Nandipha Pantsi
2 minute read
16 Sep 2014
2:00 pm

Idols SA: Learning from the best

Nandipha Pantsi

The top 11 contestants on the tenth season of Idols SA have finally been revealed. And by the look of things, this year's winner is going to be young and energetic with a unique take on music.

Khaya Mthethwa. Picture: Supplied

But as one of the reality competition’s judges, Randall Abrahams, frequently says: “The next Idol needs to have a lot more than stage presence. He or she needs to be someone who can be marketable to South African audiences; someone whose light can shine long after Idols has ended.”

Season 8’s winner, Khaya Mthethwa, is perhaps the most successful musician to come out of the competition. Mthethwa scooped a whopping 2.5 million votes of the 3 million that were cast during the show in 2012.

But Mthethwa’s success was not by chance – apart from having a powerful voice, Mthethwa made a number of clever decisions, which continue to make him a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry.

The first of these were made while he was still in the competition: instead of trying out a number of things on stage, Mthethwa stuck to what he knew best and gave his fans exactly what they expected. In fact, he found ways to give popular songs by artists such as Bruno Mars and Nicki Minaj a special “Khaya” soulful twist.

Mthethwa grew up listening to gospel music and his love for the genre came through in every song he sang. By the time he won the competition, Mthethwa had established his own unique sound and worked hard to sell it.

What many people don’t know about Idols SA is that after winning the biggest singing competition in the country, doors in the music industry don’t open automatically. Season 6 runner-up Lloyd Cele opened up about these challenges post-Idols in his autobiography The Dream of an Idol.

“After the show is over, people always ask: ‘What happened to the winner? Why didn’t they release an album?’ – but the truth is, after Idols you are on your own. If you don’t push yourself, no one else will. The real work happens after Idols.”

This is exactly what Mthethwa did. After being signed to Universal Music Group, he worked even harder – this time, showing the world there was more to him than what they’d seen on the Idols stage.

He capitalised on the attention he was getting from the show, releasing his debut single Move shortly afterwards.

Despite having won, Mthethwa continues to seek opportunities that can help him grow in the industry. He remains relevant by collaborating with the likes of kwaito heavyweight Big Nuz. He is also the presenter and music director of Mzansi Magic’s Gospel Alive – using it to connect with his fan base on a different level.

Lastly – and perhaps most significantly – Mthethwa never forgot the millions of viewers who voted for him. Instead, he carried on entertaining them on social networks, taking criticism, as well as praise, from his fans.