American Idol in Season 11: Nigel Lythgoe Talks SYTYCD-Style Voting, Banned Songs List

With only three episodes remaining of So You Think You Can Dance‘s eighth season, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is beginning to turn his attention to Fox’s other reality tentpole, a little show called American Idol. Coming off a year in which Idol not only survived Simon Cowell’s exit but thrived creatively (scoring 10 Emmy nominations) and in the ratings (despite a reconfigured judges’ panel and new time slot), Lythgoe says he is hesitant to make any drastic changes to the show when it returns for Season 11 in January 2012. But he took a few minutes to talk to TVLine about possible changes to Idol‘s voting rules, the idea of introducing a “banned songs list” that would outlaw “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” and other repeat offenders, and his penchant for “stirring up passion” among Idol and SYTYCD fans via his Twitter account. Read away, and come back to TVLine tomorrow for Part 2 of this interview, where Uncle Nigel talks about his Emmy hopes for Idol, Ryan Seacrest, and Cat Deeley.

TVLINE | When we last spoke in May, you had mentioned the possibility of making some changes to Idol‘s voting rules — either by limiting the number of votes per device, or borrowing the system you use on So You Think You Can Dance, where the Bottom 2 vote-getters perform for the judges on results night, and the judges make the final call about who goes home. Have the Idol powers that be explored these ideas any further?
We have spoken about it. We continue to speak about it. It’s very difficult to go from saying we had 120 million votes [in Season 10] then turning around next year and saying, “We got 15,000 votes this week!” A number of people in the [last] meeting we had thought that would not be good for the program, and it could be taken the wrong way. I mean, it’s never going to be 15,000, really; we’d probably be down to 30 million, but people would use that to say the program is losing viewers. That said, there still could be a ceiling put on certain votes, be it text [votes], maybe. I think we currently limit online voting to 50 votes, so maybe we could do the same for texting. We’re still discussing. I still like the judges being able to sort of look at the Bottom 2, and choose one of them, or assist in America’s vote. Don’t forget: America doesn’t vote people off the program, it votes to keep people on the program. And in that, rather like [So You Think You Can] Dance, the Bottom 2 could be looked at and the decision could be made by the judges.

TVLINE | If you go with the latter option, you’re going to have a lot of angry fans, and open up the Twitter floodgates to people calling you a moron because you’re putting more power in the hands of the judges, letting them make the final call on the two lowest vote-getters. That’s a really significant change in the way Idol works. Are you scared of backlash?
No, no. I don’t know why they’d be unhappy. Again, I repeat, they’re not voting people off the show — that is not the ethos of the show. And the people that are loved by America will never go near the judges. I get [angry criticism] with So You Think You Can Dance all the time, you probably know.

TVLINE | Yes, I do.
You can keep your favorites away from the judges for the entire series — just by voting. It’s always America’s favorite that wins.

TVLINE | I think with So You Think You Can Dance this year, there was the feeling that as judges, you guys get to pick who goes through to the Top 20. Then you get to continue choosing among the bottom two men and women until you’re down to the Top 10. And when we reached that Top 10, there wasn’t a big announcement to say, “We’ll continue doing a dance-off with the bottom two.” And maybe that’s the source of the outrage.
You never win in that premise. People don’t always know when we’re [making our decision and it is the same as] America’s vote. They’ll still kill us. Last week for instance, we did as America voted [with the elimination of Jordan and Jess], but we still get the blame. People love to blame me — that’s part of it. All of my rants online, I’m smiling most of the time and laughing. Because you don’t want a row with a 10-year-old in Boise, Idaho. That’s part of the fun of it.

TVLINE | I feel like you understand that outrage is a part of the process — slamming down the remote when someone good goes home too soon, or railing against the judges’ comments.
The only thing that annoys me are the ones who say “I have been a fan of So You Think You Can Dance every season since it started, and this year you sent home my favorite dancer, so I’ll never watch it again.” Well, then you’re not a fan of So You Think You Can Dance! You’re a fan of one person. And in truth, there was outrage when we kept people on this season, during our first results show when we didn’t send anyone home because we thought America should see more of the contestants. If you’re a fan of So You Think You Can Dance, it should be “Whoopee! I get to see more of those wonderful dancers next week!” And anyway, like I said, the people that are going to win never go anywhere near the judges. So no matter how much you bitch and complain about the horrible judges — the horrible judges who picked the contestants in the first place, and had to love them to pick them, so stop saying “You hate them! Why do you hate them so much?” — it’s illogical, but it’s good. It’s good that people are so passionate about it. And I love stirrng up the passion. That’s what I do on my television shows and that’s what I do on my Twitter site.

