During the summer of 2003, a ragtag group of moppets competed on an American Idol spinoff. American Juniors were a musical group, and one child would be voted into the group every week. This was less harsh than American Idol because no one was voted off, per se, but ultimately it was pretty brutal. Everything was fine til the last episode, where you had to see all of the kids who didn’t make the cut watch their dreams die, all at once. Fox just couldn’t get the “children’s reality show” thing down, and this was no Kid Nation. Not to mention, a lot of the song choices were better suited to people over the age of consent. Alas, nothing quite says “throwaway summertime reality programming” like 9-year-olds singing about one night stands.
I can’t quite figure out who this was marketed to — kids? old ladies who think every little child reminds them of their grandchildren? creepy people?– and apparently Fox couldn’t, either, because the show never reappeared after that summer. Traci and I loved it, because even at 17 we were watching series that we were technically too old to be interested in (see also, Lizzie Maguire, Degrassi). In Young Adult, Charlize Theron’s character watches American Juniors – you can see a frame of it in the background at one point, but what can I say, I have a good eye for this type of thing – and at that moment, I knew I’d have an affinity for her character. Intentionally or not, this show does have a certain appeal for a certain kind of person. And if I had to wager, I’d imagine that this type of person still cares a little bit about what the American Juniors are doing, a decade down the road:
Taylor and Tori Thompson
From my fascination with the Olsen twins, I have learned that siblings reach an age where they want to be considered individuals. Once their WalMart line launched, you were supposed to call them Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, not Mary-Kate and Ashley. And even at the time, I was kind of like “you guys, it’s WalMart, though, you know? Maybe save the individual billing til you start designing for realsies.” And they did.
The point is, I probably should be giving these two separate entries, but I’m not. Taylor was older and had brown hair, and Tori was younger and blonde. I vaguely remember their mom saying something about how Taylor always thought her sister was prettier, but they were both cute kids and looked really similar, actually. Besides, Taylor got voted in first, so booyah, Tori!
- Age Inappropriate Songs Performed: Love The One You’re With: a celebration of one-night-stands and infidelity. [Lyrics: Don’t be angry – don’t be sad/ Don’t sit crying over good times you’ve had/ There’s a girl right next to you/ And she’s just waiting for something to do […] If you can’t be with the one you love honey/ Love the one you’re with
The Thompson Sisters Today
The Thompson Sisters really love reality singing competitions, I guess, because they appeared on The Voice in 2011. They auditioned jointly, acknowledging that no one is going to view them separately anyway, a lesson that MK&A should probably just learn already. CeeLo turned around during their Stuck Like Glue performance, and the rest was history. A brief history — they were off the show early into the live rounds, but not before performing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (with a posse of swing-dancing “Bugle Boys”), and voice battling to Unwritten (which I love because it makes me feel like I’m about to watch The Hills). Find them on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
As we could have predicted in 2003, the sisters are still good singers and have nice hair.
This little kiddo was cute as a bug’s ear. He didn’t make much of an impression on me, though, because that’s really all I remember about him. Chauncey was the only boy to make the group, meaning Fox failed to even deliver a few viable pre-teen heartthrobs to keep ratings up.
- Age-Inappropriate Song Performed: Hey There Lonely Girl: Chauncey didn’t perform anything too egregious, but we all know that the guys who go after the lonely and insecure gals are bad, bad news, and this tune is a pretty shameless rebound attempt. [Lyrics: You think that only his two lips can kiss your lips/ And make your heart stand still/ But once you’re in my arms you’ll see/ No one can kiss your lips the way I will]
According to the twitter account of someone called @therealCHAUNCEY, who I am assuming is the real Chauncey, he is a singer/songwriter/arranger and a student at Berklee. Impressive! In my two-minute scroll through his Twitter feed, Matthews uses the words “stoned,” “sex,” and “Hennessy,” but I’m pretty sure he’s still like nine years old so I’m just gonna go ahead and forget about that. On January 2 he tweeted that “these grades suck,” so hopefully that’s going better for him by now. You can also find him on Facebook, so check there if you’re in Boston and are creepy enough to want to see him perform live.
Anyway, I commend Chauncey for continuing to follow his dreams, and also for maintaining a strong web presence so that I didn’t have to try too hard for this one.
Lucy was the elder statesman of the American Juniors — with the current age requirements on American Idol, she practically would be eligible for that these days. But things were different in 2003. American Idol claimed that it was going to create a bona fide pop sensation every season, and for that reason it didn’t allow contestants to be too young or too old. Lucky for Lucy – come on, lucky for America – she barely squeaked into American Juniors’ age range, and looked like Chauncey and Tori’s cool babysitter.
- Age Inappropriate Song Performed: Call Me: I’m glad Blondie pointed out that ladies can make booty calls, too, but I just don’t think that’s an appropriate activity for 13-year-olds. [Lyrics: Cover me with kisses, baby/ Cover me with love/ Roll me in designer Sheets/ I’ll never get enough.]
I don’t feel like I should even have to do this. If you ever actually cared about American Juniors, you’d know that Lucy plays Aria on the hit ABC Family show “Pretty Little Liars.” Hale is indisputably the most successful American Junior. She also signed with Hollywood Records this year.
Last to be voted in, but first in my heart. Danielle was just a sweet, sensible kid in upper elementary school with musical talent and parents willing to take the gamble that reality TV wouldn’t screw her up too bad. Like Chauncey, I can’t remember much about her.
- Age Inappropriate Song Performed: None, really, but I suppose Daydream Believer. She sang that she woke up with a gentleman old enough to be shaving. So much for puppy love? [Lyrics: The six o’clock alarm would never ring/ But it rings and we rise, wipe the sleep out of our eyes/ The shavin’ razor’s cold and it stings]
According to Wikipedia, Danielle appeared in several high school productions, in which she probably showed those kids how it was done, if my memory of her S Club 7 cover serves me. She also apparently was in a movie called Beautiful Noise in 2011. I never heard of it, although I was briefly excited when I got it confused with Joyful Noise. In any event, it sounds like a winner if key phrases from the IMDb summary are to be believed. “Rollicking, modern-day musical drama?” “Free-spirited young singer?” “Searches cross-country?” “Reclusive, aging pop-rock icon from the sixties?” Clearly relevant to my interests.
Keep checking Cookies + Sangria for an update on some of the losers, or, because they were just kids, I suppose “the ones who didn’t win!”
UPDATE: Bios of the non-winners are up here!