Multiple judge shake-ups try to bring singing competition back into relevance
Christina Aguilera. Demi Lovato. Britney Spears. Adam Levine.
That’s not the lineup for next year’s Grammy’s. Those are only a few of the names of judges on the top three TV singing competitions: “American Idol,” “The Voice” and “The X Factor.”
With all the star power of judges, it seems like networks are trying to blind viewers from the truth. The singing competitions might just be over the hill.
The season finale of “Idol” this year had the lowest audience in the show’s 11-season history. Then, Steven Tyler decided to leave his judge’s chair in July. Jennifer Lopez’s 5-inch stilettos soon followed. By late August, even rumors of Randy Jackson leaving began to spread, dawg.
To make up for a massive cast exodus, “Idol” created a giant judging rumor mill. Mariah Carey officially joined the cast. Latino heartthrob Enrique Iglesias and country crooner Keith Urban’s names have been thrown out there to sit behind the table with Carey.
Now rumors are swirling that rapper Nicki Minaj might judge “American Idol,” but even she’s unsure. Last Friday she told Rolling Stone magazine, “I don’t know yet. I really don’t know.” The noncommittal answer was probably best for Minaj. Apparently the fact that the producers were in talks with the younger singer infuriated Carey.
But “Idol” isn’t the only singing competition having some big issues.
The completely unqualified Khloe Kardashian might judge Fox’s other singing reality show, “The X Factor.”
NBC’s “The Voice” seems to be the most stable. None of its judges have left in a huff, and Adam Levine’s stubble is as artful as ever. The show’s biggest problem is that it’s now going head-to-head with “The X Factor” on Wednesday nights.
Clearly, networks are hoping the “Will-they-or-won’t-they?” celebrity baiting will make audiences tune in. Adding a superstar like Britney Spears to a show like “The X Factor” should be ratings gold. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll have a 2008-esque meltdown or start sounding as loopy as Paula Abdul did on “Idol.”
It’s pretty unlikely, but networks are desperate for eyeballs and ad revenue.
The two seem impossible to get through the traditional premise of singing competitions: having amazing performers. The stars of “Idol” were once the voices of Ruben Studdard and Kelly Clarkson. People tuned in to watch them belt out hit after hit, while also enjoying the acid tongue of Simon Cowell and sunshine-and-rainbows blather from Paula Abdul.
Somewhere along the line, the shows stopped focusing on actual singing and turned into a three-ring circus of random musicians and music moguls. I doubt most people could tell you the name of the last “Idol” winner, Philip Philips. He, however, will be at Syracuse University in October with the Dalai Lama.
While Clarkson went on to star in the motion-picture gem, “From Justin to Kelly,” and has a thriving career, Philips was lucky to make it into the iTunes Top 20. His single, “Home,” was the No. 1 song on iTunes after it was featured in the summer Olympics. Before that, it fell in the 80s range.
Although singing competitions still get pretty good ratings, no one’s invested in them anymore. They’re better for background noise while writing a paper than frantically grabbing the phone to “call in now for your favorite performer!”
I doubt even a catfight between Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Kloe Kardashian, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera would change that.
Ariana Romero is a junior magazine journalism and political science major. Her column appears every week. She can be reached at email@example.com or followed on Twitter at @ArianaRomero17.
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