Is ‘American Idol’ Country — And Pop — Music’s Modern Star-Making Machine?

From Carrie Undewood to Gabby Barrett -- and potentially Chayce Beckham, too -- American Idol makes pop superstars

There may be no better way to underscore how much Americans love three chords and the truth more than anything else in modern popular music than in studying how well the genre performs on American Idol.

Sunday evening’s victory by 24-year-old Southern Californian Chayce Beckham marks the sixth time in television program American Idol’s nearly two-decade history that a country music artist has won the four-month-long, viewer-and-celebrity judge voted singing competition. In examining a music industry experiencing a multitude of dynamic shifts in the past 20 years, the ability for Idol — and its long, deep, and lucrative association with country music — to both remain a constant and continue to provide the genre a superstar pipeline is an impressive feat and worth deeper examination. Idol marries well with country, and recent country trends could foretell Idol continuing to dominate how the genre discovers and supports its superstars. Ultimately, the deep connective tie country music broadcast via the program makes with its viewers shows the TV program’s incredible vitality.

“As fans know, contestants can never go wrong by turning to country music, a genre that is historically a favorite among singing competition viewers — and generally the only format that continues to regularly provide a road to success, from Season 4’s Carrie Underwood to Season 16’s Gabby Barrett,” says the Washington Post’s Emily Yahr in a review of the 19th season’s just-completed final episode.

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