One of the last things the American Idol producers tell their prospective contestants before auditioning in a collective group of 10,000+ in a giant arena nearly filled to capacity is to not get yourselves down if you're not selected. It doesn't mean you can't sing, it just means you're not what the show is looking for -- that's it.
The hardest part is shoving all your hopes and dreams into a once-in-a-lifetime, seat-of-your-pants, whirlwind weekend of fulfilling your loftiest personal goals and then being shot down.
It took me until 26 hours after the fact to realize why being denied a spot on American Idol was quite easily the biggest compliment the show's producers could have ever issued me upon being cut from the first round of auditions. Sure, the initial blow stung my body, brain, and heart with the force of a million knives prodding every orifice of my being, but the pain subsided. The numb feeling led to a few shed tears while listening to one of many Glee tracks off the CD's my friend had created for our 11-13 hour road trip from DC to Nashville as we drove off in the sunset toward Sonic to drown our sorrows in greasy, heartburn inducing comfort food.
For whatever reason, I left Bridgestone Arena after being in or around it from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. heartbroken and pained. I shouldn't have, but at least I knew I cared.
I could choose to go on tirade and trash everything American Idol stands for, but that wouldn't be doing the show justice. At first, I almost went as far as to say that the show's place in popular culture could be a detrimental to the hopes and dreams of the individuals the show seeks as contestants. That isn't the case.
I now believe I know the truth -- American Idol is the best makeover show that isn't marketed as such -- or at least, not in an obvious fashion.
Think about the faces you've seen over the past nine season of American Idol. Often times, if not every time, the final two contestants are people no one would have ever imagined being on the cover of a magazine or staring in their own music video, let alone end up with a major record deal. That's the point of the show.
American Idol takes the underdog, the unlikely candidate, and allows them the opportunity to seek a future greater than their wildest dreams could have ever imagined. They let thousands of people audition in order to have them feel like they have a place in all of the pomp and circumstance of it all, but it's really just a show allotting a dream to someone who wouldn't have been offered a chance by modern social and entertainment standards.
Try to remember all the faces the on the American Idol stage since 2000 -- Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Diana DeGarmo, Fantasia Barrino, Bo Bice, Carrie Underwood, Katharine McPhee, Taylor Hicks, Blake Lewis, Jordin Sparks, David Archuleta, David Cook, Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, Crystal Bowersox, and Lee DeWyze. These aren't your everyday pop stars. Each individual grew immensely during the process and were by no means the "text book" definition of a pop star when they started out, no matter how much talent (or lack thereof) they portrayed.
That's why singers who took the time out of their busy and routine driven lives can't get too down on themselves for having auditioned and not making it past the preliminary round of American Idol auditions. Those young performers with years of practice, natural talent, or anywhere in between have to know it's not that they can't sing. It's just the opposite. You have what it takes to pursue the music industry on your own, unassisted by FOX or American Idol. That's why the producer's cut you. You can make your dream come true on your own, it's just about the timing and execution.
If you want your dream bad enough, you can achieve it. American Idol isn't for people who know they have exactly what it takes to make it big. American Idol is for the people who never thought being a musical superstar could ever happen. American Idol is an outlet to keep what's good about
So if you've ever been cut from the show like I have and feel like you weren't given your fair shot at fulfilling your dreams, know that it's the opposite. American Idol just handed you your dreams and said, "Take your talent, stage presence, and passion and use it the way you know how. Carve your own path. You know how to do it. Why are you here? You don't need us to write your story, you can do it on your own."
For those of you who have made it through to the additional rounds of auditions and will be on the tenth season of American Idol, I hope all your wildest dreams come true. You deserve it. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a tad bit jealous.
I hope to cross paths with you one day. If we both keep it up, I'm sure we will.
So thanks American Idol, for proving to me that I have what it takes to make my dreams come true and thanks for giving those who never thought they had a chance an opportunity to succeed. That's pretty gosh darn nice if you ask me.
A personal aside: I really have to take a moment to say how grateful I am for the amazing and incredibly touching amount of support you all shared with me since announcing my decision to audition for American Idol. It's something I honestly never thought I would do and if it weren't for this experience I wouldn't have found this additional source of inspiration to continue doing what I love to do (all of you really showed me that my love for music does more than inspire myself but it inspires all of you as well, so thank you) plus a new found confidence in performing. If I can belt out the best performance of my life in a 60 second period in front of the American Idol producers then nothing can stop me. You all know who you are so I don't need to name names, just know you've all touched me more than you could have thought possible. So for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.