Masterclass Improvement Tips For American Idol Season 12 And Beyond


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I love American Idol. There – I admit it! But, like some dysfunctional prodigal son, it appears to have lost its way – along with a load of viewers – over the past few years. What happened to this show that we all know and love?

Are we that fickle that we’ve become jaded and disillusioned with the show or is there something or things missing from this show since say, Season 7? The answer really is a combination of the two. They go hand-in-hand.

I have been doing some thinking about American Idol since the Finale a few weeks ago, wondering if there was a magic “fix”. I’m not sure if these ideas would work, but would it hurt? Would it?

Here we go:
Problem: Since it’s inception, this show has always been first and foremost a singing competition. Therefore, the primary focus should be on the vocals, with the instrumentation secondary. American Idol has been suffering from the WGWG (White Guy With Guitar) syndrome since Season Seven. Since that time, only a WGWG has won the competition each season.

Solution: Do not introduce any instrumentation until the Top 5 – maybe Top 6. This will encourage singers to use their voices to its full potential, keeping the focus on the art of delivering a strong vocal performance. By Top 5, hopefully, the strongest singers will preside, having garnered a fan base from the earliest stages of the competition.

Problem: Jimmy Iovine’s comments prior to a performance should be deemed unnecessary. They are biased and contrived at best and, generally, do more harm than good to a contestant. How embarrassing was it to see the outtakes of Jimmy confusing Jessica Sanchez with Jennifer Lopez?. I guess this was Idol’s idea of humor.

Solution: If Jimmy Iovine feels the need to comment on Performance Night, he should do so along with the judges – live and unedited – and after the performance. The same holds true for his commentary on Results Night. Enough of the scripted editing – it’s unfair and disingenuous.

Problem: When the singers are faced with two numbers during the latter stages of the competition, the performances lack flow and momentum. And, oftentimes, the viewer becomes confused because the genres are so disparate.

Solution: Why can’t the singers perform the songs back-to-back, as they would if they were giving a live concert? American Idol adopted this idea one year – Season 4, maybe? – and I loved it. The singers could introduce both their songs, showcasing to the viewers how adept they are in establishing communication with their audience beyond: “Woo, are you ready? Come on!!!”

Problem:The manner in which the semi-finalists were handled over the past few years is an abomination. We barely had time to connect with the singers. Some of the singers that eventually did make the Top 13 only did so based on the vast amount of airtime allotted to them during the preliminary rounds via back stories, scripted drama whatever!

Solution: For the love of all that is right and good, please bring back the Top 24 Semi-Finalists stage of the competition: 12 Guys, 12 Girls performing on live television over a 3-week period until, via live voting, we have a nicely assembled Top 12.

This is not only a great way to assist the singers as they adapt to the live performance aspect of the show, but also it gives the viewers an opportunity to really understand each singer’s true potential before they vote their favorite through to the Finals.

In Season 7, I firmly believe that American Idol winner David Cook would not have made the Top 12 were it not for his exposure via the Top 24 shows, culminating in his memorable “Hello” performance.

Problem: The ratings are a disaster and the audiences are shrinking along with the average age level of the Top 12. This is no coincidence. Why should older audience members tune in when they have little in common with the majority of singers on that stage? Also, after a while, all these singers start to sound the same – either, country, pop or R&B.

American Idol really missed a golden opportunity to discover a uniquely gifted artist in Deandre Brackensick. No airtime, no support, subtle sabotaging. Pretty scary stuff. He did not deserve this – not by a long shot.

Solution: Celebrate Diversity! Embrace it! Extend the age range and genre level of the singers in a stronger manner. While other shows are making their mark by doing so, showcasing unique talents such as The Voice Australia’s Rachael Leahcar and The Voice USA’s Chris Mann, American Idol remains stuck in pop, rock, country with a twist of R&B.

And to where did the Big Band Theme Night disappear? That genre is timeless and there is a huge audience waiting to enjoy this music.

Problem: Singers are not treated equally. While some singers were allowed to saunter on the stage with minimal effort and deliver subpar performances, other singers, like the talented Hollie Cavanagh, could not do anything right to save their life. Song requests were denied or changed at the minute for some, while others had their pick of the litter.

Solution: This level of manipulation has to stop. It is insulting to the singers and the viewers. Each singer should have equal access to the copyright song catalogue.

