The 5 Inherent Problems Of AMERICAN IDOL

As we go slouching towards the inevitable Lee DeWyze vs Crystal Bowersox finale on AMERICAN IDOL, I’m left pondering how the show has become so predictable in all the wrong ways.


As we go slouching towards the inevitable Lee DeWyze vs Crystal Bowersox finale on AMERICAN IDOL, I’m left pondering how the show has become so predictable in all the wrong ways.

1. The Selection Process

I’ll never understand why these talent shows spend so much time on the initial auditions (especially the crappy ones) and so little time on the callbacks. But the part that needs the most overhaul is how the Top 24 are whittled down to the Top 12. This season provided a painful reminder that sometimes the best singers or ones with the most potential are often passed over by someone with marginal talent and mesmerizing puppy eyes. To fix this, the voting audience should only get to pick ten of the Top 12 with the judges selecting the last two spots, similar to what they’ve done in past seasons. That way the Lilly Scotts and Todrick Halls will get the spot they deserve. Also, like the final round, the judges should get a save. There won’t be a double elimination the next week because, well, there’s no reason for it. The numbers will be whittled down anyway.

2. Forcing Talent into a Box

It happens every season, though it seemed worse this time around. Every week the judges give conflicting advice which confuses the singers and either leads them further away from what makes them special or stuffs them into a genre that may not be right. See, they like their “types” on AI – the Rocker, the “Nickelback,” the Pop Chick, the “Archleta.” They’re such fans of these types they even go so far as to assign them to people even when it doesn’t actually fit, even . (Sadly, this is a pretty much how the music industry works.) They should resist calling out these types until at least the Top 10. I say let the singer show us who they are before you tell them who you think they should be.

3. Mentoring

It seems to me that the Top 24 needs more help than the Top 12 so why not start the tutoring earlier? If they’re going to have four judges, one should be a Semi-Final round mentor. The majority of AMERICAN IDOL prospects have little to no experience, especially at this level. By giving the fledglings more guidance, it’ll mean better performances earlier, it’ll help identify the weaker singers sooner, and it will lead to a stronger Top 12. Then they can continue the parade of famous people, hopefully with professionals that actually know what they’re talking about and give good guidance – it’s a radical idea, I know.

4. Theme Nights

This is a real tricky one. I like the general idea but they often go horribly wrong. “Country Night” is a good exercise but “Elvis Presley Night” is pretty much always a bad idea. The Theme Nights that go well are ones that the singers can play around with comfortably. That means avoiding those that make the singers live up to impossible standards, like, say…Stevie Wonder and sticking to stuff like “Love Songs” and “Songs of the 80’s.” It also means staying away from weak sauce subjects like the aforementioned Elvis and “Movie Night” (the theory of which I like but hardly ever turns out right).

5. The contradictory nature of Simon Cowell

The problem with Simon is that he is almost always right about a singer or performance but he tends to go out of his way to state his negative opinions. You can say that something was bad without likening it to the Chestbursters from ALIEN. When he goes overboard like that, the truth of his critique is drowned out by the booing and results in pity/anger votes that keep people around way longer than they should be. My hope is that whoever they get to replace him (lots of folks are voting for Harry Connick, Jr.) will be able to be honest and constructive all the time without resorting to jerk-ery to make their point.

By the way, it’d be nice if the championship single isn’t rife with sappiness or mediocrity this year or any year after this. I’m not holding my breath though.