Since it debuted in 2002, American Idol has transformed pop’s cultural landscape, leading a slew of reality TV shows and launching dozens of top-selling music careers. The popular singing competition has had its share of detractors, including Usher and Elton John who, despite being mentors on the show, bemoaned its obsessive star-making focus. Once, when the show’s winning contestants were marching their way up the pop charts, Rolling Stone infamously dubbed them the “karaoke death squad.”
Like it or not, Idol has showcased some talented singers over the years, including Carrie Underwood and Ruben Studdard. With a revamped season, featuring new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler joining Randy Jackson, the show has released a compilation that celebrates its first decade. American Idol 10th Anniversary – The Hits Volume 1 gathers hits from nine show winners and three notable finalists like Daughtry and Clay Aiken.
The CD includes Season One winner Kelly Clarkson’s bracing pop-rock hit “Since U Been Gone,” Fantasia’s willowy r&b hit “When I See U” and last year’s finalist Adam Lambert, singing his anguished “Whataya Want From Me” behind heavily mascara-covered eyes. One of the best cuts is “No Air,” the mega-selling r&b duet between Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown. But the standout is Underwood’s cheeky country classic “Before He Cheats,” a big winner at the 2008 Grammys. With its hilarious lyrics about a philandering boyfriend and a “bleached blond tramp…singing some white-trash version of Shania karaoke,” it provides The Hits Volume 1 with its most memorable moment.