Sounds Like Teen Spirit (with Elle Fanning)

Pop is inseparable from reality TV singing competitions. From Eurovision to American Idol, scores of stars got their start in singing competitions. We’ve long overlooked this influence on pop, but were inspired to look into the phenomenon by the release of Teen Spirit, a pop-musical film about a fictional singing competition .

What is the history of these shows? Who got their big break on one? Is there a singing show musical aesthetic? We hit the books and records to find out, and the answers might surprise. Finally we speak with Elle Fanning, who plays contestant Violet in the film, about what it takes to train to be a singer primed for national fame.

Songs Discussed

  • Elle Fanning – Dancing On My Own
  • Frank Sinatra with The Hoboken Four on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour
  • Gladys Knight on the Original Amateur Hour
  • Abba – Waterloo
  • Celine Dion – Ne Partez Pas Moi Celine
  • Alanis Morisette on Star Search
  • Girls Tyme with Beyoncé on Star Search
  • Kelly Clarkson – A Moment Like This
  • Whitney Houston – I Have Nothing
  • Nina Simone – Feeling Good
  • Janis Joplin – Piece of My Heart
  • Susan Boyle – I Dreamed A Dream
  • Elle Fanning – Don’t Kill My Vibe (originally by Sigrid)

Recommended listening

  • Mavis Staples – Anytime
  • Anderson Paak – Ventura
  • The Beths – Future Me Hates Me
  • Max, Quinn XCII – Love Me Less
  • Khalid, John Mayer – Outta My Head

Correction: Though non-European countries do compete in Eurovision, Canada has not competed in the contest. Celine Dion represented Switzerland in her performance of “Ne Partez Pas Moi Celine” in 1988.