TVLINE | Is part of the appeal for you of potentially making Idol‘s system for elimination more similar to SYTYCD the fact that a sing-off between the Bottom 2 could result in a more suspenseful results show?
I think so. There’s a challenge there that gives the program a little more interest. I’m not, as I’ve said in the past, a huge fan of the Judges’ Save, however, I was grateful it was there [in Season 10] because it gave us a wonderful moment with Casey. So I can be swayed in my personal opinion, that’s for sure. I was delighted it was there, but just in prinicipal I don’t like the Save: I’d much prefer if it were a sing-off.

TVLINE | I want to ask you about Steve Tyler’s performance at the judges’ table. As the season went on, especially when we got past the pre-taped auditions and Hollywood rounds, I felt like he became very muted, that he stopped having much of an opinion about the performances. Have you spoken to him about how to translate his personality better once the live telecasts begin?
Steven is the sweetest of souls, for starters. And as an artist, he’s been though every problem a rock star could go through and come out the other end. He was never tough on anybody, if you look at it. So when you look at a Top 10 or a Top 13 where everyone is really strong in their own right, and they’ve been chosen by these judges, he is never gonna be tough. Not gonna happen. And I’m really grateful for the person he is. Same with Jennifer [Lopez]: People said “The judges aren’t being critical!” I’m not sure what they want them to say. They’re not going to turn around and say, “Pack your suitcase, you’re going home.” If you’re saying “I miss Simon Cowell being rude to people,” then that’s one thing. But I’d much prefer getting the level of talent we got because the judges were so forgiving in the initial stages, and so wanting the kids to do well, that they kept them and encouraged them through some poor times, and got them to a point where these kids really were extremely talented and growing every week, in my opinion. I prefer that kind of judge at this moment in time with the world — the economic crisis, trying to see a light at the end of the tunnel — than going back to where we were. I mean, [Simon’s style] was fabulous for the time we were doing that — “My God, he didn’t just say that!” But now I’d prefer Jennifer saying “Wow you’re amazing” or “I love you” as opposed to “Go and see a singing teacher.”

TVLINE | Jennifer, though, from maybe Top 11 to, say, Top 6 week or thereabouts, was giving really specific, instructive critiques: Telling Stefano to read the lyrics before he tackled a song, telling Pia to stomp it out and physically work the stage even during ballads. She wasn’t overtly harsh, but she was very constructive. Will you encourage her to do more of that in Season 11?
Absolutely. And I think Jimmy Iovine brought a lot in that area, too. Jimmy was much more critical because his endgame is “I want to sell a record,” not “I want to see this kid get on.” He came from the recording executive arena — exactly where Simon Cowell came from: Down to earth, “I’m not gonna sugarcoat this critique.” Then you’ve got the professional critiques: Jennifer and Randy. You mustn’t forget Randy in this, as far as I’m concerned. He, for me, really helped the process. He knew the program, he got on with the process, and allowed Jennifer and Steven to just be Jennnifer and Steven.

TVLINE | Any other big changes in store for Idol for 2012?
The world is gonna be different when we come back. The Voice is now around, and The X Factor will have come onto the scene as well. It’s gonna be a different world but we’ll keep doing what we do, which is the honesty of open, clean auditions, and kids coming on that stage raw and hopefully turning into stars. That’s what American Idol is all about, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

TVLINE | One other thing: When we spoke in May, the subject of theme nights and song clearances came up. Do you think we might see some new or different themes in Season 11? Are you already working on those?
We’re looking for areas to do the middle shows — [the post-Hollywood round] we did with the Beatles’ Love show in Vegas. We’re looking at what other stars we can do that with. But there are really great songs through all periods of time. The key is the melody. And it’s been tough [to find songs] from perhaps the middle of the ’90s [onward], where we lost the melody out of our songs. It’s starting to come back: Gaga, Bruno Mars, Cee Lo are bringing melodies back to music, and it’s gonna get easier again I hope. But we’re always going to have to go back in time for songs that can hit home on a minute-and-a-half performance.

