Exclusive: Nigel Lythgoe on Haley Bashing, Twitter Rants, and SYTYCD Changes

As executive producer of American Idol, Nigel Lythgoe has to balance the job of creating a compelling TV show with the work of discovering the nation’s next big music sensation — tasks that sometimes take him down competing paths. Lythgoe sat down for an Idoloonies interview (prior to Top 3 performance night and Haley Reinhart’s elimination) and shared his thoughts on how the eventual third-place finisher was treated by the judges after her performance of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” what changes he and his team are considering with regard to theme nights and voting rules, and why Season 10 results-night telecasts have been more compelling than in years past. Other topics on the table included Steven Tyler’s performance as an Idol judge, the oft-discussed but never realized contestant songwriting night, and the idea of taking viewers even further behind the Idol curtain.

Idoloonies: James Durbin Talks Flaming Pianos,
Metal ‘Revolution,’ ‘Waterworld’ Inspiration

Lythgoe also talked about the upcoming eighth season of So You Think You Can Dance, including his wish list of folks who might occupy the third judge’s chair this season (think everyone from will.i.am to Shirley MacLaine), the popular former contestant who could have a role in the coming months, and his perpetual fear of alienating the show’s core audience.

Idoloonies: Jacob Lusk Talks ‘Alone,’
Luther Comparisons, and That ‘Mirror’ Controversy

Press play below for all that and much more, and for all my Idol and SYTYCD recaps, news, and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

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  1. Tony says:

    I got a not-so-subtle feeling that Uncle Nigel’s darling fav contestant (16 year old Lauren) might not be his favorite anymore. He says that she can’t write songs (probably true, but damning a bit…) and calls her unprofessional w/r/t her relationship with Jimmie.

  2. tamara says:

    It was a fantastic interview, Michael. Your a great interviewer (and it’s nice to see your reaction too, like we asked), and Nigel certainly gives great interviews.

    I’m surprised, cause I though he’d be an ass, like Randy is in most interviews (I just watched the mtv interview with Jim Cantiello). But he’s surprisinly interesting, and pleasant.

    Now I get those times you refered to him as evil Nigel. He’s nice outside, but he probably has all these schemes going on that we don’t know about.

    I hope they make changes in the voting system next year. Something needs to change. One person voting 500 times for a single contestant can’t be equalled to 500 people voting once each for the same contestant. We’re supposed to get the American Idol, the person people like the most, not crazy fans voting a gazillion times. I think in that aspect, Haley won the ocntest. I juut can’t entertain the idea that Scotty or Lauren are what most people like. Specially people from ages 20 to 35. I just can’t. I won’t.

    • charlie says:

      I agree that the voting system stinks and is undemocratic. Some group did a scientific poll last year of people that voted for the finale contestants and showed that Crystal would have won if it had been one-person-one-vote. So the show should be renamed the ‘TEENYBOPPER GIRLS IDOL’!!!!!!

      • tamara says:

        they always say teens are the major demographic that watch Idol. But there are tons of adults, and people age 25-35 who watch it and vote, but only vote once, cause they think that’s enough.

        There needs to be a limit, but apparently, AT&T gets a lot of money with all those people voting, so it’s not in their interest.
        Seems like Nigel agrees with us, but his hands are tied.

        I think the fact that Haley is already getting a single before any other contestant, and at the same time as the top2, is prove that she did get many votes, not just from power voting, but real votes from different people.

        I can’t wait to hear it on Wednesday. I’ll obviously skip today’s show. The top2 haven’t impressed me over the past 2 months, so there’s no chance they’ll do something different tonight, except boring me to sleep.

  3. betsy says:

    my videos always work just fine, and I have a $300 laptop from Walmart.

  4. agrimesy says:

    Thank you, Michael for getting a Nigel interview. He’s slick. I share the perspectives of other comments here on the boards about the fact that voice CAN be judged very specifically. That was a cop out on his part. As far as Haley bashing, he admitted that the line up critique after Earth Song that night was too much. I appreciated what Nigel said about theme weeks, but I’ve never really been bothered by the themes myself. I thought what he said about behind the scenes footage being both too boring AND too dramatic to air very interesting.
    Voting, for me, is still the key issue. Nigel said it had been proposed that each voter get one vote per device and that the judges choose from the bottom three. (I think choosing from the bottom two would be better.) BUT, he immediately covered his tracks by stressing that these suggestions would be posed although he couldn’t control if they’d be accepted. If Nigel is correct that he just doesn’t have the power to control votes, then the inevitable answer is sponsorship. AT&T is making a bundle off this show, and I’m sure it has something to do with the mulitple voting system. I hate it that Idol has to be about money, but I understand it.
    I think the most compelling thing Nigel said was that Idol was about three things: record seller, the star, and the TV show. He admitted that they didn’t make any money on the recordings beyond stirring interest for the show! OMG, you guys! That statement has huge relevance. Unless I totally misunderstood him, I honestly believed that this show was trying to find a recording artist who would bring in the big bucks AFTER the show, but it isn’t the case. The money they make has to do with ratings DURING the show. If that’s true . . . it explains a lot.

    • Lily says:

      @agrimesy – That IS interesting, I had assumed ratings were the biggest moneymaker but that recordings still brought in money too (plus tours). If ratings are so all-important though, why push so hard for two teen country singers in the finale? Seems like that would be a real ratings killer. Perhaps Nigel is indeed worried finale ratings will plummet, thus this week’s attempt to placate the adult Idol fans (appearing on Idoloonies, tweeting that Haley’s making a recording)

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Ah, interesting points, both of you. And the conspiracy thickens.

      • Lily says:

        Maybe – merchandi$ing? $cotty and Lauren mugs, hats, lunchboxes, T-shirts, dolls?

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Oh Lord, Lily, made me laugh! :-)
          Does the Scotty doll come with adjustable eyebrows?
          And does the Lauren doll come with a complete Lennon Sisters/Hee-Haw wardrobe?

