American Idol: 5 Suggestions To Improve The Show
Every summer since 2003, the finalists of American Idol have hit the road for a concert tour. This year is no different although their trek was truncated by twenty-five percent. Apparently, American Idol tickets, much like its television ratings, aren’t what they used to be. In 2013, the A.I. tour begins July 19 and ends Aug. 31—it had been scheduled to start on June 29. The 11 American Idol finalists will visit just 30 venues instead of the originally scheduled 40.
The decline in concerts is similar to the show’s decline in television ratings. In 2013, American Idol viewership slipped 23 percent and the show is no longer number one—an honor it held for eight years. Some will say it’s time for A.I. to go away but when the NFL or MLB has a bad season no one says they should take their ball and go home. A.I. is a great competition and it appeals to people who find the testosterone laden world of sports a little dull. There’s no reason why American Idol can’t continue for years.
To keep itself on the boob tube, the program will need to undergo a few changes. That’s why I’ve come up with five suggestions to make American Idol better. If FOX listens to me not only will the upcoming 13th season of American Idol be the best ever but the reality show will go back to the top of the television ratings. Below, are five things American Idol needs to do for the 2014 season.
Hire Critical Judges
FOX executives have already said there will be just three judges for the 2014 season of American Idol. At least two of the judges will be new—Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj, and Mariah Carey are not returning. As of press time the only judge that hasn’t bolted for greener pastures is Keith Urban. Whether or not the country music star stays or goes, the show needs at least one judge that can be honest and forthright. Singers, Urban included, identify with the contestants way too much and tend to be way too passive in their critiques.
I’m not saying FOX needs to hire someone mean (even though that would be great) but they need at least one judge who can tell it like it is and not pull punches. The show hasn’t had that since the departure of Simon Cowell. Jimmy Iovine could be that judge and FOX should definitely consider giving him a judgeship. I know hiring a singer creates a buzz while the announcement of an unknown record executive is a yawn-fest, but FOX needs to do what is best for the show in the long term. That’s why they need to hire judges who aren’t afraid of hurting someone’s feelings.
Make Contestants Choose Less Obvious Songs
So for “Week X” of American Idol, producers have the contestants sing the songs of The Beatles, or Motown, or the 1980s. These genres are chosen because they have produced a lot of great music that a lot of people really enjoy. That’s fine, but you’re asking teenagers—who are growing up in an era where they’re never forced to listen to music they don’t want to listen to—to pick songs from a catalog that not only predates them but predates their parents. I love The Beatles as much as anyone but I don’t need to hear another A.I. contestant butcher “Let It Be” or “Eleanor Rigby.”
Contestants, especially those of the teenage variety, need help when it comes to themes that are rooted in the 20th century. Someone needs to play for them, and steer them towards, great songs that aren’t so obvious (i.e. tired and played out). Sticking with The Beatles, how about singing “Mother’s Nature Son,” “If I Fell,” or “Here, There And Everywhere?” This suggestion is not intended to help the contestants. It’s intended to please the television audience. It prevents us from having to hear the same old songs over and over again. Steering away from the Fab Four, none of us need another rendition of “Without You,” “I Will Always Love You,” or “I Believe I Can Fly?”
A Wider Range Of Themes
A.I. producers need to be strict when it comes to their weekly themes. Again, let’s stick with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. If it’s “Beatles Week” don’t let them sing “Imagine” which is a John Lennon song. If it’s the “Year They Were Born Week” don’t let them perform a cover. In 2012, Amber Holcomb was allowed to sing “Without You” for 1994, the year she was born. That song however was originally released by Badfinger in 1970. Well, A.I. allowed her to sing the song because Mariah Carey covered it in 1994. Since just about every decent song is covered by at least one artist every year, a contestant can basically pick any tune they want.
Furthermore, have the weekly themes push the contestants. The way the show operates now it’s seem like whatever theme is selected a contestant can still find a way to pick a Whitney Houston or a Stevie Wonder or a Carrie Underwood or some other tired song we’ve all heard a million times. Themes of “rock” and “divas,” which were used in 2013, are too broad and too easy. I suggest something more challenging like “Heavy Metal Week,” “Showtunes,” or “The Songs of Jimmy Buffett.” That would be interesting. Randy Jackson always said if you know how to sing you can sing anything. If you want my vote, tackle a KISS song or belt out a selection from Wicked.
Allow All Ages To Compete
If there’s one thing our culture teaches, especially the culture surrounding popular music, is old people are bad. That’s why The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac face such tremendous ridicule every time they tour or release an album. It’s like you’re supposed to stop rocking when you reach 30. Nowhere is youth more celebrated than American Idol. Even so, the show should open its doors to karaoke singers of all ages.
I know what you’re thinking. The show would be ruined if America voted for a 50-year old Idol. No it wouldn’t. Besides, the show was already won by a 50-year-old. His name was Taylor Hicks. The 12 finalists are not organically chosen. They are picked by producers. That’s why the finalists are always musically and ethnically diverse. FOX can open up the auditions to mediocre singers of all ages because a young person is always going win (Hicks’ victory notwithstanding). Throwing a few “old timers” in the mix will add drama, especially during the Hollywood phase, and give those whippersnappers at home something to laugh about.
Make Each Week Mean Something
You know that joke about you and your friend being chased by a bear? You don’t have to be faster than the bear you just have to be faster than your buddy. American Idol is like that. You really only have to be the best singer once, the last week. Prior to that you only have to sing better than the last place finisher. While you can’t really change that dynamic you can add meaning to winning the weekly vote.
For example, if you receive the most votes one week for the next week you get the first choice of song and/or you can choose when you get to perform. If you’re the second to the last singer, the judges get to pick your song or you get one less day to rehearse or you have to perform in bathing suit. I’m just spit-balling here, but I think you catch my drift. Placing importance on where contestants finish each week will be intriguing and exciting. American Idol is a singing competition, so why not make the finalists compete every week and for more than just “not being last.”
By David B.