American Idol says goodbye this year with their final season. Sarasota and Bradenton have both brought talent to the Fox show in the 15 years it’s been on the air. In Season 7, Sarasota’s Syesha Mercado became a Top 3 finalist! Being Top 3 meant Idol would come to Sarasota for the hometown celebrations that are taped for the show. The Idol cameras came to Booker High School where Syesha had attended. There was a concert at the Ringling Museums grounds with thousands of Sarasota residents cheering on their hometown girl. Beautiful Sarasota was shown in its entire splendor nationwide on Idol. Syesha has gone on to star in one of the biggest shows on Broadway, “Book of Mormon” and came home last summer to perform at a sold out show with the Sarasota Orchestra at Ed Smith Stadium. She is currently recording in New York City.
In Season 13, we were introduced to Sam Woolf from Bradenton. Sam auditioned in Boston while attending Berklee College of Music. While at Berklee, he was chosen as one of the top four singer songwriters for their singer showcase. His mother talked him into auditioning for Idol and he won his ticket to Hollywood performing Ed Sheeran’s “Lego House”. Sam came in 5th place and was a fan favorite. He recorded an EP “Pretend” that he wrote and released himself. He recently announced while performing at Ace’s Live Music in Bradenton that he is going back to Berklee for more music education.
The current Top Ten of Idol came to Sarasota’s Van Wezel over the summer of 2015 and played to a packed house. Season 14 Winner Nick Fradiani, Clark Beckham and Jax performed as well as the other seven contestants. Idol fan favorite, indie artist Joey Cook opened the show; she came in seventh in the competition. They sang as a group and individually just like on the show. The audience was a mix of kids, their parents and fans of the show itself.
Over the years American Idol became a launching pad for some great talent, such as Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert, Jennifer Hudson, Jordan Sparks and of course country superstar, Carrie Underwood. It came at a time when it was a fresh concept and the term “Reality TV” was new. People loved rooting for their favorites and being able to participate and vote. The original judges, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul were fun to watch. As the show went on over the years, changes happened that the public didn’t always like. They tried a four judge panel with Kara DioGuardi, it didn’t go over well. They brought on Ellen DeGeneres who was well-liked but only stayed for one season. There have been celebrity judges, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Steven Tyler, etc. The current lineup of judges, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr, seem to work well and will be the final judge lineup. Ryan Seacrest, the one continuous cast member since the beginning will be hosting for the last time.
The final season starts this week. American Idol has announced they will be bringing everyone back for appearances over the season for the send-off including past judges and winners. Whether you loved it or hated it, American Idol is part of pop culture in this millennium. It will be a bittersweet goodbye.
All photos for the Sarasota Post by Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography