American Idol winner Phillip Phillips’ coronation single “Home” leapt up the charts following multiple TV spots in women’s gymnastics segments in NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics. But how did “Home” end up getting involved with the Olympics in the first place? For the answer, originally published last August, we called NBC Sports and talked to senior Olympics producer David Michaels. For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2012: Behind the Scenes coverage.
David Michaels, the brother of sports broadcaster Al Michaels, says he was turned onto the song back in May by his daughter, Megan Michaels, who is a supervising producer on American Idol. “My wife and I were actually sitting at home watching the finale,”he says, “and I heard the song for the first time, and I said to her, “Wow, I bet I could use that in the Olympics on some night.”
As luck would have it, the next day a man named Myles Lewis, who works for 19 Entertainment (which manages many Idol alums), reached out to Megan to ask if she knew anyone working on the Olympics. “She said, ‘Yeah, I do – my dad,'” laughs Michaels.
After an initial conversation with Mr. Lewis, Michaels got right to work. “I took some old gymnastics footage on my home computer on Final Cut [a movie-editing program], and I laid down the song,” he says. “I just wanted to see if it would work, and then it was one of those a-ha moments of, ‘Wow, this could really be something cool.'”
After a test segment at Olympic Trials [embedded below], which Michaels calls just “okay,” he was ready to give the song the full treatment. “We just knew with the right pictures, we could really make this thing explode.” He brought the potential theme to his London production team. “Everybody I played it for went, ‘Wow, what is that?’ and I go, ‘It was the American Idol winner.’ And they were like, ‘Really?’ (Phillips told EW that he is a fan of such reactions: “It’s kind of cool that people like a song and don’t recognize it from an American Idol.”)
Michaels says he instantly felt strongly about “Home” because of its well-crafted structure, which is tailor-made for TV. “The very first time I heard it, the instrumental part was such a great anthem,” he says. “The song is so perfectly put together for our purposes… you had this great instrumental lead-in, you’ve got the vocal that can play in the clear, and then you’ve got the instrumental out. For me, that’s perfect.”
Of course, the lyrics helped, too. “We decided to focus our coverage on the team [the Fab Five] and not any individual girl on those first two nights,” says Michaels. “[The song] has got a team feeling to it – it doesn’t really work as well for an individual. So, it fit perfectly for the team concept.”
Obviously, Michaels was onto something; the track (which has never been credited on NBC) quickly shot to number one on iTunes following the first night of women’s gymnastics (which drew over 40 million viewers).
So, there you have it. Apparently, all it takes is a family of producers, a management company, an American Idol title, and, most of all, a legitimately solid song (read our review here), to take over the pop charts.