    • Tusk says:

      @ agrimesy(I think choosing from the bottom two would be better.)

      I thought about this as an option, but concluded, if that were the case this year, Haley would have been dropped by the Judges way before top 3. She, outside of Stefano, was in the bottom 3 the most (would have been five but Casey was eliminated/saved instead)

      Given the potential of losing someone as deserving as Haley, depending on the Judges makes me feel that another alternative is better.

      -FYI I posted this in the other Idol articles, but seems like no one is noticing or responding:

      Haley is/recorded her first single and will perform it on Wednesday, Her parents said.


      • tvlover44 says:

        thanks, tusk – excellent news!

      • agrimesy says:

        Really?! She’ll perform a new single on the show Wednesday? How is that gonna work? I mean production wise it’s possible to get one in the can that fast, but that makes the finalists look like they are wasting time just for the title. Don’t get me wrong . . . As a Haley fan, I’m thrilled! I just wonder if her parents are certain about this. Giving the third place finisher a single AND a solo on THE finale is definitely unprecedented. It just sounds too good to be true. I dunno.

        • Lily says:

          Does it sound like they’re more than a little desperate about getting us adults to watch the teen country hoedown on Wednesday?

          • larry says:

            Perhaps, but they should be. I seriously have no reason to watch this one otherwise. (and no desire either after the uneven judging went to such absurd levels this time and the Haley call out 3 are tied was just BS).

          • Tusk says:

            Don’t forget Wednesday is when they crown the champion, not the competition. Many Idol alums will be there. It’s not necessary to watch the Lauren/Scotty competition, just the result show. Her Mom said she turned down two songs before recording this one.

            Either way, if I am right, Haley will have a single out before the winner right? Not Pia, Not James, but Haley Freaking Reinhart.

            (They do say they will base selling the single based on the response and if that goes well she will get an album. But what are the odds she won’t sell based on Itunes and Youtube views?)

        • Tusk says:

          That was a couple days ago, still not much on the internet about it which surprises me but, there ARE other articles about it, but I think admittedly they are based on the clips of the parents announcing it.

          And Nigel did tweet earlier about hearing Haley’s next single played to him by Jimmy Iovine.

          “With over 25 million votes for Haley I was expecting disappointment from passionate people. I find it upsetting it creates personal hatred! … Jimmy played me a song for Haley’s record yesterday. Let’s hope all the people that are professing love buy it and give her a great start.”

          On the other hand, it was Haley’s parents that revealed the Zep song and her play list days before the show. Ther are one for one in that respect.

          So odds are it is true more than false.

      • x says:

        One tricky thing is it can be hard to just pop a single out there and to have it all riding on that. So the winner with the signed album and less ditch them fast if it doesn’t instantly grab is a trickier.

  5. JT says:

    Great interview. I love how Nigel admits Jimmy is a “businessman, out to make money.” This highlights so clearly the two primary goals for Idol: 1) to produce compelling TV (which is Nigel’s job, and whatever you think of him, he certainly has done that), and 2) to find and nurture singing talent (which is now Jimmy’s job). In past seasons these goals were mixed in together, but now they are not– and he freely admits it! Scotty or Lauren will win #1 and Haley clearly has won #2. As a businessman Jimmy is looking for data to help him decide whether to pump “real” money into a contestant’s post-Idol career. For Haley the data is everywhere, and compelling, I think. The hard data is stuff like iTunes downloads & reviews, YouTube hits, # of “Idol” moments, # of judges standing O’s, etc. The softer data is stuff like how does she sound (and work) in the studio, what’s her command of the stage, what do people in the business (and other recording stars) think of her, can she take direction, can she withstand criticism, etc. The traditional media and social media is also important in defining the “buzz” about her. Lately, practically every blog post or bit of news about her on the Internet, creates massive comments (often polarizing). Jimmy’s team WILL be paying attention to and monitoring all of this data. I think everyone who’s really paying attention can agree the she’s scoring big on all these points– even if you hate her sound or think she’s bitchy. IF she sings a new song on the Finale (as some reports indicate), then we’ll know Jimmy’s intentions. And IF the downloads for this new single go flying of the Apple servers and you start hearing Haley Reinhart on the radio within 2-3 weeks, then it’s not hard to imagine Jimmy pushing his chips across the table and we hear she’s, working on an album. Heck, maybe she already is!

    • azale says:

      Please stop. Your last three sentences gave me the gooseys. I hate the gooseys.

      Seriously, I’ve been saying for the last week or so… I think there is a strong case to be made that Haley is going to have a stellar career. I would bet she will eventually rank with Kelly and Carrie. Besides that sublime talent and camera friendliness, she’s got “it”, i.e. a little bit of the Elvis-ness.

      As much much as I love some of the past strong Idol contestants, I don’t see much of a strong “it” factor. Adam has “it” but I think his popularity is somewhat hampered by high negatives in certain demographics, homophobics being one (there, I said it).

      Anyways, your closing sentence rang big bells.

      • JT says:

        I completely agree that she has the “IT” factor. I’ve watched the show since the beginning, and IMO the only contestants who for me have truly had IT were (are) Kelly, Carrie, Daughtry, David Cook, Adam and now Haley. I guess six out of ten isn’t too bad! I agree that some of Adam’s “negatives” are limiting his overall appeal– which is really too bad! Regarding Haley, I just watched again her YouTune of “Rolling in the Deep”, which has 1.3 million hits, BTW. What a gas reading people’s comments, stuff like: “Haley ‘Cocaine” Reinhart”, “I spent 4 hours this weekend watching her videos over and over again”, etc., etc., etc. The people who get IT from her (and not everybody does and that’s cool) can’t seem to get enough. If I was Jimmy that would be an enormous “tell” of her potential. At one point in the video, at about the 1:00 mark, one of the backup singers (while she’s still singing) just shakes her head in awe at Haley’s vocals. Crazy!

