‘Idols SA’ might have lost its magic but there’s no denying it left its mark

Ex-Idols contestant Lloyiso. Photo Supplied

Ex-Idols contestant Lloyiso. Photo Supplied

Published Feb 12, 2023


There are few television evocations more enduring than the hilarious Wooden Mic segment on “Idols SA”.

Back in the early and late ’90s, the Wooden Mic, which was about as hotly contested as the main prize, was a favourite among viewers across the country.

Since it was announced that M-Net wouldn’t be renewing the show after its upcoming 19th season, fans on social media have been going down memory lane and reliving some its more hilarious submissions.

While the Wooden Mic was undoubtedly brilliant, “Idols SA” was about a lot more than this sideshow of gaffes. The show’s greatest legacy was how it was consistently a springboard for launching the careers of several national stars over the years.

Singer Lloyiso is one the more recent incredible success stories from the show. The 23-year-old shot to national fame during the 11th season of “Idols SA” (2015) when he made the Top 5 as a 16-year-old.

In the years since, he’s firmly established himself as one of the top young artists in the country, with several hit singles and chart-topping collaborations to boot.

In 2021, he signed with the New York record label, Republic Records, joining the likes of The Weeknd, Post Malone, Taylor Swift and Drake.

Now, he clearly has something big up his sleeve, having recently tweeted: “SA I need you guys to back me because I’m about to be the biggest artist in the world.”

Amanda Black, also a contestant on season 11, exploded onto the scene in 2016 ,with her hit single “AmaZulu”.

In the same year, she released her debut studio album, which saw her win Best Newcomer of the Year and Best Female Artist of the Year at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) the following year.

In 2019, she was named the best streaming local artist on Apple Music.

Shekhinah, who was among the Top 32 of Season 7 and made the Top 6 of season 8 in 2012, has also exploded into a mainstream juggernaut over the years.

Shekhinah. Picture: Instagram

Her debut album “Rose Gold” was released in 2017. It achieved platinum certification within a year. She was inescapable on radio as the album produced three number-one singles: "Suited"; "Please Mr." and "Different", and won her Album of the Year and Female Artist of the Year at the SAMAs.

Other notable contestants over the years include Khaya Mthethwa, Mmatema Moremi, Musa Sukwene, Heinz Winkler, Elvis Blue, Khaya Mthethwa and Karin Kortje.

In 2019’s 15th season, Top 5 contestant Viggy Qwabe, abruptly withdrew from the competition following her identical twin sister Virginia’s unexpected exit.

Shortly afterwards, the twins' father controversially alleged that the voting process was rigged. Despite this, the twins have gone on to forge successful careers as a duo known as Q Twins.

In recent years, they’ve worked with the likes of industry heavyweights DJ Tira, Kabza De Small, Sjava and Boohle.

Despite this track record, “Idols SA”, one of the most impactful shows in the history of SA television, has been sliding in popularity over the years.

Initially, the show worked so well because it was part of the pop-culture conversation. But, over the years, its decline has coincided with the show’s inability to evolve and find new ways to engage its audience.

Idols SA judges Somizi, Randall Abrahams, Unathi Msengana and show host ProVerb. Picture: Supplied

Following the departure of the popular long-serving pair of Unathi Nkayi and Randall Abrahams from the show in 2021, actress Thembi Seete and rapper-producer JR Bogopa were introduced in the hopes of reviving the show.

However, this did little to help boost the show and numbers continued to dip this past season.

The domestic abuse allegations levelled against judge Somizi Mhlongo by his husband Mohale Motaung and the subsequent public fallout that same year didn’t help either.

It's worth noting though that the decline is not exclusive to “Idols SA”. Over the past decade, the singing competition genre across the world has faded.

“American Idol”, which was the franchise’s most popular iteration, was canned back in 2016 due to plummeting ratings. The show had been a monster hit before its audience eroded at an alarming rate during the last few years it was on the air.

This marked the beginning of the end for the world's most widely watched television franchise (and one of the most successful entertainment formats ever) as various other versions of it across the world went off air.

Off the back of “Idols” success, several other shows have tried to emulate it, to mixed results. In 2006, KykNet famously launched a spin-off called “Afrikaanse Idols”.

With the entire programme in Afrikaans, the show was unable to take off and lasted one one season.

Since joining the show in its sixth season, ProVerb is another star who’s blossomed through the platform.

Proverb. Picture: Supplied

The acclaimed rapper became the sole presenter from the seventh season and holds that role to this day. Along the way, he also grew into an astute executive producer of the show.

It was only fitting that it was he who broke the news during a video announcing the opening of auditions: “It’s time to say goodbye,” he said. “18 unforgettable seasons, the history of creating stars.”

Auditions for the last season will kick off on February 12.