And, what I would love to see is a segment of the singers actually participating in a vocal lesson – not some rehearsal with Jimmy Iovine, where they are dragged out of bed to sing their last-minute song selection of the week. I learn nothing from this and neither does the singer.

I am sure many of you out there have other suggestions. What did I miss? Or did I miss the mark? Pray tell and don’t be shy. The comments section awaits you but play nice. :)

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About Masterclass Lady

Rosanne (Giallonardo) Simunovic began her musical career in Timmins, Ontario. She studied piano with Anne Pizzale and later, at an advanced level, with Soeur Anita Vaugeois (Sister Cecile of Les Soeurs De L’Assomption in Timmins). Her vocal and accompaniment skills were nurtured by her aunt, the late Dorothea Mascioli. When Rosanne graduated from O’Gorman High School, she moved on to the University of Toronto where she continued her piano and vocal studies while attaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was hired as a piano accompanist for several musical companies, most notably, the National Ballet Of Canada. She presently holds an A.R.C.T. Teacher’s Diploma in Voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Rosanne has studied choral conducting with numerous well known Canadian Conductors, including Wayne Riddell of Montreal, Quebec and the internationally renowned Dr. Elmer Iseler. She has been a founding member of numerous community-based arts organizations: the Timmins Arts Council, later known as Arts & Culture Timmins, the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, and, the Timmins Youth Singers…as well as the TYS Alumnus choir, the Timmins Concert Singers. In 1987, she was also selected to be the conductor of the Timmins Board Of Education Choir, comprised of talented students from Grades 5 to 8. In 1988, she was elected to the Board Of Directors of the Ontario Choral Federation (now known as Choirs Ontario), where she served as Chair of the Festivals Committee for six consecutive seasons. In 1996, in honour of the Ontario Choral Federation’s 25th Anniversary, Rosanne was selected as one of 25 recipients of the OCF’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to the choral art. The ceremony was presided by Lieutenant Governor, Hal Jackman. In November 1997, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Rotary Club Of Timmins to receive the prestigious Paul Harris Award for her years of dedication to the artistic development of young musical talent in Timmins. In August of 2002, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Board Of Directors of Choirs Ontario to serve as Conductor of both the Provincial Junior and Teen Choir Camps, now renamed in honour of the Camp Benefactors, Don and Lillian Wright. In November 2002, Rosanne was the one of the recipients of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, honouring her work in the development of the arts in Timmins. Under Rosanne Simunovic’s direction, the Timmins Youth Singers and the Timmins Concert Singers have been featured in numerous choral festivals and performing opportunities outside of Timmins. In 1985, they were selected to partici

30 Responses to “Masterclass Improvement Tips For American Idol Season 12 And Beyond”

  1. Please, could AI hire you to revamp their format? I haven’t been able to force myself to watch Idol for several years now and I miss it!

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  2. Rereader- I have missed you. You had all the latest Jason news! Keep sending it. I still love him like crazy. The Idol honchos do need to reconsider their focus, don’t they?

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  3. Love all your suggestions. Think Jimmy would make a good judge if he gave the feedback at judging time. He doesn’t seem afraid to tell it like it is. After the fact is awkward. There is obvious Manipulation. I was rooting for Haley her season and Holle this season. Maybe part of it was that they both got over judged while others got none. Judges ruined it also with all their standing ovations. Think they miss the boat by not criticizing Screaming. Like the idea of pulling Instruments during early phases for sure. In preliminary judges think they should avoid another guy with a Guitar. How many years have we had a winner from that category. Those of us who liked it when the Voice was key may turn away. Season 7 was my favorite and David Archuleta is still my Idol. Looking forward to you reviewing his new Album due out Aug 7.

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  4. You are so right! One other thing that may have affected the popularity of the show is the fact that so many people question the validity of the voting. In the first few years of the show, it was believable that the the winner was selected by the voters but after the last several years, I seriously doubt it now. Some of the best singers/performers have been eliminated in favor of singers that were far less talented. After a while, many of us have come to realize it’s not about picking ‘the best singer in America’ as Randy reminds us but it’s about watching Idol decide who they feel is the best singer and it’s so obvious. Like Rereader, I miss the old show.

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  5. MCL: I have LONG felt that these changes needed to be made:) It was NICE to see the singers getting to sing CONTEMPORARY songs:)

    One question: What happened to the songwriter part of AI? Imagine Michael Sarver with his 1000+ songs that he has written helping the contestants.