    • Tusk says:

      “IF she sings a new song on the Finale (as some reports indicate), then we’ll know Jimmy’s intentions. ”

      I’ve been posting about Haley recording her 1st single to be performed Wednesday and her ability to get an album based on sales of that singles. I keep seeing these posts about support for this but yet no response from any on this site to that news

      This makes me worry that no one “actually” cares.

      I have had the post about her parents saying that she turned down two songs before she arrived at the one she’s happy with.

      Explain to me how all the Haley supporters on this site and not one response to this great news???




      • JT says:

        Absolutely. However, this is a blog post about James, so we’ll give him some respect– which he IS due. In terms of Haley, what I’m most excited about (other than getting to hear Haley sing live again) is to see what direction she’s taking song-wise.

  6. zoeystarr500 says:

    A “No ballads night” YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Please.

  7. Maria Cornwell says:

    Sorry, I’ve never liked Haley’s singing and wished she was gone earlier because her voice irritated my ears.

  8. SC says:

    Thank you Michael for this informative interview. I liked the way you attempted to lead Nigel into what Idol fans would rather see (more behind the scenes) as opposed to what we are forced to see. Too many weeks of lets get this over with, rather than I can’t wait to see every minute of the show and more.
    Nigel— PLEASE change the voting!! So many Idol fans feel the voting has always been a failure. Honestly, people are putting up with Idol until something better comes along, well watch out because The Voice and X Factor are strong contenders. Idol needs to change ASAP!

  9. CK says:

    Great interview Michael. BTW, you look fabulous!

  10. Sasha says:

    Is it wrong that I still dont believe him?

    Yeah I know he’s not fixing the votes BUT he is influencing them.

    And I’m still pissed Haley’s gone. I know Scotty is gonna win BUT she should have been in top 2.

    • Tusk says:

      With the revelation that the judges base their critiques partly due to having a preview in rehearsals, some of their off-mark remarks kind of make sense now. They had predetermined what they were going to say, damn the performance.

      Taking off my Haley-tinted glasses, I can kind of see their objections to Earth Song. I love Haley’s interpretation and execution but the Lyrics are pretty dour (What about children dying…” When I first heard it, I just listened to the production and performance not the lyrics. So if they pre-heard this, they MUST have said “How is this inspirational?” Thus the critiquing on song choice.

      (Note Nigel using “air quotes” incorrectly saying the judges were ” Michael Jackson Fans”, which when using air quotes means they really “aren’t”.

      BTW I repeat, don’t be sad for Haley, she is the first of season 10 to record a single which she is said to perform on Wednesday. Not Pia, Not James….Haley is the first http://buffalogrove.patch.com/articles/haley-reinhart-recording-first-single

  11. aunt_deen says:

    I notice that he never really did address the “free pass” situation. He justified the harsh criticism of Haley by saying the judges knew they’d be able to “lift her up” again after the second (still doesn’t justify the insanity of ripping apart “You and I”) but he never talked about the fact that the judges were essentially cheerleaders most of the time for everyone else. He did not address the lopsidedness of the judging, essentially.

  12. Rick says:

    I really wish you could have got more out of him with regard to the judges totally sucking since the finals started. And to hear that they actually watch the run through (meaning they could actually think and write up a valid/ useful critique) really makes them more useless than words could describe. I could understand the difficulty of judging if you need to put together a valid critique within 30 seconds after a song is over but there is no excuse for their uselessness. I’m beginning to wonder if this is the first year they have sat through the dress rehearsal. Didn’t they use to have a fake panel and play back the first run through when flashing the phone numbers? This explains why last year a judge would say on results night (after watching the show back) you were better/ worse than I thought (which didn’t matter because the votes were in so that had to be their little manipulation technique). I bet now they get together with Uncle Nigel after the first run and he tells them what to say or not say.

  13. Kodinfire says:

    This was my first year of following American Idol from beginning to end and the finale is tomorrow night. With all the hype, new judging panel, producer-oriented format, the show as of this season has not impressed me at all. I was expecting more from a show that claims to produce superstars and promote artistry.

    The top 13 aren’t bad, I felt they started off pretty strong this year. I felt that everybody in the top 13 were solid, and could sing. There were a couple standouts from the get go, but I didn’t feel like anybody had the “it” factor, they seemed pretty average to me and would have a tough time differentiating themselves and breaking into mainstream radio.

    Of course, it was still way too early in the season to call that, so I kept watching, hoping to catch an idol moment. The season went on of course, and I found myself muting pretty much half of the entire show or doing math homework instead (I know, it was that boring).

    Then, things went from boring to downright frustrating. With the judging panel treating subpar performances like gold, phrases like “in it to win it” “it was like I was at your concert!” “You are perfect! Brilliant! Sexy!” were uttered so many times, they lost all their significance, and in turn the judge’s credibility The obvious favouritism, the sob stories, the pandering, the redundant promotion of different products, the producer control and the judge’s general uselessness, ruined what could have been a great graduating top 13 with seasoned alumni.

    For example, why didn’t someone tell James that his stage props were overshadowing his vocals? Or that showmanship does not equal to putting a flaming piano on stage with flashy lights. It has to be coherent, or at least have an overarching theme. Anybody can ask for props to put on stage, it takes a showman to make a narrative out of it and use that prop to enhance the emotion/atmosphere behind the song. That’s the difference between Gaga’s flaming piano during Speechless at the AMAs and James’ flaming piano during “saturday night’s alright”. The sad thing is, I really like James and I actually watch his performances week to week which is more than what I can say for over half of the top 13 eek. But nobody on the show gave him any realistic guidance or preparation at all. It’s just so frustrating.

