Monday, June 21, 2010

American Idol Lowers Eligible Age

After a horrifically disappointing ninth season and the departure of head judge and voice of reason Simon Cowell, it is generally accepted that American Idol has some serious changing to do: fewer and better judges, more relevant themes, shorter results nights... the list goes on and on.

The good news - the folks at American Idol apparently agree and have begun announcing some changes. The bad news - they are not solving any problems.

Ryan Seacrest announced on his blog today that the audition age for American Idol Season 10 has been lowered from 16 to 15.

Yes, now 15 year-olds can skip sophomore Spanish class to audition for American Idol Star Search: The New Millennium. I'll give you a moment.

The post explains the reasoning for the change through executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz: “A lot of young, talented people are now seeking careers and representation before they turn 16. Lowering the age limit allows us to tap into this talent pool.”

What Frot-Coutaz left out of that nugget of pop culture insight is that, with the exception of Jordin Sparks, none of the Idol winners have been under the age of 20. Even with Sparks' win at 17 in the mix, the average age of the winners is 23. So they are essentially just increasing the number of future losers.

The road to Idol success is paved with the shattered dreams of tweens like "17 Year Old Katie Stevens" and "High School Student Aaron Kelly." Were the producers even listening to the judges' critiques of the young finalists this year? It was a constant barrage of "You haven't had time to find what kind of artist you are" and "You don't have the life experience to connect with that song" and "I wish you had just waited a few more years to audition." How do any of those statements indicate that we need even younger contestants?

Did your kid sister, niece or nephew recently get the solo at the spring chorus concert and want to audition for American Idol 8-10 years too soon? Well they can do so at the following locations:
Nashville, TN - Saturday, July 17  -  Bridgestone Arena
Milwaukee, WI  -  Wednesday, July 21  -  Bradley Center
New Orleans, LA  -  Monday, July 26  -  TBA
East Rutherford, NJ - Tuesday, Aug. 3 - IZOD Center    
Austin, TX  - Wednesday, Aug. 11  - Frank Erwin Center
San Francisco, CA  - Thursday, Aug. 19  - AT&T Park
If Idol would like to avoid its seemingly inevitable spiral into obscurity, it needs to wake up and enact some real change. Perhaps take a page from the SYTYCD playbook - Season 7 is already much improved for Idol alum Nigel Lythgoe's summer hit. Say it with me, Idol producers: "Yes we can!"
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