American Idol Doesn’t Need Keith Urban, It Needs…

August 27, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  22 Comments

…an asshole. I mean, the biggest red-assed, hard-nosed, sarcastic, borderline foul-mouthed music critic you can find.

And with that said, let it be known that I am available to screen test with Fox at any time.

I’m probably a fool for trying to give advice to American Idol on how to right their ship. At this point, barking advice is about as helpful as saying, “I told you to look out for icebergs.” It’s also a little hypocritical, seeing how there’s few waving the pom-pom’s more fervently for the demise of that television franchise than me. The cultural phenomenon that was American Idol in the early oughts is no longer, and their last batch of celebrity judges left en masse after last year’s finale, smelling fear and desperation in the air from the show’s rapidly-declining numbers and influence. So what’s American Idol’s solution for next season? Pander even more to celebrity.

Under the misguided notion that the problem with the show was that their celebrity judges weren’t current enough, they’ve gone out and added shock-star Nicki Minaj, plopped Mariah Carey into the “diva” spot, and added Keith Urban as their default “country” judge. In other words, instead of addressing the systemic problems with the show–i.e. too much competition in the format and allowing the talent to be judged too much by young girls who choose who they want to bang as opposed to the brightest talent–American Idol producers are once again kneeling at the alter of the cult of celebrity looking for ratings salvation.

But the whole thing that made American Idol intriguing to begin with was not the stories of the judges, but of the contestants. Adding sensational judges like Steven Tyler and Nicki Minaj takes attention away from contestants. When America’s Got Talent added Howard Stern, its ratings for the series premier plummeted.

What intrigue there was with American Idol judges in its heyday surrounded Simon Cowell; the harsh, belittling critic who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is, and someone who was relatively unknown in the US before the series. Television loves conflict and drama, and that is what Simon Cowell provided. People loved to hate him, like the bad guys in professional wrestling. Ironically, Cowell is also the cause for so much Idol competition. His Syco production company is behind both “The X Factor” and the “America’s Got Talent” franchises. You want to point to who is responsible for TV talent competition parity? Point to Simon.

Keith Urban and his hair highlights won’t save American Idol. What made American Idol work was that it was built on the idea that every American has a dream. Adding “celebrity” judges doesn’t forward that dream, it speaks to the demise of it, where established celebrity and image is celebrated instead of sincere talent. Not to say American Idol’s celebrity judges aren’t talented, they’re just not talented at being judges.

If Fox and American Idol want to save their dying franchise, they need someone who is not afraid to get up in people’s faces, to be honest, and not just with the contestants, but with the audience that ultimately decides the winner. They need someone to ask America, “Do you like it when you are judged on image alone? Do you think that’s fair? Then don’t just vote for the cutest boy, vote for who inspires you on a personal level and makes you a better person, someone that motivates you to pursue your dreams.”

Then, and only then, American Idol may be something that America will idolize again.

22 Comments to “American Idol Doesn’t Need Keith Urban, It Needs…”

  • I totally agree with you trig. I really don’t think they know how to work around the real artists on the shows. Just look at the attention Crystal Bowersox, Wolf Hamlin, Elise Testone, Philip Philips, Casey Abrams, and Haley Rienhart got on passed seasons. They were all talented singers/artists with their own style, but their styles all were roots based whether it be country, rock, blues, jazz, etc. All were successful on the show or should I say successful with audiences, but American Idol didn’t know what to do with them. So they force placing them within a current genre in which they don’t fit. By adding celebrity judges and mocking fun of the not so talented it just degrades the show even further.


  • I have despised the cultural phenomenon that is American Idol since day one, but I agree with everything you said about Simon Cowell. Of the bits and pieces I’ve seen of the show, he fit so well because his commentary seemed to generally be a wake up call to all the people who had been told their whole life that they could sing when in reality, they were terrible. But if American Idol does wind up getting cancelled, so be it. It means we’ll have less pop country singers being handed a career because they got the most votes.


  • Dr. Cox from Scrubs should be their next celebrity judge.


  • They need to address the flaws in the voting system. The young girls seem to dominate the voting body. They have the time and the stamina to vote multiple times for their favorites. As the result the last few winners are of the same type: bland, harmless, guitar-playing (or guitar-posing) young guys in the form of David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery, and the latest, Philip Philips. In the Idol world they’re classified as WGWGs (white guys with guitars – yes, I follow Idol, it’s my guilty pleasure lol). But these young girls who voted for these boys do not necessarily go out and buy their albums faithfully. David Cook had a successful debut album, but the follow-up album went nowhere. Kris Allen’s 2 albums I would say tanked. Lee DeWyze’s debum album sales were catastrophic. Scotty’s debut album did very well, but he has not conquered radio yet, so I don’t know how the follow-up will fare. Quite frankly I find his vocal range very limited. We’ll see how Philip’s album sales will be.

    But I don’t think the Idol people will change the voting system anytime soon. Why would they, when it’s obvious that the multiple votes from the fangirls are generating revenues from their multiple text and call votes. So there’s a great chance that we’ll see another “WGWG” winner this coming season.

    I don’t know if you’ll agree with me Triggerman, but I think part of the reason they chose Keith Urban as their judge is that they’re targeting country music as their potential market area. I also suspected this during the season when they had Scotty. During that season it was so obvious that country is their target. They must have thought they’re on the right track since Scotty’s album went platinum.


    • I definitely think American Idol is courting country. They asked pretty much every single established male franchise country artist if they wanted the position: Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, and Keith Urban was the one that said yes. Remember “The Wolf” from from early last season? My inbox blew up when they featured him on the show.

      Country is a hot ticket in music right now. I think that’s one of the reasons The Grammy’s are announcing in Nashville this year.