    The same goes for Jacob and Casey. Their egos eventually surpassed their talent. And then there’s the judge’s redundant bashing of Haley. It feels like all season, Randy was trying to be the new Simon. He claims that he’s just giving honest critiques, but if “in it to win it” is the best critique he can muster, I don’t think he’s qualified to be on the judging panel not that the producers care, the public won’t notice right? We’re too dumb anyway . Then there’s JLo and then the show’s redundant lovefest for her… I mean it’s alright to show appreciation for what the judges are doing even though they are doing a terrible job but “most beautiful woman in the world” is a bit too much. We want to get to the results, we want to see the contestants. Then there’s Steven, probably the most likable of the three, but I swear he slept through half of the show.

    Bottom line is, I don’t think it’s possible to find a star through these reality shows anymore. Especially with the current state of the music industry. It’s all about the “it” factor, not the singing, not the pageantry that’s why Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga are massively successful. No matter how hard the producers and the show try to recreate/develop that “it” factor, it cannot be done and IMO they have failed miserably. The person either has it from the get go, or they don’t.

    Can’t say I’m excited for the finale at all. Scotty and Lauren are cool people, but to be honest I’d rather do my math homework or sleep.

  14. Lucy says:

    Good grief.. does he think we are stupid? He influences every minute of that show and everyone knows it.

    What a ridiculous response to why the judges were OK with giving Haley criticism. That does not explain why they never gave the criticism to Scotty, Lauren, Jacob, James. etc. The judges havees have lost all credibility. Never has the producer push for certain contestants been more obvious.

    AI – It’s over.. onto the next big thing.

  15. Tim says:

    Great get, Michael.

    Big thumbs up for one device, one vote.

    Huge thumbs down for letting the judges decide who goes home.

    (hey, how about a poll?)

    • RTW says:

      Good Lord, placing the fate of the contestants in the hands of the “judges”…I don’t even want to think about that. I second the poll!

  16. ohreli says:

    Nothing to critique about when it comes to singing????
    Sorry—THAT’S moronic! Just watch one old episode of Canadian Idol! THOSE were judges doing their job!!

  17. aizjanika says:

    If these judges, or any judges, or TPTB of the show get to decide who stays or who goes home, that’s the end of this show for me. Even when I disagree with how things go, part of the fun of Idol is wondering why people would vote for Contestant A over Contestant B. I wouldn’t mind a voting cap of some kind–one vote per device seems extreme to me, though. But if the judges decide who goes home? No. No no no no no no no.

    I actually HATE the judges’ save for precisely that reason. I dislike it when the judges mess with the votes in that way (i.e. negate the voting results by saving someone).

    I do wish Nigel had been pressed about Haley being raked over the coals. This wasn’t a comparison to other seasons, but to this season, where nobody was criticized for basic issues or were criticized only very mildly–all except for Haley, for the most part and especially in her last few weeks on the show. That’s what I found to be unfair about this season. I actually disagreed with much of the criticism that Haley received, but not all of it, but I felt many others deserved much harsher criticisms and didn’t receive them.

    The idea that this was because the judges knew her second song would be great is complete BS to me. Then why didn’t they criticize/critique the obvious problems that other contestants had with their first songs? Because they knew their second songs would be more of the same? Makes no sense.

    Watching that interview ended up irritating me more and dislike Nigel more. Of course everyone criticizing him or disagreeing with him is a moron to him, and thus anything they say can be dismissed. heh

    Also, I agree with so many of the comments here, but especially the one about there being so much more to talk about with dance. I could care less about dance, but I think there is a *lot* to talk about when it comes to singing, and so many of these kids could have benefited from advice and criticism if it had been given. I’d love to see that and who responds to it and who improves and by how much, etc.

  18. StorytellerGal says:

    They won’t ever move to a “one vote per device” system because then their actual number of votes will plummet. No more “over 90 million votes cast last night” sales pitches from Ryan at the top of the show. A lower total number of votes will just give credence to the “AI is on the downslide” message. While I think it might actually make for a winner who will live up to their hype, it simply isn’t good TV.

    Also, I thought it telling when Nigel talked about balancing the TV show vs. finding a recording artist that can sell records. He is a TV producer, plain and simple. Controversy gets him more eyeballs and more eyeballs equals more advertising dollars. Finding a viable artist is last on his list.

    • larry says:

      Sometimes I wonder if AT&T voters have different tastes or if there are more AT&T users in certain regions of the country (only they get the free and unlimited votes count texting, I believe).

      Anyway they could just announce the new GatorPowerboost vote totals brought to you by Gatorade instead (GatorPowerboost vote total = vote total * say 100 whatever they want) haha.

    • marie says:

      Good heavens, you just summed up all my other posts much more concisely than I could, LOL! Needless to say, I agree with all your points.

  19. Trisha says:

    Nigel is a champion prevaricator. He flat out denied Haley was being “raked over the coals,” said Steven’s lack of critiques were due to getting bleeped, and claimed America gets the voting right by citing 2 examples? He’s just thrilled his pet 15/16 year old made it to the end (as if that were ever in question with her receiving no criticism) and that his cosmetic changes to the set and format kept the ratings up. Will really have to think hard about watching next year – might if the voting system is finally changed – I LOVE the one vote/device idea. That would put the tweens out of business.

  20. NedPepper says:

    The best part…”And Randy’s show is back as we-” END. lol…

    • tamara says:

      I noticed that. I loved it! Randy who? :)
      Like what the hell do I care about Randy, shut up!

  21. Tusk says:

    OK will someone explain to me why there is no response to Haley recording her 1st Single?

    I hope this is no indicator from all that say they can’t wait for Haley’s career to start buying her stuff, cause frankly I’ve posted this news since it broke a couple days ago and NO RESPONSE???

    This is the updated news, reported by TVsquad.


    She will perform it on Wednesday. If it is liked they will sell it and if that sells she will get an album.

    So Haley fans you have your orders, buy up this gal’s singles to get her an album. Put your money where your mouth is!!!

    • Jem says:

      It’s not written in stone that she is going to perform the song on results night. I reckon if she does, she’ll generate the interest she deserves.

