With AMERICAN IDOL halfway through Season 10 with one of the best batches of vocalists in years, it’s time to take a look at what’s working with the show and what isn’t.
Even though new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez have added some spice to the judges tables, the lack of any real meaty criticisms have also been a detriment. That said, no matter how much IDOL feels like it’s Teflon, it will have serious competition from THE X FACTOR judged and mentored by former IDOL Simon Cowell. When people watch that show in the fall and realize what they’ve been missing, it could spell serious trouble for Fox’s flagship competition series come next Spring.
That’s why these ten fixes (alongside the successful one’s the show has already made this year) can keep the show at the top of the heap and hopefully co-exist peacefully with THE X FACTOR in the Fox universe.
10 – Song Selections
Every year, the contestants pick some of the most obvious and in some cases very safe songs to perform. In the past, the show has curtailed that by narrowing the subject matter (i.e. Dolly Parton week or this year with Elton John week). I think the symptom is a lot deeper than that. While Casey Abrams and James Durbin have really dug deep for out-of-the-box songs on IDOL this year, not every contestant is that musically educated. So, in some ways, I think the constants themselves need to take a music boot camp before going on the show – exposing themselves to different types of music and also understanding which type of music fits their vocal chops. And for the show, they need to impose a few more restrictions on their song night choices. For example, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame night was a disaster. Why? Because they allowed the contestants to play it safe with songs from people like Percy Sledge and Michael Jackson. Yes, Sledge and Jackson are in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, but the songs they picked were mid-tempo pop or a ballad. Come on. If it’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame night, it has be someone from the Hall of Fame AND it has to be a rock and roll song. Also, if they already had a previous theme night that year (the Beatles, etc.), then no songs from that artist in subsequent nights.
9 – One Song Per Artist
Along the same lines, contestants should only get one crack at a certain artist’s songs during the competition. That means, if you sing The Beatles (or any of the solo songs from the Beatles) at any time during the competition, you’re not allowed to sing another song from them again. This year, the Beatles issue popped up and Jacob Lusk has already sang two Luther Vandross tunes. Two! That’s two too many.
8 – No two Ballad Performances in a Row
Most of the contestants are fearful that if they don’t sing a ballad over and over again (because it clearly can showcase singing chops and high notes), they’ll get voted out. That’s why Stefano Longone, Pia Toscano and Jacob kept singing ballads throughout and kept getting saved. Yet the moment Pia and Stefano sang a faster/upbeat song, they were eliminated. If the show forced contestants to mix things up, the show would be more interesting and there wouldn’t be a non-ballad curse.
7 – Encourage the Male Viewers To Vote
I would understand if each year the girls stank the place up and were justifiably voted out, but for the last four years, they’ve been unfairly voted out quickly and efficiently by voters who we know comprise primarily Tween girls and housewives voting for the hot young guys. Voting by guys, even if they watch the show, proves to be elusive. Find a way to encourage the male viewers to vote. Make it easy for them. Make it feel more of a sense of duty and then, perhaps the balance may occur (or maybe it won’t – since guys are more likely to vote for the rockers and not for the whiny chicks).
6 – Force the Judges To Give Critiques
The Judges are so fearful to critique their favorites, they’re letting people squeak by that should have been eliminated weeks ago. While this certainly has happened in previous seasons, it’s more obvious now when both Steven and Jennifer continue to give praise, with Lopez only occasionally willing to give an criticism whatsoever. Yes, we know it’s hard, yes, you don’t want to hurt feelings, but how are the contestants going to grow and learn when all Tyler says is “that was good,” “That was stunning,” “you’re great.” Not everyone is great every night. Tell them that. Challenge them. At least Randy Jackson is stepping up to the plate, but even he’s being a bit timid this season.
5 – Make Jimmy Iovine a Judge
I love that Jimmy is on the show as a mentor, but he NEEDS to be a Judge. His critiques are dead-on (most of the time) and he doesn’t have a problem speaking his mind which the show sorely needs. Put him at the table. The sow needs a voice of reason if the others aren’t going to step up to the plate and be.
4 – More Duets
One of the best fixes this season has been the near elimination of the “group sing” which was by the far the most embarrassing aspect of IDOL in the past. When you have singers that don’t mesh, they sound terrible together. However, by pairing individual singers up, you get interesting dynamics. Two weeks ago, you had Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina singing an awesome country duet, while Casey and Haley Reinhart did that pop-jazz thing that deservedly won them a standing ovation. Even last week, you had Casey, James and Scotty doing some pretty electric harmonizing. Keep that up,. It makes the show more exciting and less cornball.
3 – Stop With The Obvious Product Placement
Every year, the contestants go to a “premiere” screening and then talk about how much they loved the movie. This year they were at the premiere of RED RIDING HOOD, and yet, when they showed footage of them watching the movie, they were in a screening room. What was up with that? And they loved it, naturally, because they were told to love that piece of crap. This is shallow, silly and too much of a stretch. Same goes for the shots of people in the audience who are from Fox shows they desperately want to pimp. I can handle that, to a degree, but it’s still pretty annoying when they do it all the time. Don’t even get me started about Coke.
2 – Make the Studio Recordings Play A Factor In Voting
This one is a bit controversial, but I think factoring in whether viewers are actually downloading the songs from the previous night’s performance, should also add to the votes. After all, once the contestants are off the show, they have to sell records, and the last two winners Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen had a tough time doing that. The discovery of listening to these recordings is an eye-opener. Naima Adedapo who I absolutely hated on the show, actually sounded pretty good in her recordings. It made sense why the judges used her as a wild card. The problem is, she stunk at song selection and she spazzed out too much on stage during the live shows. That said, Haley rises to the top in these studio recordings. Her voice is stellar and unique. She stands out. And no one is going to buy a song unless they’re getting something different enough to want to own. So allowing a single download to count as a single vote, could actually affect the voting in very interesting ways.
1 – No More Funny Business
While I could see Casey getting voted out after his performance of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I didn’t see why he was given the boot a week later (and then saved) when there were so many other lackluster performances. It felt a bit staged and crass. It felt like monkey business from the producers trying to stave off another female from getting voted off and making the “Judge Save” seem like a bigger deal than it was. There was very little sincerity in how that all played out (at least from my point of view). There was something funky going on there and if indeed that’s true, the producers need to stay out of this kind of staged melodrama and find a better way to make the show nail-biting. The way to do that is find a way to give the girls an even playing field as the boys (maybe it’s the download thing, maybe it’s something else). Who knows.
AMERICAN IDOL is a fun show. It’s entertaining and this year, the contestants are top notch, but the show still needs a few more tweaks. It’s come a long way since last year’s train wreck, but now is the time to step up the game before THE X FACTOR steals its thunder in the fall.
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CLICK HERE for a rundown and review of AMERICAN IDOL – Season 10 – THE TOP 7 PERFORM
CLICK HERE for a rundown and review of AMERICAN IDOL – Season 10 – THE TOP 8 PERFORM
CLICK HERE for a rundown and review of AMERICAN IDOL – Season 10 – THE TOP 9 PERFORM
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