      • Does country welcome Idol though? Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina and Kellie Pickler seem to be having a hard time conquering radio. The same can be said for Bucky Covington and Danny Gokey. There’s another male former Idol contestant who tried to go country but failed, I forgot the name, he was that forgettable lol.


        • Carrie Underwood. Legitimate top 10, if not top 5 franchise country artist and perennial female Artist of the Year award winner. Of course, she came out of American Idol as a winner, and when it was still relevant.


  • if they want me to watch the show more than just passing by they’ll need to put some talent on the thing. talent who actually would make me want to buy their music. crappy celebrity judges aren’t the answer. someone turning off the stage lights and mic while yelling, ‘NEXT”, would be a good start.

    though in recent history young girls have made all of the big time musical artists. sinatra, elvis, and the beatles. no one on idol has ever come close to any of those folks. it might be interesting if someone from the show did.


  • If only they had Outlaw Country Night, Southern Rock Night or Bluegrass Night.


  • I read where they wanted Brad Paisley the most,but he wanted the same money Minaj was getting,8 million..Urban did it for like 5 million less.Kinda funny if that’s true!


  • The entire concept is an insult to real hard working musicans paying there dues in the clubs night after night. I hope it goes away along with the voice and all shows of it’s kind. Then folks can go support live music and the next person to have some major success just might deserve it.


    • Jim, I have been saying this for years as I have one of those hard working musicians in my family. A.I. set the stage and lowered the bar for all kinds of bogus junk that is accepted as “music” and taught America to fight over people they don’t even know, thus distracting them and dumbing them down.


    • You have to admit, though, that American Idol is a terrific platform for aspiring vocalists. It gives them an actual national audience as opposed to the tiny audiences that they would get at bars and clubs.


  • Well, my comment isn’t exactly about Keith Urban or what A.I. needs, but back in the very early days of A.I. a fellow music student of my daughter auditioned for A.I. He has one of the most beautiful tenor voices I have ever heard, he now sings with symphonies and tours the world. He was told to go away because they didn’t want legitimate voices with any training. Just sayin…..


    • This is actually the reason why “The Voice” is superior to “American Idol”. “American Idol” is excessively image-driven and derives much of its success from showing people failing in the auditions (which, in my opinion, is base low-level entertainment that appeals to our worst emotions). “The Voice”, on the other hand, actually takes trained vocalists and hooks them up with professionals to further improve their skills and get noticed by a national audience.

      I think your daughter’s friend should apply for “The Voice”.


  • Does anyone actually watch this show to discover new musicians…well, singers? Seems like it’s just another soap opera/reality show that is on the wane.


  • I respectfully disagree with the notion that it was ever a decent show.

    To me, American Idol is a television version of a carnival freak show staffed with a bunch of self-aggrandizing former stars or pseudo-stars as judges and groveling star wannabes as contestants.

    Shows like this are why I watch Investigation Discovery and Biography Chanel or read a book.


    • Just to clarify, I am not saying personally that American Idol was ever decent. It was however much more successful, and as we know, success and decency are not always hand in hand.


      • I’ll fix it for you Trig: “Success and decency are almost never hand in hand.”


  • Over the years as we go from one season of AI to the next, I’ve seen plenty of comments about how the contestants did not pay their dues, how they are taking away opportunities that should have been given to musicians who’ve worked their asses on the trenches doing it the old-fashioned way. On the one hand, I do see the validity of this point. I’m not a musician, but I can understand how other musicians must be feeling to have worked hard on their craft only to see some newbie zipping up and having opportunities handed over. And I see also the potential disaster of thrusting this Idol contestant into the limelight and having him/her make albums and go on tours using the underdeveloped talent. Underdeveloped because it has never been honed by doing show after show after show, underdeveloped because the singer has never yet fallen flat on his/her face and then learn from the mistakes.

    But let’s be honest. If you were given the choice between an opportunity like AI to have your own album and the promotion and publicity that go with it, or slugging it out playing in bars for years without the assurance that you’ll make it big or that you’ll even get bigger gigs, what would you choose? I don’t think everyone will choose the latter. I can’t answer for everyone here, but I’d be a hypocrite if I answer that I will reject the opportunity. It’s not a crime to want the opportunity. Of course you’re going to grab whatever opportunities that come your way.

    And you know, winning American Idol is not a guarantee for success. Just in country music, look at the names that I’ve mentioned in my previous post that have tried and failed. And the failure rate is even higher I think in pop and other genres. And look outside Idol to other shows. I don’t know how many seasons we have so far of The Voice, but so far they’ve failed to produce big stars out of that show. Well, they succeeded in making bigger stars out of the judges Blake Shelton and co. lol, but the contestants went nowhere. So it really is not a guarantee for success.

    I enjoy watching American Idol I admit. I enjoy it for what it is, a reality show about a singing competition. I feel no obligation to support the winners/runnerups after the show, if I feel that their albums are not to my liking. I suspect that this is also the mentality of the majority of its audience. And that is the problem that each of these contestants face after coming out of the show, making the audience care enough to support them beyond the show.


  • It literally almost makes me sick to think that a really talented singer songwriter like a James Hand, just to name one of many, would not even be considered by AI the Voice let alone a major label. However, some kid with minimal talent, at best, walks in off the street and because of a certian look they are after gets a shot at the big leauges. It is the way it is. I get that but I damn sure do not like it. Therefore, I will not support those shows now or ever. Instead I’ll go to my local venues and support artists who are free to make the music they choose to make. I challenge each of you this labor day weekend go see some live music. I’ll be at 3 different shows this weekend if we want the “real thing” to have a shot we have to support it!


  • American Idol is nothing more then an overglorified Karoke contest. Anybody who likes real music shouldnt watch that garbage.


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