  22. amadcow2 says:

    Thank you Michael for a very interesting interview. I was surprised to hear Nigel chastise Randy for ‘piling on’ Haley. That alone enhanced my opinion of the man. With respect to a revamp of the voting process, I think that the ‘one device, one vote’ idea is probably a non-starter with Fox and AT&T. There’s a lot of $ to be made with power voting. I believe that the best solution would be to cap phone and internet votes at 50 and base text votes on a diminishing returns formula that keeps a 1 to 1 vote up to around 100 and then have each text vote after that ramp up to a text equaling 1/2 to 1/10 to 1/100 a vote. Then, you allow the judges (maybe not Randy) pick who goes home from the B3 up to the top 6 and get rid of the stupid save. There, I’ve fixed Idol :P

  23. dona says:

    great interview, slezak. a lot of topics to address and seem like u were under time constraints. i loved the passion and anger in your voice when discussing haley’s bashing. u r The Best interviewer on all things idol.

  24. JamieC says:

    Nice going, Michael! Really happy for you that you got a Nigel interview. Surely he’s been checking out Idoloonies and knows how knowledgable you are about Idol and how articulate your reviews of the show are.
    The only thing I wish you had followed up on was when he said he has nothing to do with how well a contestant does on the show. While he may not have anything to do with the votes, he most certainly has something to do with production. So I wish you had called him out on the lack of airtime some of the contestants get with respect to back stories, stool time w/ Ryan, etc. (Case in point this year: Haley)

    Anyway, great interview and congratulations on getting to sit down with the “mastermind”–you must have been stoked!

  25. JamieC says:

    Forgot to say that I thought his explanation for the judges harsh comments was lame. They should not be remarking on the rehearsals (with notes) but rather on the performance that counts–the one WE see and ultimately vote on. Their comments should be off the cuff and spontaneous in reaction to what they have just seen, not what they saw/heard in rehearsal.
    Also,if you (and we) can see and point out the problems with certain performances, there isn’t any reason those judges shouldn’t. Saying there’s more to critique in a dance performance was another lame answer.

  26. leigh says:

    Thank you, thank you for this wonderful and informative interview.

  27. ladyhelix says:

    I felt that you pushed Nigel where you could and that you walked that line like a pro!! It was good to have this perspective (and personality) on your show and because you were a gentleman – you will most likely have the privileged again!! BRAVO!!

  28. davey says:

    After listening to Nigel’s interview I feel Idol must do two things to have any credibility:

    1) Improve the voting system. Limit the number of votes per person.

    2) Continue to be positive with contestants but point out when they sing off-key, miss key changes and lyrics, swallow words, lose breath, etc. Also discuss arrangements though you do get the impression that the contestants don’t seem to control the arrangements–though last year, this was less of a problem. Also criticize a contestant he sings the same kind of song over and over again–Scotty and Lauren were both guilty of this.

    Also if the judges hate a song like Michael Jackson’s Earth Song, they should tell the contestant to choose another song!

  29. Ellen says:

    To h*ll with all the nay sayers… Kudos for grabbing a Nigel interview. I really like the man. He brought me some of my favorite shows ever and he keeps them going strong. I was just happy to watch without reading anything into it.

  30. Kellie says:

    Lauren Alaina can’t write… so we’ll bring someone in for her… ugh… everyone else can but the child… please send her back home & let her grow up normal and then come back!

  31. Yves says:

    did you ever interview Casey????

    • M says:

      I think he did but I think the file got corrupted. Michael mentioned it when Jacob’s idoloonies episode was posted

  32. Erica says:

    As a professional musician, I have to disagree with Nigel re judging. There is just as much to say to a singer as there is to a dancer. (I’m guessing that Nigel does not have a vocal background?) Michael, I am assuming you are not a musician, yet you often find plenty to say musically about the performances. Also, he sidestepped the issue of there being very little judging going on. If the role of the “judges” is to be cheerleaders, let’s just call them that and cut the hypocrisy.

    • blahblahblah says:

      Yeah, as I said either just babble positive nothings to all of them or criticize them ALL. EQUALLY. And don’t try to mess around with editing things or getting them to say this or re-shooting scenes to make them look alone, etc. Just give it to us straight and let the stories tell themselves, truth is usually stranger and more wonderful than fiction anyway (as it well might have been this year without the meddling, for which you almost wonder if they are now, finally sorry over; although seeing how happy Randy and JLo looked I fear those two may be useless).

      If they replace two of the judges next year I will give it a try again. If they somehow promise fair judging and production next year (although they need a way to get the point across the the skeptics while not admitting outright so much about what went down that they kill themselves) I will give it a try again.

      ************ 1-5 votes per device might not hurt. One tricky thing is that early rounds can lead to really weird things if it is 1 vote per device. Do you vote for sole favorite to keep another you like alive with vote takes all, no ranked points per contestant I wonder how 1 vote per person turns out…. Ranked votes 1-12 to start and 1 less each round with more points for 1st, etc.?? That could be online only and nah they would never get into that.

  33. Phill says:


  34. RM says:

    It’s pretty clear why the judges were harsh on Hayley. The show wanted to close the story arc on Lauren: “From the first auditions, we found The One.” Nigel wanted to hide the fact that she was in the bottom three that one week when the results were given in random order. That’s so he can say “she was never in the bottom three” like he does with Carrie Underwood. Unfortunately, she hit the bottom three the following week too. Hayley was the only girl standing between Lauren and the possible win. Usually, when the judges blast someone, she goes home. It is just that Hayley was pretty darn good and the others didn’t step up as much. As for a future in the music business, all eleven will have a tough time. People who watch the show no longer buy the contestants’ CDs. Much of it has to do with the average age of viewers skewing ridiculously old. Iovine is contractually obligated to sign the winner. We don’t know if UMG’s new contract forces the company to sign the runner up. Iovine has been in the business for decades. He’s like Simon Cowell. Iovine can identify whether someone has the IT factor based on first impressions. He may not sign anyone else up for a recording contract. The key question: “Can this person move a million albums in the US?”