TVLINE | What about packaging themes a little differently, like, say, “No Ballads Allowed” or “Breakup Anthems” or “One-Hit Wonders”?
We looked at Prom Night, we looked at Love Songs, and Songs with Colors in the Titles, that allow people to be creative. But at the end of the day, Haley’s biggest votes came when she sang “I Who Have Nothing” by diva Shirley Bassey and “House of the Rising Sun” which goes back to the Animals. And add to that she did “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele and Gaga’s “You and I.” So if you’re a good singer you can make the song be great.

TVLINE | Would you consider list of 10 or 12 banned songs, so we don’t ever again have to hear “Against All Odds” on the Idol stage?
At the moment I’m sick of “Rolling in the Deep”: Everyone wants to do that at the moment for their audition.

TVLINE | But seriously, it would be the most awesome idea ever if you banned 11 songs from the live rounds in Season 11, the ones that have been beaten into the ground.
[Laughs] Well, Mike, if you want to write down and send me 11 songs that you don’t want to hear again, I will put them through to the committee.

TVLINE | No joke: I am going to get you that list in a flash.
[Laughs] I’ll probably get it in the next 30 seconds, right?

Got any ideas for the “Banned Songs” list, or opinions on Nigel’s early Season 11 thoughts? Sound off in the comments! And for all my reality news and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. rochelle says:

    Anything by Whitney Houston or Alicia Keys. Unchained melody and like half of stevie wonder’s songs.

    I just can’t take it anymore

  2. Tarah says:

    ‘I Hope You Dance’. I like the song but it’s so over done on singing competition shows.

    • forrest says:

      @Tarah Repeating someone else’s comment from last season, “That song will be forever known as ‘Nuts of Wonder'” ‘Nuff said.

  3. bamabunny says:

    Oh, I am MORE than happy to suggest some songs that should be banned; these are both songs that just cannot be done well, and songs that were done SO well they can’t be topped (though I can be proven wrong, i.e. “I Who Have Nothing”):

    Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)
    I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing
    Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
    And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going
    I Believe I Can Fly
    I Have Nothing/I Will Always Love You (really, ANY Whitney)

    • Templar says:

      Never. ever let anyone do Mad World [Adam owns it], no more Solitaire [It’s Clay’s] and no Paint It Black [Siobhan’s].

    • D says:

      ===And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going===

      THIS! I hated it from the moment I heard that one girl sing it on…what was it? The first or second season of America’s Got Talent? And then, any time they showed her onscreen for ANY show, it was always, Always, ALWAYS that song! ARGH!

      I hear the melody from that song–I don’t even need a WORD, just the melody–and I think, “Forget it. Forget this show. I’d rather read for an hour.”

    • TopShelf says:

      Oh, and Aretha Franklin’s, “Natural Woman.” No one has ever done it better than Kelly Clarkson in Season One.

  4. AJ Miller says:

    No more Against All Odds, no more Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, no more Bridge over Troubled Water, and for the love of music DO NOT DO WHITNEY ON STAGE.

  5. Jeff says:

    I’ll be by Edwin McCain has got to go. No one has every done it well. Faithfully by Journey should go as well.

  6. kts63 says:

    Oh god–that Rascal Flatts song every single country kid sings: Bless the Broken Road. SOOOOO sick of that song.

  7. kts63 says:

    And Heatwave. And Alone (by Heart). Also, I’ll let them sing All by Myself and Without You but only if they actually make reference to the original singers to have hits with them and NOT claim that they’re Celine Dion songs.

  8. Jim says:

    Against All Odds (oh God, Paige Miles)
    Any Man of Mine
    All By Myself

    No more Whitney Houston, no more Celine Dion, and please, no Queen. No one has ever done well with a Queen song on the Idol stage, maybe they should take the hint.

