After 14 seasons, thousands of contestants, astronomical television ratings and millions of dollars in a lot of wallets, American Idol is about to call it a day and Nick Fradiani and Jax are along for the long last (or next to last) ride on the American Idol Live summer tour bus.
“It wasn’t going to last forever, nothing ever does,” said Fradiani, the winner of the recently completed Season 14. “It changed pop culture. It’s been a huge addition to pop culture in this country for more than the last decade.
“It just had to end sometime. It will go down as one of the greatest shows in TV history. Fourteen seasons is a long, long time,” said Jax (i.e. Jaclyn Cole Miskanic), the third place finisher this season and the highest placing female contestant on the show that announced its closure on FOX will come next spring.
Fradiani, 28 and the seventh male winner in the show’s last eight seasons, and Jax, a 19-year-old from East Brunswick, N.J., were talking from a tour bus recently somewhere between Bethlehem, Pa. and Worcester, Mass. That same bus will roll into Santa Rosa this month for the 31st stop on the 37-city cross-country tour. It hasn’t been announced yet if there will be a tour next summer. Only difference this time is that there will be more empty seats on the bus.
For the first time, the Idol front office staff decided to whittle the performers, for 13 seasons it was a staple of the Top 10, down to five. That changed everything on a Summer Tour that had gotten to the point where some shows had been cancelled in recent years.
And it wasn’t like Fradiani or Jax were throwing their fellow Nos. 6-10 finishers under the bus, but….
“Sure, I felt bad that they didn’t get to go on tour with us,” Jax said, “but I think with just five it is working out very well. We get to perform more than they did in the past and tell our individual stories so the fans really get to know us.”
The tour had reached a low-point last summer when producers even used recorded music instead of a live band, presumably to cut expenses.
“That makes a huge difference,” Fradiani said. “I do five solo songs and it wouldn’t be nearly as good without the terrific band we have. I mean I loved everyone in the Top 10 but I think with just five of us it is working very well.”
Performing along with Fradiani (Guilford, Conn.) and Jax are Clark Beckham, Rayvon Owen and Tyanna Jones.
“I’m really excited to see more of California,” Fradiani said. “We were in L.A. a long time but we never got to explore other parts of the state. I had only been out there once prior to Idol and that was when I tried out for America’s Got Talent.”
American Idol, which returns in January 2016 for the final time, held the No. 1 ratings slot from 2003-’11. During Season 5 the show averaged 39.5 million viewers and held onto an average of 30 million for a season until recent years when ratings dipped and expenses increased. For example, host Ryan Seacrest’s salary jumped from $5 million annually to a $15 million deal a season for the past three years.
As the next-to-last winner, will Fradiani be included anywhere along the way during the finale season?
“I don’t know,” he said, “but I sure hope so. I’m certain they will have a lot of surprises. I even heard that Simon Cowell might come back as a guest judge one week.”
And would he have enjoyed being critiqued by the acerbic Cowell?
“I would have loved it,” he said.
AMERICAN IDOL LIVE
Cast: Top 5 Idol Season 14 finishers: Nick Fradiani, Clark Beckham, Jax, Rayvon Owens and Tyanna Jones
When: 8 p.m., Aug. 22
Where: Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa