Published May 16, 2011
In a recent episode of CMT’s “Next Superstar,” the remaining contestants in the country singing competition paid tribute to U.S. troops by heading north to Fort Campbell, Ky. There they each spent one-on-one time with the mothers, fathers, spouses and siblings of soldiers who had not seen loved ones serving in Afghanistan for more than a year.
After listening to an array of touching personal stories while waiting for the U.S.-troop-filled plane to touch down, the contestants drew on the experiences and collaborated with leading Nashville songwriters. The following day, they debuted their songs for the troops and their families, who then had the task of rating their performances to dictate who would stay and who would go on the elimination-based show.
"Next Superstar" producer Nigel Lythgoe, who also produces “American Idol,” said it was an opportunity to spotlight the hard working U.S. servicemen and women, and an attempt to show how much the troops and their families sacrifice in honor of our nation.
“The whole experience was more than just life changing for the contestants, it was life changing for all the crew as well – myself included. It was one of those eye-opening experiences that really made the war real," Lythgoe told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. "We were witnessing dads who were seeing their babies for the first time, a girl telling us about her dad missing her graduation. These were just some of the heartbreaking stories of the sacrifice they make for their country."
Lythgoe's son and co-producer Simon added that it “was the most powerful thing” he’d ever experienced in his 20-year television career.
Lythgoe said the entertainment industry as a whole isn't doing enough to recognize the efforts of the United States military.
“A lot of people don’t talk about it, do they? They’ve got a full television out there. We’re looking at a show about army wives, who, if you can believe it, are acting as surrogate mothers. They’re having children for people in this country while they’re husbands are away,” he said. “It’s almost too honest isn’t it? We don’t see the consequences. There are consequences happening every single day.”
“Whether they become a superstar comes down to the longevity of their career and their music,” Lythgoe said. “But what we’re proving here is that there is real song writing talent as well as performers.”
Looking ahead, Lythgoe is looking forward to watching two former colleagues battle it out when “The X Factor” premieres on this fall.
“The chemistry between Simon (Cowell) and Paula (Abdul) is absolutely fabulous, and I’m pleased that they’re bringing it back,” Lythgoe added. “Certainly, the ‘X Factor’ is more about the judges than it is the contestants, so it will be interesting to see how the public takes this on board. However, I think they’ll be delighted to see Simon and Paula back.”