It is bad enough that Simon Cowell is leaving American Idol, but get this: The contestants will now be allowed to write and perform their own songs. This new policy seems to obviously be a mistake.
The American Idol phenomenon started in June of 2002, and continued to do reasonably well right through 2010. With Simon Cowell’s departure, it is unclear how future seasons will go. 2011’s new judges (Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith) could be great or horrible; we will have to see. [Source: American Idol – Wikipedia. Downloaded 1/12/2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Idol.]
But there is one change that I am already pretty sure will be horrible – and that is the decision by American Idol’s producers to let contestants write and perform their own songs. Ken Warwick, Executive Producer of Idol says he has been “pleasantly surprised” by a couple of the contestants songwriting attempts in the upcoming season. His noted “surprise” implies that he, too, knows this is a risky approach to take in the new season of idol. [Sources: “‘American Idol’ TCA Panel: Our Top Five Season 10 Discoveries – Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV .” New Music Videos, Reality TV Shows, Celebrity News, Top Stories | MTV. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2011. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1655821/american-idol-tca-panel-our-top-5-season-10-discoveries.jhtml.]
Why is it a mistake to let contestants sing their own songs? Let me answer that question with another: Why aren’t David Cook and David Archuleta’s recent albums very good? The answer is that those past American Idol superstars are writing their own songs, which turn out to be pretty mediocre (even though the singing is quite good).
One of the strong points of American Idol to date has been the fact that contestants – no matter how zany and individualistic they might be – are forced to sing hit songs written by professional songwriters. Being a good singer does not necessarily make one a good songwriter. Imagine if someone like Crystal Bowersox had been permitted to write her own songs in last year’s Idol competition! That would have been a disaster. It is far more entertaining to hear talented singers rework familiar hits than to hear them strike out with their own novel lyrics.
I am sure millions of Americans will still watch the show. I certainly will. But I suspect there will be some serious train wrecks as American Idol contestants hit the stage with their own unfamiliar songs this season.
American Idol – Wikipedia. Downloaded 1/12/2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Idol.
“‘American Idol’ TCA Panel: Our Top Five Season 10 Discoveries – Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV .” New Music Videos, Reality TV Shows, Celebrity News, Top Stories | MTV. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2011. .