Star Academy is a French reality tv show produced by the Dutch company Endemol, based on the Spanish format called Operación Triunfo. It consists of a contest of young singers. It spawned an equally successful show in Quebec called Star Académie. It is broadcast on TF1. At the end of each season, selected contestants go on tour around France, Morocco, Switzerland, Belgium, Tunisia, and other French-speaking countries.
The contestants stay in the Dammarie-lès-Lys castle : The Vives-Eaux castle.
The reality show is hosted by Nikos Aliagas and has featured guest stars such as Céline Dion, Madonna, Tina Arena, Nelly Furtado, Tokio Hotel, Andrea Bocelli, Charles Aznavour, Hélène Ségara, Phil Collins, Kylie Minogue, Dannii Minogue, Beyoncé, Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, Lara Fabian, Rihanna , Shania Twain, Moby, Avril Lavigne, Anastacia, Alicia Keys, Craig David, 50cent , Will.i.am, James Blunt, P Diddy, Sting, David Guetta, Lenny Kravitz, Janet Jackson, Liza Minelli, Johnny Halliday, Paul Anka, Lionel Richie, Alanis Morissette, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Bee Gees, and Ricky Martin.
Season 1 was won in 2001 by Jenifer Bartoli from Nice, who has become one of France's best-loved new female singers since then. Second studio album "Le Passage" has songwriting contributions from Calogero and Benoit Poher from Kyo.
Carine and Mario, along with series 2 contestants Anne-Laure and Houcine and series 5 contestants Pierre and Alexia make up the cast of a new comedie-musicale in France "Salut Joe" which features the songs of legendary star Joe Dassin.
Olivia Ruiz has enjoyed critical and commercial success with her album "La Femme Chocolat".
Season 2 of Star Academy is generally regarded as the best of all five seasons, primarily because it launched some successful solo careers - not just winner Nolwenn but also Emma, who reinvented herself as France's answer to Avril Lavigne; talented singer, songwriter and producer Jeremy Chatelain who married Alizee; singer-songwriter Georges-Alain Jones; Aurelie Konate who successfully appeared in the comedie-musicale Belles Belles Belles based on the music of Claude Francois. Series 2 had a winning combination of talents and personalities, and is considered by many to have the most talented students overall.
After the highly successful season 2, much was expected of season 3 and the favourites were named at the beginning: Sofia and Michal. As it turned out, both of them made their respective male/female semi finals, joined by Elodie and Patxi respectively. Many critics and the professors considered Sofia to be not just the best this year, but the one of the best students in the history of Star Academy France overall. Elodie, who was considered to be inferior to Sofia, ended up making it to the finals, where she beat Polish contestant Michal and become the winner of Star Academy 3.
Michal will return to the music scene in France in 2007 with his second album "All Alone with my Gueule". Sofia ended up releasing her own album, 'Mon Cabaret', in 2005.
Season 4 winner Grégory Lemarchal overcame a respiratory illness, to become the first male winner of Star Academy in France. He released his debut single "Ecris L'Histoire" and debut album "Je Deviens Moi" in France in 2005. Many felt Hoda Nekra should have been the winner, as she was considered the most talented overall. Grégory also enjoyed success in 2006 with "Meme Si", a bilingual duet with Lucie Silvas of her song "What You're Made Of".
The top students of this year include not just Grégory and Hoda, but also Radia, Lucie, and Mathieu.
On April 30th 2007, Gregory Lemarchal died of complications due to cystic fibrosis while waiting for a lung transplant.
Season 5 was notable for the return of some familiar faces - season 1/2 directrice Alexia Laroche-Joubert returned in the same role, after which the role was filled in season 3 by Nathalie Andre, and in season 4 by Gerard Louvin. Also back was Raphaelle Ricci as prof of scenic expression.
Despite an expanded age limit on participants, there was only one noticeably older participant - rocker Pascal (37). His popularity grew over the series and he eventually reached the males semi-final where he faced, and lost to, Jeremy.