    • Musica1 says:

      Are you kidding about Queen? Constantine Maroulis did an amazing job on Bohemian Rhapsody on S4. And then in S5 they had a Queen theme night with many great performances. One that stands out is Elliot Yamin’s Somebody to Love, which I still listen to often.

  9. Trisha says:

    The voting (for both Idol and SYTYCD) should be 1 vote per device/email address, or like DWTS or The Voice where you get a certain number of votes you can spread around or give to the contestants of your choice. Unless the system is changed on both shows it will continue to be a popularity contest with some talent going on and others leaving prematurely due to a certain voting block. Just make an announcement every week and in every publication and format that says the voting system has been changed – who cares if they get 1 million or 100 million votes? The number of people watching the show, which is what really determines the show’s popularity, will stay the same and might increase if people thought voting was fair and worth their valuable time.

    As for the judges, I like the idea of a SYTYCD “sing off” decision for Idol. It would make the show more exciting, and providing people voted correctly (and it was made fair as above), the bottom 2 or 3 should really be there. Contrary to opinion, Simon wasn’t “mean” he was truthful – granted in a really rude way – but if I’m looking at the top 10 on Idol (or SYTYCD) and I hear people who constantly sing out of tune or don’t relate emotionally or don’t understand how to perform, I would like to hear some advice from the judges. (This applies to SYTYCD as well.) Telling the contestants that they’re pretty or that they (the judge) love them or that they’re their favorite does no one any favors and makes the judges seem inept, lazy, and must make other contestants feel bad. Of course rejection’s part of the business, but if it were me I’d like to know I was let go because I was boring on stage or not as technically proficient rather than becuase the judges “liked” someone better.

  10. Caty says:

    The climb!

  11. Ben says:

    Mike, of all the good ideas you have, I still think this is worse. Your ‘banned songs’ frequently send home the worst contestants because they butcher them. And I think thats a good thing. By not banning them, you force the contestants (and Jimmy Iovine) to actually use musicality to prove they deserve to be there, instead of being cliche.

    Jim above said it all. Ugh, Paige Miles… who was eliminated by butchering that song. In my mind, its a positive.

    • Ben says:

      Further to this, didn’t Haley’s ‘I who have nothing’ prove this? I dunno… I just think this one is a bad idea. Sorry Mike, stick to some of the other good ideas you had!

    • Lauren says:

      Good point – but I have to make an argument on behalf of my ears. I don’t want to sit through an eighth or possibly even ninth performance of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me.

  12. Tusk says:

    Haley would not have made it as high as she did if they did the “Judges chose who goes home from bottom 2” method.

    Until they prove the Judges aren’t being ‘instructed’ who should go through, no way would I approve of that method. Too much room for shenanigans.

    Kind of annoying/insulting that he would even use Haley’s AI Journey to support his argument…they appeared to do everything they could to knock her down and off the show. Nigel she didn’t succeed because of you…she succeeded in SPITE of you. He pulls out RITD to support his Haley argument and turns around and says he is sick of it….typical two faced comment. :(

    • Brigette says:

      THIS! ^

    • Yasin says:

      Honestly, Haley should be giving a huge thank you to the judges/Nigel. All they did was garner sympathy for her. You all felt so bad for her, and now are her biggest fans mainly because of the bad way the judges treated her.

    • ali427 says:

      Yes–I immediately interpreted the Haley “love” as pandering to Slezak and his audience. SO fake!!!

  13. vicki says:

    Nothing Carrie or Adam sang for sure…it’s been perfectly covered already.

  14. Cheshire says:

    Wow, did I read that right, Nigel complimented Haley without being prompted to by Michael??? Sah-weet!
    P.S. Slezak, I wanna see your list!!!

  15. Sadie says:

    Don’t like a the idea of a singoff for the bottom two. Then we’d have to listen to the two we like the least sing yet again.

  16. Michelle says:

    I’ve always thought the judges should decide which singer goes home, especially in the earlier rounds (say, until the top 5). I love the idea of a sing off (or singing for your life) between the bottom two. This also eliminates the need to sing once you’ve been voted off, which I’ve always felt was really unfair.

    I, too, dislike the judges save, because they seem to use it way too early and save someone who should go (like Casey) instead of someone who deserves it (Pia).

  17. Jala says:

    You Raise Me Up- or anything previously performed by Josh Groban.