  35. notnigel says:

    It’s people saying stuff like “She had some very good performances but also some bad and was inconsistent. Most people thought she should have been gone before #3.” that shows the lie of Nigel’s explanation. Even though her less than 10’s were generally decent and sometimes very good people think they were bad (since everyone else was called great) and that she was riddle with bad and that somehow became the bigger story than the fact she freaking had the best of the night each of the last few weeks.

  36. algalhi says:

    Interesting interview with Nigel – I enjoyed it, but he’s quite a glib character!
    There’s a reason why his explanation of why Haley was being singled out for criticism doesn’t make sense. It’s because it isn’t true. It’s the same explanation that JRand has also given and here it is again. To have 3 people come up with the identical and nonsensical explanation isn’t a coincidence. It’s their “talking point” and they are sticking by it because they can’t tell us the real truth. They think they can just say the same thing over and over and pretty soon we’ll move on — they’re probably right.

    The thing is though, what the judges say is really important. Many, many people listen to the judges’ opinions and vote accordingly. JRand had an agenda this year and pushed that agenda so hard that even the voting public was regularly saying, “Huh???” (and yelling and throwing things at the TV). Impartial judging, in my opinion, is the cornerstone of a show like American Idol. We want to know that if a contestant sings well, that they will be treated fairly, rewarded with positive comments from the judges and with votes from the general public. It’s the American way, the American dream. If there is even a hint of bias, all that collapses. So, while AI most probably has been “manipulative” in the past, they did it with subtlety. This year wasn’t subtle.

    And Nigel has it wrong — judges don’t have to be either cruel like Simon sometimes was or say every performance is beautiful. They can give constructive criticism in a nice way. He made an excuse for the judges’ lack of input, saying that Jimmy Iovine had already done that. So, Nigel, why are you paying millions to have Steven and JRand sit up there and pretend to judge?

    It occurs to me that if Nigel’s goal was to make us watch AI, then he’s certainly done that over the Haley bashing weeks. Maybe that’s the truth: can’t manipulate someone’s performance, but manipulate what the judges say, make the public mad, make the public vote, make the public watch the show. Now THAT makes sense!

    • Tina says:

      Algalhi – you said it perfectly here! And maybe Nigel doesn’t fully “get it” coming from a culture of “mind your place” and the stiff upper lip, but at the heart of America is that idea of fairness. Everyone should get a fair and equal chance, and be treated and judged the same. “And justice for all.” When you break faith with that, you break faith with what the American audience believes in, and no amount of spin can justify it. You can try to call it ‘tough love,’ that one contestant was judged differently than everyone else because she was so good. You can try to insinuate that somehow other contestants are a better class of people who deserve fancy special treatment (all the ‘wholesome Christian teen’ emphasis) but the fact is, if it’s blatantly unfair, we aren’t buying it.

  37. Damarco4u says:

    MICHAEL! A few weeks ago you were openly blasting American Idol for it’s fallacious voting system with the aid of Alexis (S8) and how certain people (teenage girls) are monopolizing the vote, and ruining the results: Kris over Adam; Lee over Crystal; the untimely removal of Pia, James and Haley, just for starters. But the moment you approached this subject with Nigel you pussyfooted around it completely, as if it were just some issue in passing! How can you complain that the judges are being too easy on the contestants if you don’t let Nigel know that those of us who invest our time in this show who are not teenage girls, but adults with schedules to keep, would like to have an equal vote in this show? I think it was very big of Nigel to come to your show and I truly enjoyed hearing what he had to say, but I know I speak for a lot of people when I say that the voting system HAS TO GO!!!!!!!!! Nigel has the right idea: one device, one vote. If that isn’t invoked then the show will return to ratings slippage. There’s no reason to verbally abuse Nigel, especially since we all know he has a full schedule anyhow, but there is no reason to let these points go treated as light matters either. There IS a shade of gray here.

    • agrimesy says:

      I think Michael handled the interview correctly. Nigel explained that Idol is considering a different voting system, but also that making suggestions doesn’t always equate making change. That’s as good an answer as we are going to get because inevitably, it isn’t up to Nigel. The choice belongs to the sponsors. I don’t think AT&T cares who is making those power vote texts. Neither do they care who, artistically speaking, deserves to advance in the competition. If the entertainment value of Idol’s 90 minutes on TV creates 90 million votes, they win. I doubt they can be convinced that the core audience will stop watching (rating’s slippage) just because the voting seems unfair. There has been voting drama practically every season, and Idol keeps breaking their past records. How was Michael supposed to make an argument out of that? American Idol claims it’s mission is to find the next international singing sensation, but in reality, it’s only objective is to provide the kind of “good TV” that makes you pick up your phone.

      • Damarco4u says:

        I wouldn’t want to be misconstrued. I think Michael’s interview of Nigel was wonderful, and he asked all the questions that we fans of the show have wanted asked but that so many entertainment news sources don’t ask in lieu of fawning. As I said, I think it is just a shade of gray darker. I certainly wouldn’t want Michael to have said “Look here, this is how so many of us feel and you need to get with it!” I just felt that Michael eased into the issue when he could have asserted it more strongly, especially since I was so thrilled to see he and Alexis take it on so strongly. I followed Michael here from EW because I love his entertaining take on these things. I simply wish that he had stated his point with less caution while performing his usual practice of politeness and respect to his interview subject. And again, huzzah on getting Nigel here in the first place. It shows how respected Michael is as a journalist and commentator that Nigel deigned to grant the interview, which I felt was the most direct and informative he has ever been.

        • agrimesy says:

          I didn’t really think you were dissing Michael. I too am as frustrated as you that Nigel was evasive. Sometimes just asking the questions is enough catalyst to provoke change. It’s evident that at least Nigel is considering a new voting system. We’ve got roughly five months to see what comes to pass.

