Surely your DVRs are set for the premiere of American Idol tonight (yeah, yeah, the suits at Fox always claim that the televised pop competition is “DVR-proof,” but the initial wave of bloated audition episodes, in which backstories mingle with back-stabbing, were seemingly designed for the new-wave VCRs). What will happen this season, when pop music is becoming ever more of an afterthought and people are more apt to stay away from network TV than ever before? I gaze into my crystal ball (it shines just like Phil Stacey’s head!) and envision a few scenarios for this season after the jump.
• The semifinalist-winnowing process is going to be a bit strange, and there will probably be at least two Alexandera Lushington-style incorrect eliminations. From USA Today:
Viewers will get to pick from 36 semifinalists rather than 24. For three weeks, 12 singers will perform, with the top male and top female moving to the final round, along with the next highest vote-getter. The judges then will give a group of singers a second chance, choosing three for the finals with the restoration of wild-card picks that were dropped after Season 3.
The previous semifinals system, which featured all the singers each week, led to overexposure, Warwick says. “By the time you got to the top eight, you were getting a bit fed up of them.”
The judges offer evidence of the value of wild-card picks: Clay Aiken and Jennifer Hudson, two future stars who would have been eliminated. Since the judges have music backgrounds and have seen the singers more than viewers have, they can spot hidden potential or sense a good singer having a bad day.
“There can be some really brilliant singers who didn’t get as much airtime,” says Abdul, who likes the fact that the finalist field now won’t necessarily have six men and six women.
For some reason I actually see this having the opposite effect that Abdul predicts, but that could be because I’m still bitter about that kid who looked like Leif Garrett (and who couldn’t sing a whit) making it over Josiah Leming last season, a selection that had absolutely nothing to do with the whims of the audience.
• New judge Kara DioGuardi may bring some bit of modernity to the proceedings, but she’ll probably only shift the show’s center of gravity to 2004, not 2009. From Jon Caramanica’s New York Times interview with DioGuardi:
“When I was growing up in the business, you could have ‘Pieces Of Me,’ you could have ‘Walk Away,’ ” she said, noting two of her singles. “Now it’s like ‘Umbrella,’ ‘Disturbia’ — they’re all concept songs that aren’t as emotionally connected.”
Looks like someone is pissed that the execrable “Open Toes” was never a hit! (This probably also means that Chris Brown won’t be a mentor anytime soon, FYI.)
• Kelly Clarkson is going to make a surprise appearance on the first live show, and it’ll reveal just how much American Idol doesn’t really have to be “a singing competition.” I mean, have you heard the sweetening on her new single?
• Simon’s “too Broadway” soubriquet is going to hurt even more than usual this year. Poor economy. Although if it comes after an inevitable peformance of Heart’s “Alone,” that insult might be seen by the producers of the new Heart-themed jukebox musical as an invitation!
• But don’t worry, the contestants are going to fight right back! “”Where I think we got a little bit stuck last year (was) it was kind of like battle of the blondes, and they all looked the same,” Cowell told the AP. “This year, there seems to be more personality. They’re definitely standing up for themselves more, which I like.” Let’s all hold him to that, shall we?
American Idol [Official site]