5 Ways to Build a Better American Idol

American Idol is slipping. And if you disagree with me, I’ve got the numbers to back it up. Clearly the infusion of 3 new big names, all speaking to different huge fanbases, was not enough to keep everyone’s eyes glued to the screen. And all of the highly publicized bickering was not enough to hold America’s attention either.

And after watching the show since the first season, I actually skipped the last 2 cycles because I was sick of the WGWG factory. For some reason, I thought this season would be different. And although it’s clear there will not be a WGWG winner this year since there are none in the competition, the show is still more of the same.

And desperate song categories like “Rock Music (But You Can’t Sing a Ballad Because That’s All the Contestants Ever Sing)” don’t help. Why purposefully choose a genre of music that NO contestant sings and also cut out the salvation loophole of ballads? Do the no ballad thing with a different genre. Or decade. Or something. Anything other than hearing yet ANOTHER rendition of “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

So after watching another disappointing week of the show, I thought I would share my fixes for what is ailing FOX’S behemoth.

1. Stop being cheap and open up the song list for contestants.

Since the summer of 2002, American Idol contestants have been doing their best renditions of American classics and current pop hits. But after 12 seasons, you’ve got to mix things up. If I hear another person sing “Alone” by Heart or “Imagine” by John Lennon, I might throw a rock through my television. While there have been many iconic moments created around big songs (Fantasia’s “Summertime” comes to mind), the American public is always looking for something new. We want the next big thing. So stop being cheap and clear more songs for contestants.

2. Have the judges provide actionable, accurate critiques.

Over the years, the judging panel has moved from insightful and thoughtful to raucous stunt casting. Remember the days when Simon Cowell used to actually try to guide the contestants? When Randy used to say more than “pitchy”? Yeah. Those days are long gone. And methinks that is why the contestants continue to make stupid ridiculous decisions.

3. Stop letting the producers try to rig the results.

I get that this show is centered around the idea of creating America’s next superstar, but WE want to pick a real person, not a produced contestant that is designed to meet certain demographic expectations. And the American public is not stupid. We can tell when the producers are trying to push a contestant on us while slyly throwing another under the bus. While I know that you all have a lot of money on the line, the priority is pleasing the viewer. And when you try to tell Americans what to do, they ain’t pleased.

4. Take notes from your competition.

True, The Voice and The X Factor are not topping American Idol in the ratings, but they are completely undermining American Idol in the youth and relevance department. The Voice has Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green, and Blake Shelton (and Usher and Shakira sometimes). The X Factor has Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato (and whatever pop stars they can get to fill Britney Spears and L.A. Reid’s chairs). And American Idol has Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban? They’re all arguably big names, but they don’t exactly scream relevant and current. The stale format could use an overhaul too. Ryan Seacrest is the best host in all of reality TV, but his talents can only go so far.

5. Get back to what made you great in the first place.

When I think back to 2002 and that inaugural season of American Idol, it was all about hope and reaching your dreams and becoming a superstar. Now contestants tryout not even intending to win. It’s just a platform. And while the winners used to be instant successes, longevity has eluded many (Taylor Hicks or Lee DeWyze anyone?) It’s more about the show (and advertisers) making money than anything else. And I get it. It is a moneymaking operation and always has been. I just have one request: stop making it so obvious.

What are your thoughts on the show? Do you have any suggestions or pet peeves? Let us know in the comments!

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.

2 Responses

  1. Donna says:

    Simon Cowbell was the best judge ever and Paula Abdul too!!!!!!!! Yeah, they do need to mix up the different song titles the contestents sing weekly.

  2. Daren Jackson says:

    I think American Idol is irrevocably broken. The only chance it has is to turn into a completely different show. They have done so much harm over the years that there is no getting the magic back.