          • Damarco4u says:

            You’re right. Nigel acknowledged the problem, although in a very British way, that to us Yanks–who lay all out on the table–seems cryptic. But I should take heart in the fact that he realizes the problem. Perhaps tonight’s show will have a record low number of voters. I know that I couldn’t see my way to voting for either of them. I did not dislike them, and they are talented, but they really were not as fun to listen to as Haley and Pia, and neither of them had the mastery of showmanship that James has. It was an overall great season, and Nigel really did some wonderful things with it. As Michael aptly pointed out, the Thursday night vote off show was no longer something to flash through on DVR. I am already looking forward to next year….with the hope that Nigel meant what he said about those changes. ;)

  38. Rusty says:

    Two thoughts: 1.)I do NOT want these three tool-bag judges picking the contestant going home out of the bottom three. What the hell kind of season would we have ended up with had that been the case? If they got Ben Folds or someone with an ounce of credibility and honesty, then maybe I could be on board. But Mr. “I’m just not rooting for her”? Yeah, not so much. 2.) Nigel does not seem to know the first thing about how to evaluate and judge a singing performance. For him to say that there just isn’t anything to say about a singing (as opposed to dance) performance reveals his ignorance. I mean, come on, he’s talking to Slezak, who can bust out pages and pages on the nuances of a particular performance. It’s very illuminating–the problem with the judges is that their boss doesn’t really know what he is doing as far as the actual judging of the show is concerned.

    • Rusty says:

      And honestly–would a critique of “you should control and support your breath more” really be more boring than a millionth comment of “Beautiful” or “In it to win it!!”? Why not have someone who truly knows about the mechanics of singing (Adam Lambert/Kelly Clarkson?) give the contestants specific direction the way they do on SYTYDC? If people can tolerate and appreciate that on a dance show, they certainly will be able to appreciate it on the singing show. Good lord, we may actually be interested if you give us the chance! Seriously Nigel, you do not have to be afraid of boring us with technical singer stuff-you have already bored us to tears with allowing the same inane crap that passes as judging being stated over and over and over again. How about trying to bore us a little differently next year?

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Wow, Rusty, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

        I can’t even imagine what tomorrow night’s show has in store for us.

        • LetTheRightOneWin says:

          I can and I won’t be watching tomorrow. That is THE only way to get them to accept they need to change their ways. I’ll flip in for the finale the next night when U2 comes on and if they say Haley will do something or for the Jack Black/Casey thing or such.
          Next season? Depends what changes they make and what they say (and keeping the same judges, saying nothing, and changing it so that the judges pick from the bottom three would guarantee I stay away until they do something else.)

  39. cmp says:

    While I respect Nigel as a judge on SYTYCD, he is full of crap regarding not having any concise criticisms when it comes to singing. What BS! It’s simple. You were off key during some or most of your song. While your vocals were spot on your performance over all was a snooze fest. How about trying NOT to scream through your entire song? How about NOT abruptly ending your song to squeak out a “thank you” after each song but instead finishing the song with one of those money notes you’re so scared of? How about NOT creeping us out with those squinty eyes while molesting the mic during one of your karaoke songs?? Just sayin’. Good luck tomorrow.

    • Tina says:

      These kids really need the criticisms. As cmp points out, there was an article recently where country radio producers criticized Scotty because they didn’t like all his eyebrow waggling and face-making, and felt he was just imitating other singers rather than showing his own style: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/idolchatter/post/2011/05/country-radio-not-crazy-for-idol-singers/1
      Scotty really has to get this about “stand in front of the mirror and practice singing without waggling your eyebrows and making faces.” Just as Gaga had to really hassle him about singing directly into the microphone. These are basics that these kids need to grasp so that they can go out and be successful in a world which is not going to give them a free pass just because they were on American Idol. And this whole high-priced American Idol team of judges, producers and coaches is not delivering on getting these basic critiques to these kids.

  40. puppetmaster says:

    Haha, just went back and watched the Earth Song performance again. I still think she didn’t sound that bad at all. And her screams weren’t even totally raw, they had tone. And you could tell she was really connecting to the words and emotions and meaning on this one. And then they want her to do some cheesy whatever that doesn’t even move her instead?

    And I also watched the judges and as the song ends the crowd rises up and she is getting a ton of cheers and looking happy, feeling that she moved people and my god the look on JLos face whoa! She does do the eye thing to many and that is just her cool look and probably signifies nothing but holy smokes as the cheers pile up and Haley smiles wow did JLo not look the happy camper, this was something totally different, yikes.

    • algalhi says:

      Yeah, I agree with you. From her body language after singing Earth Song, Haley was so happy and kinda bounced around, thrilled with the crowd reaction. Then, JLo opened her mouth…. and… thud!

  41. Jason S says:

    You can’t believe anything this slime has to say. It could also be argued that the judges knew Haley was great in HOTRS and they were trying to rattle her so she wasn’t great!! (I think Michael and Melinda made this argument!) And top 3 week they finally decided to not criticise in hopes that her fan base would get complacement. If they couldn’t break her with abuse they would kill her with kindness. How about being honest, decent people and just judging equally to all contestants. The production knew Scotty was going to run away with the final but they had to ensure LAuren made it! THey did this in five subtle and not so subtle ways ways. 1) The judges pick for lauren according to Deborah Bird (the vocal choice) was Lauren’s first choice to sing. So LAuren got to choose two songs basically. Two songs she already knew how to sing. Who knows but she probably knew how to sing the third song as well. HAley had to learn two new songs! 2) For judges choice they gave Haley the bitch anthem “You Oughta Know” knowing full well that people were criticizing her for standing up for herself to paint her as a bitch!! and sing “Are you perverted like Me?” 3) They made sure that was the last image voters got of her. Every other season contestants choice was the final round before voting. 4) Just in case that wasn’t enough they didn’t criticize her (which Nigel admitted whenever HAley is criticized she gets a lot of votes)!!! 5) Of course Lauren Alaina was completely off key in the second song as yet Tyler said she was best in the round!!!

