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LIFESTYLE & ENTERTAINMENT

Why it's difficult to tell if an Idols winner will have a successful career

The popular talent show has ended its relationship with Gallo and has partnered up with Kalawa Jazmee. Perhaps the new alliance might create an environment for winners to remain relevant long after the show ends
Thu, Dec 10, 2020

Zama and Mr. Music are the last two standing in season 16 of Idols SA

It's that time of the year again – the annual celebration of South Africa's last bastion of democracy: The crowning of the next Idols winner.

Several weeks later than usual, thanks to Covid-19 and such, we are about to witness another big dreamer get thrust into one of the most volatile industries around. The candidates: Richards Bay's Mr Music and Witbank's Zama. At stake: Instant millionaire status, a slew of prizes and of course, a recording deal with the indie label, Kalawa Jazmee.

The hope is that they ultimately become household names like many others who have been discovered, produced and managed by Kalawa over the years – names such as Boom Shaka, Bongo Maffin, Mafikizolo, Busiswa, Zonke and Tamara Dey.

The partnership makes perfect sense in that the average viewer of the show – just like the profile of its contestants these days – is young and black, not to mention that they are behind the emergence and success of the Gqom, Amapiano and Afro-House genres. Kalawa boasts a solid track record across said genres.

Over the past handful of years, Idols SA winners Luyolo Yiba, Yanga Sobetwa and Paxton Fielies won recording deals with Gallo, before that partnership dissolved.

From the little I've seen of this season (I have not been a regular for several years now), it would appear that Mr Music, and not his final opponent, Zama, is the perfect match for Kalawa Jazmee.

While she is clearly the better vocalist, the former is more at ease with pushing out material the audiences currently want to hear. It would not be a surprise to see him triumph this weekend.

Therein lies the biggest problem with Idols SA and its often-naive contestants – viewers often tune in to see you perform their favourite songs well. In other words, they want to hear what you do with what they already know – as opposed to introducing them to what they didn't know. In many ways, it's why we love going to karaoke.

Once the free publicity that comes with this giant platform (Idols is consistently only behind The Queen and Gomora in terms of Mzansi Magic ratings) dies down, you come straight back down to the ground floor, where the lift packs in new eager passengers. You then have to figure out how to garner similar attention again – only this time, you are introducing audiences to the 'real' you.

Only a handful of contestants have managed to do that (and pique the interest of a wide audience) in the 17 years since the Idols franchise landed in SA – Zamajobe (who finished 8th in the second season), Elvis Blue (winner of season six) Amanda Black (who finished 7th in season 11), and Khaya Mthethwa. All of them went on to win SA Music Awards (SAMAs) and enjoyed sales figures even established musicians could dream of.

The divergent styles and genres of the above mentioned should tell us another thing: In spite of M-Net and Mzansi Magic's successful formula of luring viewers back each year, there will never be a replicable blueprint for succeeding once the Idols SA juggernaut has moved on.

  • The season 16 finale of Idols SA is on Mzansi Magic, DStv Channel 161 on Sunday at 5pm 

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