    One of my favorite singers, but if I have to listen to another delusional person butcher those songs one more time…

  18. Kel says:

    Banned songs:
    All My Myself
    Vision of Love
    I’ll Be
    Gavin Degraw’s I Don’t Wanna Be
    before he cheats
    since you been gone
    respect/ natural woman

  19. Jenny says:

    Banned Song list:
    Alone (Heart)
    Against All Odds
    And I Am Telling You (This song needs to be banned on any singing competition show)
    Any Whitney, Mariah, Celine ballads (try their upbeat stuff and prove you are a diva that way)

  20. Cup of Joe says:

    Just take a look at to see what were the most overperformed songs. The Top 5 are:

    A.A.O. (and no, I refuse to name that overplayed garbage)
    Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me
    I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing
    I Have Nothing
    All By Myself

  21. TamIWas says:

    I’ve actually thought for awhile that an elimination process similiar to SYTYCD would be much fairer than the current Idol method. Sometimes singers have far better performances than others and are still eliminated. Sure it’s “fair” because they didn’t earn the votes, but they would get a second chance.

    As for banned songs, please for the love of mankind, no more Something To Talk About, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Chain of Fools, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I Have Nothing, You Can’t Hurry Love, For Once In My Life, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Proud Mary, Midnight Train to Georgia, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Heat Wave, All in Love is Fair, I’m Every Woman and Signed Sealed Delivered. I realize I listed 15, so you can consider the extras a bonus four.

  22. Brigette says:

    I would be FURIOUS if the judges chose who got to leave from the bottom 2. It was pretty clear that they picked their favorites early on and stuck to script. It was maddening enough listening to their bias and ridiculous “critiques” once top 5 or 6 night came around. I can’t even IMAGINE how mad I would be if they got to chose who stayed. Like someone said earlier, they totally would have killed Haley off long ago, and she became the best out of anybody. Our votes should be the only votes that count, but limiting them sounds fine by me.

  23. Errca says:

    As much as I like the idea of the judges getting the final call, i don’t trust the idol judges as much as I trust the SYTYCD judges. Can you imagine what would have happened to Hayley Reinhart if the judges had the final call last season?

    • tag says:

      What would have happened to Haley? Well, considering that she LOST with the audience voting alone and the judges having no say… she still would have lost if the judges could have picked. So what?

      • Cup of Joe says:

        It’s more like she’d have been eliminated a pretty long time ago. Not good.

      • @tag says:

        She wouldn’t have won, no, but she would have been eliminated WAY too early and we never would have had awesome things like her version of “You and I”, or “House of the Rising Sun”, or “I Who Have Nothing” or “What Is and What Should Never Be” and that would have been a total travesty. Those are the only tracks from the last season of American Idol that I have on my iPod and still listen to because every other contestant, with the possible exception of James, on the rare occasions he didn’t murder his songs, either bored me to tears or made me want to stab the screen with how bad they were.

  24. NedPepper says:

    No. The inept judges cannot decide who goes home. If they’re going to have personal vendettas against certain singers, as they did last year, it will be awful. Haley survived in spite of the show. If they had their way, she’d have been eliminated long before she ever had any moments.

    Last year was a train wreck. I have very little hope this year will be better.

  25. MC says:

    Wow, this guy really doesn’t get it. No one enjoys the judges’ inability to critique anyone, and it certainly doesn’t help the contestants. It’s possible to judge someone without being rude, and I’m glad you reminded him of that, Mike. And they don’t have to announce the vote counts if they really think it would affect the show so profoundly. And the judges should not have any additional power; it would strip from Idol an important part of its identity, and everyone knows that they’re not really making any decisions anyway.

    • Templar says:

      No final cuts by the judges. Hypothetical situation: Pia [for example] is in the bottom two every week and the judges continue to save her every week and send the other lowest vote getter home. She could make the finale even though the public hasn’t wanted her there for weeks. I used Pia only to illustrate my point, not to dis her.

  26. morgan says:

    Anything Haley sang on the show.

  27. PB says:

    Michael, you should also be suggesting songs they should get permission/clearance to use. So many songs are overused because the producers give the contestants such a short list of usable songs.

