“American Idol” champion Carrie Underwood’s Grammy victories Sunday underscored the growing impact of the hit TV talent search on pop culture.
Underwood, who won season four of the Fox network’s blockbuster singing competition, took home Grammys for best female country vocal performance and best new artist.
She joined a growing list of “Idol” winners to earn recognition in the race for the music industry’s highest honors.
“This is absolutely unbelievable,” Underwood said in accepting the prize for best new artist. She went on to thank God, “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller and various others, including record mogul Clive Davis and the “Idol” show itself.
“I owe everything to ‘American Idol’,” said Underwood, who also performed the Eagles’ hit “Desperado” and “San Antonio Rose” during the show.
The telecast last year lagged in ratings against “American Idol” and this year the awards show ran an amateur contest of its own to choose a singer to perform a duet with Justin Timberlake during Sunday’s Grammy ceremony.
Three “My Grammy Moment” finalists were chosen by fans online and got to rehearse a week before the show with Timberlake, who won two Grammys Sunday.
The winner, Robyn Troup from Houston, Texas, who turned 19 Sunday, was picked by viewers during the telecast and went on to perform “Ain’t No Sunshine” with Timberlake on the show.
“This is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me,” Troup said backstage, adding she had signed a deal with Timberlake’s production company.
Underwood’s victories proved again that “American Idol” has grown from a TV ratings sensation, ranking as the most-watched series in U.S. prime time in recent years, into a fertile incubator for new musical talent.
Kelly Clarkson, the first “Idol” champion, took home two Grammys in 2006. Another “Idol” winner, Fantasia Barrino, scored four Grammy nominations last year and fellow “Idol” champ Ruben Studdard received a nomination in 2004.
But Clarkson created a stir by failing to acknowledge her “Idol” breakthrough when collecting her trophies last year for best pop vocal album and best female pop vocal performance.
Underwood, however, was quick to embrace it.
“I think tonight proved that ‘American Idol’ can transcend the talent show stereotype that it has,” she said backstage.
“The truth of the matter is that at the end of the season, someone great who wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise, wins this and gets a shot at a career,” Randy Jackson, one of judges on “American Idol,” said backstage.
Even some of the losing contestants on “American Idol” have gone on to bigger things, including Jennifer Hudson, who took home a Golden Globe for her role in the musical film ”Dreamgirls” and is up for an Oscar for the same performance.
Underwood’s single “Jesus, Take the Wheel” also earned a Grammy for best country song, a songwriter’s award that in this case went to Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson.