. I just deal with it by pretending to be a contestant standing on the Idol stage. When I imagine myself singing for the three judges and all of America, my stage fright disappears. I guess that’s because watching the show puts me at ease, so pretending to be on it has the same effect.

But like all relationships, my love affair with Idol wasn’t perfect. I was extremely invested in it from seasons one to 11. But during season 12, when judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj’s catfights got more media mileage than any of that year’s contestants, I stepped away. I felt that the show had become something else at that point, and I wasn’t feeling it at all.

I did give seasons 13 and 14 a chance, but I found them to be largely unexciting, with the only bright spot in the latter for me being a spine-tingling “Georgia On My Mind” by its eventual runner-up Clark Beckham. Clark sang that Ray Charles classic during the Showcase Round in season 14. Watch his performance below.

It wasn’t until Dalton Rapattoni came along in season 15 that I returned to the fold, but I’m glad I did.

Although I wasn’t surprised when I learned that Idol’s fifteenth season would be its last—since it’s no longer the ratings juggernaut it used to be—the news still broke my heart.

It’s been two weeks since the series finale as of this writing, and yet I still haven’t accepted that I’m not going to hear the show’s theme song blaring from my TV come January 2017. Nor can I fathom that I’ll no longer be able to follow someone’s journey from unknown to superstar like I did for more than a decade.

Yes, there are other singing shows, but there’s nothing quite like American Idol, and I don’t think there will ever be. It will always have a special place in my heart.

I have been “Idol-ized” for good.

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Кларк Бекхем: “Georgia on My Mind” video courtesy of this YouTube channel.


The old Julian can't come to the phone right now.

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