‘American Idol’ Lowers Its Age Requirement, Hunts For The Next Justin Bieber

Becky Bain | June 21, 2010 11:52 am

American Idol is lowering its age requirements from 16 to 15 for its upcoming tenth season. Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that 15-year old music sensations barely out of puberty, from Justin Bieber to Greyson Michael Chance, are popping up all over the place, and Simon Fuller wants to dip into the highly lucrative pot? Or are they trying to preemptively compete with The X-Factor, which (at least on the U.K. version) requires contestants to be at least 16? Either way, it’s a bad idea.

Sure, there have been plenty of very young, very talented people to perform on Idol over the years. Allison Iraheta was 17 when she came in fourth place; David Archuleta was but a mere 16 when he thrilled the crowds with mature performances like “Imagine” and became the runner-up of Season 7; and Jordin Sparks, at only 17, won the whole darn thing. But on average, the younger the contestant, the more misguided their song choices and the less experience they have. And we’re talking performance and life experience—and yes, both are important.

17-year old Katie Stevens and 16-year old Aaron Kelly both made it far in Season 9, but we had the same problem with both of them throughout their runs on the show—they just didn’t know who they were as an artist. And how could they? You’re expected to use your teenage years to experiment with different things, test-drive different personalities, to see what you’re most comfortable with and figure out what will ultimately make you you. No one requires you to have anything fully decided upon at that stage in your life.

But a lack of focus and knowing “who you are” while competing on Idol makes you look sloppy and ill-prepared. Voters have no problem seeing someone grow on the show (just look at Lee Dewyze), but they don’t react favorably to contestants who switch personalities at the drop of a hat. Katie Stevens went from squeaky-clean pop singer (“Put Your Records On”) to wannabe-diva (“Feeling Good”) to sensitive indie crooner (“Wild Horses”) from week to week, changing her persona to whatever she imagined the judges and America wanted. And for the most part, none of it worked. And why would you want to buy somebody’s record when they don’t even know what kind of record they want to make?

Sure, many contestants in their 20s can be accused of the same personality flip-flopping while competing on Idol, but it’s much more likely in young teens who don’t have the years of experimenting with styles already behind them.

On the other hand: eh, it’s only a year younger. What say you, Idolizors? All we know is the amount of Bieber bowl cuts on Idol‘s next season is going to make us cry.