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.