American Idol – Self-improvement brought to life by Jordin Sparks

So another season of American Idol ends with the crowning of Jordin Sparks as American Idol 2007. That night, she was a well-deserved winner, apart from being a beautiful person and a wonderful singer. Only the most cynical and spiteful observers can argue that American Idol doesn’t produce some great singers, it does; or that Jordin isn’t one of them, she is. We already know that the top three, like last year, are likely to be superstars. So we can look forward to big things and big album sales from Melinda Doolittle and Blake Lewis, as well as Jordin.

Aside from loving music of all kinds, one of the reasons I enjoy American Idol is the way that when it comes to the final 16 and the serious singing competition, you get to watch young talented people develop right before your eyes. The entire American Idol process ensures that each contestant, entering the final stage in Hollywood, will receive instruction and encouragement from professionals in their field; singing, performance, image, dressing, moving around the stage and every other aspect of being a singing star, everything seems to be covered, while you can observe those who are destined for success, listen, watch and learn.

Plus, you can watch the pressure bracket every week and see how each competitor handles it. To be successful, they must absorb and grow, just like in any other profession. But in their case, they do so under intense publicity for four months; achievers have to deal with increasing pressure every week. Some respond well to pressure, while others begin to fade and cannot progress to the next level of performance required to reach the top 6 and beyond. Most start from obscurity; many come from relatively poor backgrounds.

Self-improvement writers can be quite snobbish, and many would dismiss a so-called reality show, especially when they see the freak show element of American Idol, as having any relevance to success or achievement. They would be wrong to do so. Every year in American Idol we see great examples of young people going through a process of self-development, summarized in a very short period of time.

The transformations can be remarkable, as you watch some singers improve from week to week in every aspect of their performance. You can also see how they react to setbacks, such as having to sing out of their comfort zone, or incurring the wrath of Simon Cowell’s barbed tongue. Others you may see grow for a time and then suddenly fade; it’s a fascinating show to watch. To me, it’s simply a singing or talent competition, not a reality show, which consistently brings out some amazing talent in America’s youth.

Jordin Sparks is one of the best examples so far. While I’ve always liked Jordin, when the competition first started, she seemed far from the talent level of Melinda Doolittle and Lakisha Jones. However, when she reached the top 10, I started to notice more. “Jordin will be in the top 4, even in the finals,” I started telling myself.

Of all the contestants, Jordin Sparks improved the most over the course of the competition, and as we got to the top 5, she was pretty close to Melinda in some of the performances. I started seeing a Melinda/Jordin finale rather than a Lakish/Melinda finale. We ended up having a Blake/Jordin finale with Jordin taking home the crown.

So why has Jordin made so much progress? Why did she become American Idol in 2007 and not Blake Lewis, Lakisha Jones or Melinda Doolittle?

In the end, her bubbly personality, beauty and youth may have helped tip the scales in her favor. But they would have meant little had she not persisted in developing her singing talent as the competition progressed. What she was able to do was use her singing abilities and work on it as much as she could during the competition. She showed strength of character whenever there was criticism and learned from her mistakes as she went along. Off screen, I imagine she was one of the most ardent contestants when it came to taking advice from her advisors, those who had already been in the business and knew how to become a star in every way.

Ultimately, she did enough to become a deserving American Idol; a beautiful young woman (in every way) who has star quality written all over her face; but her head and heart remained exactly in the right place, throughout the competition, all the way to the final.

No wonder her proud parents watched in awe and tears. Their daughter, Jordin Sparks, is a star, but an attractive and modest one that we will see much more of in the coming decades.

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