Among the female contestants the early favourite was Emilie, a violinist who originated from the island of Reunion. However, her popularity with the jury was seemingly not shared by the public. In the female semi final she and fellow student Ely were voted out in favour of Magalie, who had attracted much attention in France because, unlike previous Star Academy participants, she was overweight.
In the end Magalie triumphed on 16.12.2005 and became the fifth Star Academy winner in France. With Magalie as the winner Season 5 turned out to be a complete fiasco as she was not at all appreciated by the music-loving public, as she sold the least CDs by a series winner compared to previous winners Jenifer and Nolwenn. This raises the question of whether the judging should be 100% in the hands of the voting public. Of this season's mediocre batch the only ones to really stand out are Ely Breton and Emilie Minatchy.
All of last year's profs return this year including directrice Alexia Laroche-Joubert and dance teacher Kamel Ouali, the latter kept French fans guessing regarding his participation up to the last minute, as he remains involved in the popular musical Le Roi Soleil. Nikos Aliagas will continue to present the daily updates and weekly "Prime" on Fridays.
Much is expected of Star Academy 6 and the focus is expected to shift from traditional chanson to "nouvelle chanson francaise" made popular by singers like Benabar, Benjamin Biolay and former Star Ac 1 contestant Olivia Ruiz. Contestants Marina and Jean-Charles reflected this new musical style and Marina, in particular, was allowed to sing her own compositions on the "Prime".
Gael, whose musical style resembled that of the Gipsy Kings, eventually quit on 13.11.06, allegedly in relation to the refusal of the producers to allow him to record with the Gipsy Kings, whom his musical style clearly owed an allegiance to.
There was also controversy over remarks made by Raphaelle Ricci following the eviction of fan favourite Nicolas Charvillat, suggesting that her fellow "profs" had decided to evict him before he even sang a note. In all fairness, however, Nicholas was not the most talented of students, with little or no range in his voice and facial expressions, and was not the best dancer.
Eventual finalist Dominique had already tasted success in Italy as a member of "Popstars" winners Lollipop.
In the end Cyril, the first black person to win Star Academy or any singing contest in France, triumphed by 67% of the vote over Dominique (33%) on 22.12.2006 and became the sixth Star Academy winner in France. Dominique, an Italian (like Ely, a Canadian last year), didn't stand a chance when it is the French public's votes that count.
On the eve of the final, Cyril had said in an interview "It is like France versus Italy" recalling the World Cup final earlier this year. However, Cyril had little personality and nothing but his voice, though one judge described it as "the voice of an angel". Dominique, on the other hand, is a really multi-faceted and talented singer, capable of breezy dancing, playing the guitar, and providing spectacle of the first degree. This again raises the question of the legitimacy of the voting system. In all the polls conducted over internet and in fans' blogs Cyril trailed well behind Cynthia in the semi-final and behind Dominique in the final and yet surprisingly the results of the voting in both cases gave him large majorities over the two girls. How was this possible? It seemed that the whole of Martinique and Antilles and every member of the black community in France gave him their votes. See comment in the French article here
Despite her loss, and that of the other equally talented Cynthia, it was an overall good year for Star Academy this year, improving on its sub-standard previous year. Of this year's batch of students, there were many talented students, including Cyril, Dominique, Cynthia, Gael, Brice, Marina, and Ludovic.
This year was unusual as only 7 students will be going on the tour: Cyril, Dominique, Cynthia, Jean-Charles, Brice, Marina, and Ludovic.
Mathieu had been nominated 6 times over Star Academy 7, but each time was favored by the public to continue, until finally, improving his show greatly, ending up in the final where Quentin, the favorite of most spectators with 0 nominations, won by the close margin of 52.6% to 47.4% for Mathieu.
This can be explained by the fact that the chateau Dammarie-lès-Lys has been sold and will become a luxury hotel. The production crew claims that the 8th season could have taken place in the chateau since the sale will not be completed until 2008. That's why the chateau is still available (with cameras ready to go) if the broadcast from the Brassier Hotel becomes a problem or is compromised.