The first elimination round of American Idol begins in a few hours, and this year’s pool of finalists skews slightly older than in years past. Only three singers under the age of 20 have made it to the top 24, while, VH1 notes, one-third of the finalists this year are either 27 or 28 years old:
Since raising the age limit to 28 for season four, singers approaching 30 have dominated the show, from Taylor Hicks, Chris Daughtry and Elliott Yamin to Bo Bice, Constantine Maroulis and Nadia Turner. And in season six, eight of the remaining contenders are 27 or older, including early favorites like Chris Sligh, Melinda Doolittle and Jason “Sundance” Head.
Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe weighs in on raising the audition age all the way to 30 after the jump.
“I think you get tired and a little more jaded when you get older, and you feel as though it’s your last chance, and that can be very emotional and affect you greatly in this competition,” he said. “Whereas the 16-year-olds bounce from one thing to another, they don’t know half the music they’re singing. I remember Lisa Tucker last year, we gave her a Burt Bacharach song. She sang it brilliantly, didn’t understand a word she was singing probably, but sang it beautifully. That’s what they do, they just take it in and sing it.”
Lythgoe is fully supportive of how the contestants reaching the semifinals have been getting older each year, though. In fact, he wants to raise the audition age limit to 30 next season.
“I think  brought us some more maturity and a little more professionalism in certain areas and we’re happy about that,” he said. “I don’t know why 28. I really don’t know why 30, but I guess we’re just about managing to cope with the hundreds of thousands [of applicants] that we’re getting at the moment. Opening up any more and I’m frightened to death how many people we’ll get.”
This could be a good thing for Idol in the long run, although we imagine that, even with bumping up the age limit, the early weeks will still be as full of stage-mothered teens having breakdowns and parental interventions as they were this season. We’re just hoping that the tipping point for Lythgoe and the Idol producers to push the age limit up isn’t a season-capping victory by the 28-year-old blusterer Sundance Head, because our patience for that dude–and the Brillo on his chin–ran out about a week and a half ago.