    I would also make Scott MacIntyre–after his choppers were made camera-ready–a judge.

    Finally, ALL finalists would–I would be unsurprised if Ms. Magrane and Mr. Rosado must feel weird JUST failing to clear that FINAL ring fence–have AUTOMATIC–barring any DQ–tour spots.

    And the tour would be done via the ‘high iron’ so that more people could see the contestants in the country[maybe we should have the other finalists do a smaller INTERNATIONAL tour.

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  6. I agree with everything Rosanne. One thing I have always wondered about American Idol is; why do they absolutely have to have the same number of male and female singers?

    I think a person should make it through based on their singing ability and not their gender. There is always a possibility that there may be 16 female and only 8 male singers that are qualified to reach the live shows. Instead of throwing in the sub par singers just to make it an even number why don’t they mix it up a little and allow more of one gender than the other.

    Another thing I would say is that they need to give a more professional analysis of the performance such as you, Rosanne, do each week and then let the public decide who to vote for without being pushed in one direction or the other by the judges and their “goosies” and “beautifuls” and “this one’s gotta have its”.

    By the way the voting system really needs to be revamped. I think that we should be able to call in and rate all of the performances on a scale system during the phone call and the lowest rated contestant would go home. That would be a much fairer way to do it rather than just voting for one particular individual IMO. I say that because, when you are backed into a corner and forced to just pick one person you may have to leave another person behind whom you think performed just as well. You can give your support to more than one person at a time.

    Also I agree that the instruments should be done away with until later in the competition or they should pick one week and make that part of the theme that week. I think that maybe there is too much sex appeal associated with the guitar to allow it to be used regularly by the cutest guy in the competition. Young women and older women that are voting based on sex appeal are drawn to the more masculine aura of the guy playing the guitar I think. Let’s face it, a piano, an ukulele, a violin, or a tambourine are just not going to generate votes for a male performer except in one particular sector of society…LOL. It’s just a fact. I am not trying to degrade anyone in these remarks. Let’s just get back to deciding the winner based on the vocals and the delivery of the songs is all I am saying.

    And Jimmy Iovine should definitely not be able to make comments about a contestant’s performance or give predictions prior to the contestant going on stage. I don’t know whose idea that was but it’s way out of line IMO. And he would never be able to be a judge and give an opinion of the performance right off the cuff. I had heard long before the finale that he was a babbling idiot and couldn’t even put a cognitive sentence together and extensive editing had to be done before his clips were put together for the show.

    Those are just my thoughts and opinions. I know others will disagree but it’s how I feel about the whole process.

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  7. Great ideas and solutions!!! How can we get them to the powers that be at Idol?

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  8. Thanks for your input everyone. It is greatly appreciated. We an only hope that the AI honchos happen upon this blog and maybe adopt some food for thought.

    Taymaro – I hadn’t heard that story about Jimmy but it makes sense after that Jessica-Jennifer debacle. That was ridiculous.

    I also like the idea of voting for the contestant that gave the least successful performance. A scale system is a great idea.

    Keep those comments coming everyone.

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  9. Well not necessarily voting for the worst as there is another group already doing that…LOL but rating them all on a scale of say 1-5 with 5 being the best. That way you could give more than one person a good score and more than one a low score and you would base it on your own opinion of how they performed. The lowest average score for the week would go home.

    The recording would go something like this:

    “PARA ESPAÑOL, OPRIMA NUMERO DOS.

    Thank you for participating in our poll to choose your American Idol Season 12!

    Please rate the contestants on a scale of 1 to 5 with one being the worst and 5 being the best.

    Please rate contestant one’s performance now……

    Please rate contestant two’s performance now…..

    Please rate contestant three’s performance now…..

    etc., etc, etc.”

    It would surely cut back on the power voting and they could limit the number of times a single individual could vote on any one device.

    I just think that would be a much fairer way to do it.

    With the current voting 10 people can vote once for contestant “A” and 5 can vote three times each for contestant “B” and the contestant with the least fans will win. That’s just not a true picture of who the winner should be IMO.

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  10. The Idol honchos do need to reconsider their focus, don’t they?

    They really, really do!

    As for Jason, he’s been recording a new album, to be released in the fall! He talked about the new album here: http://youtu.be/NAdTey4lLGA.

