The Downfall of Singing Competition Shows

Reality-competition shows may have hit their peak during earlier seasons, but is there hope for new shows?


Carrie Underwood, One Direction, 5th Harmony… artists who gained fame from their appearance on shows such as American Idol and The X-Factor may be the last of their kind. The hype about singing competition shows in the early 2000s and 2010s continues to fizzle as seasons for each show appear once or twice a year.

Most likely, you’ve seen at least one full season of shows such as American Idol, The Voice, or The X-Factor. They’re enjoyable, and it’s easy to get involved in these types of shows since viewers can vote for their favorite singers as the season progresses. Eventually, each passing season seems formulaic. The same age range of people usually audition since the age limit for the three aforementioned shows begins with 14 and 15. Teenagers and adults in their 20s are usually the contestants that last throughout the entire competition so variety in ages often seems predictable. Rules tend to stay the same as well, and the only changes that come to these shows are the celebrity judges that occasionally join or leave.

For most viewers, the excitement of the whole show begins with auditions, mainly because these beginning episodes expose the talents (or failed singing attempts) of the singers along with the oddly enjoyable awkward interactions between the contestants and judges. While the climax of these shows, according to the viewers, is the auditions, The Voice tries to strive away from keeping the rest of the show boring by offering different challenges such as Battle Rounds.

Besides the typical formula for these shows, there has been less outcome of major fame for the winners. Out of the 3 shows, American Idol and the X-Factor have produced the most memorable stars while The Voice has yet to have a winner to reach the same status as the latter shows. In the past few years, the winners and finalists can hardly be remembered for their time on the show. Since some of these shows take original song-writing as a risk during the competition, it’s often hard for viewers to look back on contestants and say, “Oh, I remember them! Don’t you remember that amazing original song they sang on the show?” The fact that winners don’t get their albums and songs promoted or played on popular radio stations also prevents them from creating a name for themselves after their glory days on the show.

The ‘Wig’ kid from American Idol and the guy who ranted about uncooked chicken on The X-Factor

If anything, the most memorable moments from singing competition shows comes from contestants who barely make it through the first few rounds of the show. Remember the “Wig,” kid from American Idol? How about the guy who talked about his fall out with a friend over uncooked chicken from The X-Factor? Not to mention that the celebrity judges themselves provide the backbone for entertainment on these shows (RIP Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey from Season 12 of American Idol).

As of lately, singing shows have done little to spice up their current competitive formulas. The most exciting thing to come to one of the three big shows is that American Idol announced that it would be having its final season in 2016. The event certainly stirred a few hearts as Ryan Seacrest bid his final farewell on the last episode, but only about a year later, the beloved show was announced to be returning for another season.

As for the future of reality singing shows, nothing new seems to be occurring. There’s no doubt though that the commercials featuring star-studded judging panels create some sort of hype for upcoming seasons. Luckily, a new contender for a singing competition has arrived early this year. The Masked Singer, appearing on FOX, has an all celebrity cast competing against each other in pairs while wearing costumes that shield the audience from discovering their true identity.

Contestants from The Masked Singer

This new show offers hope for reality TV with this fresh new take on a competition. The fact that the contestants are also people that the audience is familiar with (spoiler alert: including celebs such as Antonio Brown and Tommy Chong of ‘Cheech and Chong’) helps to draw in viewers with the promise of mystery and exciting performances each week. The only issue thus far is that the judges of this show (other than Ken Jeong) offer meager entertainment and disturbingly poor guesses as to who the masked contestants truly are.