    • me says:

      We really would be morons if we believed they were just hard on some contestants for their own good (if you really wanted them to advance then why burst a million tears over the seemingly chosen ones and nothing for the ones who seemed to be the sacrificial lambs, the ones you decided it was ok to get on so you could say you did criticize some people) or because they knew they would later do something really amazing. How is that last one even an explanation? I see you got a B+ on your first test but you know what I went ahead and already graded you second one and you got an A+ on it, you are o so smart, so let us just call that first one a D for you, cool? The other students? They got D’s to A-‘s but ah who can keep track of it all, A- across the board for everyone (notyou). Yay!
      Haley wow you got an A+, the only one but oh my on that D we may have to hold you back at this rate you naughty girl! and I see everyone else did so well on both tests A- for everyone on both my you are all ready for the next lessons (notyou)!

  42. puppetmaster says:

    If you want to fix the show before it loses too much credibility in the viewers eyes? Let it play naturally, let it steer itself, support even judging, support fair judging, don’t preview performances, and replace JLo and Randy (used to love him but this dog is cooked). Either they have simply totally lost it which is no good or they have been simple script followers for a buck and no longer have any credibility. Even on the last night JLo still couldn’t quite manage to act credibly!

    It’s one thing if people don’t like the majority vote and it loses some respect in some eyes for that but it’s a whole other level of bad if complete respect for the fairness of the show itself is lost. An obvious lack of fair play and manipulations does not suit the best interest of this type of show.

  43. Josh Taylor says:

    Gotcha, Nige. So it is perfectly okay to unfairly and illogically bash a performance as long as there is one you can rave about shortly after. Idiot. If both performances are good, praise both. You did that for the others, even when they had “incredible” second performances.

    • RTW says:

      EXACTLY! People have criticized Haley for being inconsistent, and as a result not voting for her. After this interview, she may not have been as inconsistent as much as we were led to believe. This show needs to WAKE UP and not lessen the amount of criticism, but up the ante on all contestants.

  44. Linda says:

    Slezak –

    I am disappointed in your interview with Nigel. Why didn’t you ask him directly if he told the judges what to say? If he had his own agenda about who he wanted in the top? Why didn’t you ask him – not just about the criticisms towards Haley – but how others who were flat, screeching, karaoke – didn’t get criticized? You’ve been slamming him for months on your site but when you had him in your sites you gave him a free pass?

  45. JAson S says:

    Here’s another thing that makes me sick about American Idol and how they treat the winning contestants. TMZ reported that the contracts for the American Idol tour say that each contestant gets $1000 per show. And if there is no show that day they get $50. To put this in perspective. The tickets are $65 before service. That means that each singer gets paid for 15 tickets they sale. So if the show sells 10,000 tickets they basically get .15% of ticket sells. Not even 1%. .15 percent/ So if there’s 10 contestants they make the talent of their tour share 1.5% 10 ways. It may seem nice that they are making $50,000 over two months work but if you really think about the fact that they are the draw of the tour and how much money is being made they are criminally underpaid.

  46. charlie says:

    I have grown to despise Nigel and couldn’t stand to listen to all of this interview. To me he is an egotistical British Blowhard and I would like to see someone tar and feather his ass and send him back to the UK on a slow, ass-burning boat. And the same for that other British Blowhard, Piers Morgan.

    Nigel is full of BS. His claim that he has no influence on the outcomes is total BS. Does he not decide which contestant will get the mini-interviews before performances? Sure he does and Haley gor few or none. While I am grateful to Idol for the talent that it has brought forth over the years, especially, Kelly, Adam, Katharine and Crystal, we now have better talent shows: The Voice [on now] and X Factor coming this fall. I’d now be happy to see idol go down the drain soon and take Higel with it!

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      don’t mince words, Charlie. How do you really feel?
      I also think he has more influence than he claims – to quote another famous Brit, “thou protesteth too much”.
      Speaking of Nigel and his influence, a friend of mine actually remembered I predicted a Scotty/Lauren finale many weeks ago. She was predicting James/Pia and I told her no, it was going to be the two country kids because they had coasted along way too easily and they seemed to be what the producers wanted (Group Night with Lauren was particularly telling). My friend said she remembered me saying the other contestants were just “window dressing”.
      I’d kind of forgotten – but she sure remembered.

  47. dee says:

    I confess I’m kinda over Idol(somewhere around the top 5, I got tired of the same lame judges comments and lack of a star emerging from the pack zzzzz) BUT I LOVE the part of your interview about SYTYCD – excellent questions and fabulous responses from Nigel – especially since he said what I wanted to hear, lol, like the return of the rotating judge – YES!!! (Thanks Adam for making a movie during this season :)

    And I agree with him that even though some people may not have liked it, the all-stars definitely brought up the level of dance, so I’m glad to see a return of both them and the top 20. Now all we need is for Wade Robson to start choreographing again and the season will be perfect! I doubt he’ll be back, but I’ll happily settle for two out of three :)

  48. Valerie says:

    I’m a little surprised at how convincing Nigel is, not a bad actor at all. I still call BS, but he sells it.

    And for all of those saying the video loading issues are the fault of the user – I have a T1 line and it still takes over 30 minutes to watch a 10 minute Idoloonies segment (45 minutes to get through Nigel’s 17 minutes of screen time and we’re at off-peak right now). The problem is not at this side of the screen.

  49. jl says:

    Stefano interviewed that the judges only criticized those who could handle it. If you can’t fake criticism yet, AI and the professional music biz are bit for you. So now we have two young finalists who don’t have a backbone.

  50. Bob says:

    Nigel came off better than expected. That being said, he looks like one of “the gentlemen” from that episode of Buffy where they steal everyone’s voice. I know you know what I’m talking about.