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  11. (Er…Rachel above there is me. :))

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  12. Rereader/Rachel – thank you. We are now traveling to see my daughter and her husband and the grandchildren, but will look at the link later on this evening. :). So happy Jason has a new CD out!!

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  13. Travel safe and have a lovely visit!

    (And soon, soon! I’m very excited about the upcoming album–I was lucky enough to hear Jason try out some songs he was considering for the new album back in January, and they are a big step forward–to me they sound much less pop, much more personal and heartfelt and intelligent than his first album, much more Jason.)

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  14. I agree, make Jimmy a fourth judge if they have to but kill that segment. Go back to a celebrity vocal coach segment. I also think it is time to widen the age range, although that one is purely self serving. You are right about the instruments, but I fear the real problem is not limiting the votes a person can make. The reason the WGWG keeps winnning is the demographic tilt toward young teenage girls. Widen the age range and they might bring in a little bit wider demographic.

    Great article as usual.

    Thanks,

    Shari Bales

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  15. Hi Shari, I think the ratings thing would be better because it would give us the ability to bring the average score down of someone whom that demographic you talk about is tilting towards.

    For every rating of 1 vs 5 it brings that contestants average down by a factor of 2. It would give the people who are voting for the talent instead of the looks a way to fight back instead of just being over whelmed by 1000s upon 1000s of text votes. (1+5=6 and 6 divided by 2 = 3) So if 25 teen girls gives you a 5 and 25 older viewers gives you a 1 your average rating would drop to a 3. So really you don’t have to limit the votes just let us rate all of the contestants instead of just voting for 1 at a time.

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  16. Taymaro – it is a great system, your ratings system. My concern is that people would get confused with the the numbers. I can just see the comments – “oh, I thought number 1 meant the best”blah blah blah.

    I really like the idea and would hope that something like this could prevail. I really do not like the mindless voting. Those days are gone, nobody has the time or patience for it any more.

    I do think that the ITunes sales should count, however. Perhaps, added to a ratings-limited voting system.

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  17. Thanks Shari. Hope your recordings are moving along well. Excited!!

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  18. Rosanne-This is fantastic advice for AI. It just isn’t quite the same quality show is used to be, and it’s been frustrating. I just read over at MJ’s that DeAndre only gets to sing one song on the AI tour! How ridiculous!! I was expecting him to sing three songs. What the heck are they doing?

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  19. Anita! Whaaaaat!!!!???? One song! Are they crazy? Why does my suspicious mind feel that TPTB don’t want him to upstage some of the others?? Hopefully, he will have a chance to shine in the group numbers – if there are any. This show is sooooo ridiculous.

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  20. Anita – thanks for your kind comments about the article. Feel free to add your own opinions, however. :)

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  21. I really hate this. I have tickets to the event in North Charleston, SC on August 6th and the only reason I was going was to see DeAndre perform live. I will enjoy seeing them all but would never have thought about going if it wasn’t for wanting to see him. This is really a bummer! Who can I contact to register a complaint? I am going to try and get a reply via twitter and find out why they are only giving him one song. He said he will be doing back up on other performances but that’s just not good enough for me. I am really disappointed now. :-(

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  22. Rosanne-It’s so upsetting to me! DeAndre is one of the finest and most unique talents AI has ever discovered, and they still are not showing him the support he deserves. He stated that he still has not talked with any record label execs yet. I’m not holding out hope that AI will help DeAndre with this.

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  23. Anita and Taymaro – I am really upset about the Idol’s lack of appreciation for DeAndre. Something is just not right here or else they are all really mediocre in their thinking. So they think that people want to hear country, R&B and mindless Pop over and over and over again? The world is changing and great vocal artists with something new and different to offer are making a comeback.

    DeAndre will be discovered and signed. True talent always rises to the top. Have faith! The MCL community has his back!

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  24. Rosanne, You and I and Anita know what potential DeAndre has but I am convinced that this experience has crushed his confidence to the point that he may not even try to go into the field of music now. There have been many little remarks that he has made in interviews that tell me he is really getting discouraged but at the same time he is trying to keep his chin up. They are placing him in a very disparaging position that could lead to hasty and poorly thought out choices in a desperate attempt to further his musical career. He has said publicly that he will take any offers, even modeling. That statement concerns me a lot.

    In my opinion he needs to take his earnings from the show and the tour and put it toward his education first and foremost.

