As American Idol judges change, ratings drop
Published: Monday, September 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 20:09
Since it began in 2002, American Idol has become a television sensation. From its first season, it garnered major attention, both nationally and internationally, and launched the careers of many artists.
However, with recently decreased ratings, the show could be in jeopardy. This past spring’s Idol finale brought in 20.7 million viewers, 29 percent less than last year, according to Fox Newtworks Group. Idol furthermore lost more than a third of its viewers in the 18 to 49-year-old age group during the finale. The show’s high point was the season two finale in 2003, with 38 million viewers.
Many blame the decrease on programs like “The Voice” and “The X Factor,” which entail similar singing competitions with celebrity judges. Peter Rice, chairman of the Fox Networks Group, said in an interview that the competition among similar shows “became a much more crowded space.”
Some students, such as senior Brandon Kronstat, a member of the university a capella group Deltones, think that the show is lacking in diversity.
“The show doesn’t take risks anymore,” Kronstat says. “The winners are talented without doubt, and that is the truth year after year, but they just aren’t as exciting. There’s predictability to a lot of the contestants, and as the contestants form the emotional arc of the show, there is thus an inherent predictability to the overall show itself.”
Philip Phillips’s victory this past season made him the fifth consecutive white male guitarist to win the competition—the last female to win was Jordin Sparks in 2007. Some have commented that this lack of diversity is making American Idol repetitive and nothing special.
Robert Brandt, assistant professor of voice, says he believes the results of the competition do not tend to end in a reflection of the quality of the singers.
“I almost always feel like the best singer, the one who had the most control and ability to do different kinds of singing with their instrument didn’t win,” Brandt says. Brandt says that Katherine McPhee was more qualified to win than competitor Taylor Hicks in season 5, but Hicks still won the competition.
Lindsay Rogers, president of the Golden Tones, another university a capella group, had a similar opinion during season 7.
“I feel like sometimes the winners are definitely not the most deserving out of all the contestants, but maybe I am still bitter about David Archuleta losing to David Cook in season 7,” she says.
Another effect on the ratings could be the changes in judges. After season 11 came to a close this past May, both Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler announced that they would be leaving the show. The show’s producers are still in the process of finding their replacements. The most recent development came this past July when Mariah Carey signed on as a new judge, starting next season.
However, some fans still wish Simon Cowell, one of the original judges known for his typically harsh comments and blunt statements, was back on the show. Senior Karen Hillsley says his departure, along with the show’s repetitive nature, affected her decision to keep watching.
“I used to watch American Idol during the second and third seasons,” Hillsley says. “I just feel like it’s gotten to be the same thing every time and I didn’t like when the judges changed.”
Noel Archambeault, assistant professor of voice, says Simon’s berating of the performers was a major factor in the former high ratings.
“Unfortunately, we are a society of voyeurs, if you will, or ‘rubber-neckers,’ and we all secretly like a good wreck,” Archambeault says. “If American Idol is losing ratings, my guess would be the ‘Simon factor.’”
Brandt says he believes that a more technical and musically knowledgeable judge, not necessarily a celebrity, could do some good for the show.
“The key to being a great judge is being able to offer good feedback,” Brandt says. “It is easy to sit there and say whether you liked it or you didn’t like it, but much harder to say something substantive about what a singer can work on.”
However, Archambeault says he doubts this would help with the ratings.
She says her colleagues wish the judges were more technical in comments and used more educated terminology with the singers. This could alienate the audiences, however, Archambeault says.
As the search for judges continues, rumored potential judges include rapper Nicki Minaj and country star Keith Urban.
Archambeault says she would love to see Madonna as a new judge, and Rogers says Jason Mraz would be a great addition. Kronstat says his dream judge would have been Michael Jackson.
The next season of American Idol is set to premier on Fox in January 2013.