Colin Stough’s Rollercoaster Ride On American Idol

It’s a truism that any publicity is good publicity. This may have some truth for those who are already celebrities, but it’s not always true for television reality shows, where a single poor performance can put an end to a budding career. In extreme cases, appearing on a reality show can ruin a person’s reputation. It can be a risky undertaking.

Colin Stough was spared pre-entry second-guessing as his mother signed him up for this year’s American Idol without his knowledge. When his mother told him to grab his guitar for the preliminary virtual audition, he thought she was scamming him. He played along. The penny dropped when he was invited to a live audition in front of the judges.

At the time of writing, the video of Colin Stough’s slowed-down cover of Robyn’s pop hit Dancing On My Own is from last week’s show that saw him advance into the top twelve. It was a decisive performance as up until this point there was a sense that he was lucky to be in the top 20 finalists. As judge Katy Perry explains, Stough had star quality, but his lack of performing experience translated into a lack of confidence on stage. With his Robyn cover, he knocked it out of the park, she said.

Perry was so enamoured with Stough’s performance that she described him as “the Brad Pitt of country”. “He really sealed his deal,” she said. “I think he literally turned his life around. He’s the Brad Pitt of country music. He’s got the taste and the song choice and the vocal ability.” This Monday, two days ago, Stough made good on his promise and advanced to the finals of American Idol with his take on It’s Been Awhile by Staind. It is more rock than Stough’s previous songs.

Judging from the responses, this performance might be decisive as it has broadened Stough’s appeal to include viewers who are not fond of country music. All eyes are on the final.

Colin Stough is 18 years old. He lives in Gattman, Mississippi, in a house adjacent to that of his grandparents’ home and in the same area as his aunt and uncle and cousins. He was raised by his mother after his father abandoned the family. He works as an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning) technician.

This morning, Wednesday 3 May, I searched for the latest responses to Stough’s cover of Been Awhile. I was taken by surprise. Over the last day, Stough has become the centre of a media storm on account of Facebook posts from 2020 and 2021. The 2020 post shows Colin Stough posing with a large wild cat that he apparently hunted. I suspect a lot of people will feel, “well it is rural Mississippi, one would expect a little hunting”. The 2021 post is more problematic. It is a meme juxtaposing an African American man with saggy, underwear-revealing, jeans with a Confederate War Memorial statue.

The caption on the meme reads: “How does a statue being in the same place for 100 years suddenly become offensive and men walking around in public with there [sic] a** showing not offensive? Are people really this ignorant?”

This is a breaking story. Fans of the show are wondering if American Idol has another “Caleb Kennedy” to contend with. In 2021, American Idol finalist Caleb Kennedy dropped off the show after a video showing Kennedy sitting next to a person who seemed to be wearing a KKK hood surfaced online. If you would like to see more from American Idol, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel. You can also visit their official website for more information.

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