    When he was eliminated I left a long comment under the thread that week on another site stating that, with the fact that he only made it to eighth place, he should back away and get his education and maybe make another run at it 5 or ten years down the road. I feel that way now more than ever. There are vultures out there in the entertainment industry that are looking for just his type to take advantage of in the most despicable of ways. I know I sound silly but I am really and truly concerned here.

    I have already seen comments by professionals that he needs to lose the “good boy” image and become more edgy in order to gain recognition in the industry.

    Amy Winehouse used to be a beautiful young lady but she was faced with the same dilemma and we all know how that worked out. In a desperate attempt to gain fame and fortune she took it way too far and actually became the person that she was trying to pretend to be in order to make the headlines. It is one thing to play the part and try to present the image that you think you need to but so many times these young artist actually start living it in their personal lives and that is what I am afraid of in DeAndre’s case.

    Maybe I’m over reacting but I just think it would be so sad to see this happen. The kid is such a unique and kind and gentle person and that outcome would be tragic. But the same desperation that he demonstrated in the performance of “Georgia On My Mind” during the wild card pick is what I am afraid may lead him down this path.

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  25. Taymaro – very well said and I understand your concern.

    But, if you want a glowing example of someone close to DeAndre’s age who is taking his own road, you need only look at Season 7 Runner-Up David Archuleta ‘s journey post-Idol.

    David basically walked away from Idol’s vision of what they wanted to create in him and started his own. He didn’t like where Idol was taking him. It can be done but it does take a ton of work.

    And look at Jennifer Hudson? She finished low on the totem pole during Season 3 and now she is a huge star.

    I don’t know what kind of support DeAndre has in terms of fan numbers but he has to find a way to work around this. The fans will increase over time. And I know he has strong family support.

    He should start a YouTube channel, design a glitzy website and, basically, act like a star because he is!

    There are so many stories of singers whose hearts were broken early on in their careers. Michael Buble for one. He was ready to throw in the towel but his savvy manager at that time encouraged him to stay focused. Finally – the connection between he and David Foster happened and the rest is history.

    Plus, DeAndre should take voice lessons with a teacher that would develop his voice without compromising his innate performing style. I think this would give him the confidence that he so needs.

    Oh boy, I love this kid!! I want him to succeed in the biggest way!!

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  26. Taymaro-I agree with you that DeAndre continuing his education would be a good idea. Perhaps a few years down the line, things will be looking better in the music industry, and will appreciate his amazing talents. He needs a supportive team around him who will let DeAndre be himself, without trying to talk him into something that isn’t Deandre vision of what he really wants.

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  27. Rosanne-I’ll try to have faith that things will work out for DeAndre. We all grow from our struggles we face in life. True talent does always rise to the top one way or the other. Sad to say though, many times not on all levels. Many get virtually no radio airplay, the record label may not give them the support they need. But there are those who do win the respect of many in the music industry despite these struggles, and also a strong, dedicated fanbase has proven so effective. I actually feel it’s more rewarding for an artist if he or she gain momentum, becoming more and more popular, and gaining even more respect as time goes on, instead of right away selling millions of albums, having oodles of airplay, etc

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  28. Rosanne-Despite David’s stuggles, the fact the he has a new album coming out August 7th while he’s away on his mission is tremendous! So he’s keeping his name out there and so are his fans. He’s been in the top Twitter trends oodles of times this year, and will continue to be. I believe with all my heart that after David gets back in 2014, he’s going to be more successful than ever before, and all those stuggles he’s encountered will have paid off for him.

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  29. I love all your suggestions.

    The only one I disagree with is performance order. If you do that (have a singer perform two songs in a row) than those contestants who go first and second have a huge disadvantage.

    One of the biggest ways the sabotaged DeAndre every week is that he was in the first hour of the show every week except Top 13. (Where he was voted in the top 13) If you have someone sing their two songs in the first bit of the two hours, it’s a death slot (even more so than already.)

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  30. Lynn – I thought about that before I added this suggestion. However, usually, they are down to two numbers around the Top 5 level. They changed it up this year, it was Top 6 I believe?

    So, by Top 5, hopefully, the fan bases are solid enough to support singers regardless of performance order.

    But thank you for your input. I agree about DeAndre. They really went out of their way to sabotage this talented, gifted artist and, to this day, I have no idea why. So strange and so unfair.

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