Now that Season 13 of “American Idol” has ended and another champion has been crowned, let’s discuss what worked and what didn’t.
Song choice remained strong. Compared to other music competition shows, “Idol” brought fresher songs to the stage, including some of today’s hottest hits. Compare this to shows like NBC’s “The Voice,” which was overloaded with sappy 1970s rock ballads, and “Idol” is the clear winner.
The judging panel was the best to date. While complimentary where deserved, they also provided constructive criticism. It was refreshing to see a panel that not only got along but also had something worthwhile to say.
The packaging of the contestants on “Idol” is matched by no other music competition show. Where other shows deemphasize the personal aspect, “Idol” knows that showing contestants’ back story helps viewers become emotionally invested. Other shows tend to overdo production values, attempting to elevate mediocre performances with staging effects. “Idol” does the best job of helping contestants develop their stage personas, while staying true to themselves.
The contestants’ stagecraft suffered this season, perhaps because “Idol” replaced seasoned mentor Jimmy Lovine with longtime “Idol” judge Randy Jackson. The weekly segments of Randy working with contestants showed him providing the same platitudes he’d previously delivered as a judge. Was it his fault, then, that so many of them had trouble getting comfortable onstage? Perhaps, but perhaps not. The judges focused more than ever on vocal ability. However, this competition is not just about singing but also about performing live on camera. This year’s contestants took longer to adjust, with many of them failing to blossom. “Idol” should strive to build performance skills before the live shows, because as this season demonstrates, waiting doesn’t work.
Attempts to court social networking fell flat. Encouraging people to take selfies with the TV was a cute idea, but did it need to be repeated week after week? And showing scrolling images of Facebook voters while eliminated contestants sang their swan songs was distracting.
The manipulative results twist foisted on the Top 5, where they were asked to vote on whether to accept the viewers’ voting results or keep the group together one more week, was viewed by many fans as a transparent attempt to save producers’ favorite Sam Woolf. Fans make accusations every year of the producers playing favorites, but this incident seemed particularly egregious, since Sam had already received the judges’ save.