  28. ThereasonsY says:

    Am I the only one nervous about giving the three Stooges the final vote in a sing off? I mean seriously, Haley would have been minced pie by her second trip in the bottom 2. The key result is that the votes should be weighted differently giving more importance to the people that PAY for the download/record sale. You know, like in real life?

  29. tag says:

    “So when you look at a Top 10 or a Top 13 where everyone is really strong in their own right…” No, they were not really strong. There was a lot of crap every single week, and every singer had at least one bad week. Yet the cheerleaders (I refuse to call them judges, as they hardly ever did their jobs) usually simply sat there and smiled and told them how fab they were, even when the singers had just stunk up the stage. I’d rather have honesty than the attitude that everyone has to be nice to avoid hurt feelings.

    Steven and Jennifer are terrible judges. Even Randy has gone way downhill.

    I do like the idea of the judges picking who leaves from the bottom two. The top singers would be safe, and the unpopular ones would deserve to be on the block, where the audience voting put them. If a terrific singer did land in the bottom two, that person should be saved.

    • Templar says:

      The judges for season 10 did their best work during auditions and Hollywood weeks. They gave us a much better top 24 than Kara and Simon would have. They kind of fell apart once the viewers started voting. At least they didn’t savage people as Simon did, and didn’t make it all about themselves as Kara did. Changing the voting is the elephant in the room. Also, since Idol is such a cash cow, pay to clear a much larger songbook.

  30. Tucker says:

    I, for one, would love to see the SYTYCD voting format on Idol. I’m tired of them trumpeting the number of votes as a badge of honor rather than the focus on the contestants. Plus, this would actually give the judges proper power (and fault) and not just be there for commentary.
    They should encourage the intensive critiques all the way through the season, not just dying off in the Top 7 or 6.
    And they should definitely keep Jimmy as a counter voice. I know a lot of people here poo-pooed him, but he was actually the sanest voice of the bunch.

  31. While I kinda like the SYTYCD system, the judges’ failure to pick Kendra as a wild card ruined my confidence in them.

    Hallelujah should never, ever, ever be sung again on Idol.

    Finally, I suggest a self-imposed rule wherein they commit to showing the auditions of everyone who made top-24.

    Agree or not, that first-time audition is a HUGE bonding experience between these singers and their fan base. The past 3 seasons, my favorite audition has gone on to be my favorite singer for the entire season (Matt Giraud, Didi Benami, and Haley).

    And I know Hollywood airtime CAN’T be equal because some contestants are more interesting than others, but last year was out of control. We saw every minute of Lauren, Scotty, Casey, etc., in Hollywood while we missed Kendra’s audition, group song, and barely saw half of her first solo. The first full performance we saw from her was her duet with Paul. She didn’t get a fair shot at building a fan base.

  32. Jason says:

    Stupid answer. Why do they have to say how many votes were garnered! Riddiculous! Onyl 30 million people watch the show so who cares if they got 121 million votes. MAybe you should care more about the integrity of your show then bragging rights!!!

    • anon says:

      Agreed! They trumpet the number of votes like it makes the show any better. I, for one, don’t care how many votes were cast.

    • Templar says:

      ITA. Instead of touting the vote number, say 30 million people tuned in to watch. Number of viewers is what matters to their advertisers, not how many votes they cast. Someone who voted 2 thousand times is only likely to buy one Ford.

  33. Brock says:

    No “River Deep, Mountain High”

    I’m all for the judges picking the person from the Bottom Two.

    Then Pia and James would have go on further….

    Or “Judge’s Choose till the Top 5”

    Something to help it. If you vote fro your fave person, then your second fave might go from the comp way too early. There have been huge errors with this system for too long! :)

  34. Teresa says:

    How about they decide on the themes before the season starts, and allow contestants to submit songs for those themes well in advance? Are they scared that the themes might leak and the audience wouldn’t bother to tune in they knew in advance which night was “Beatles?”

    So, here’s my idea for changing the voting system. Limit votes up until the Top 2 finale. Then, allow power-voting, but also allow people to pre-order the cds for the Top 2 finalists. Each pre-ordered cd would count for a number of votes (10? 15? 25?), so people could indulge their passions by doing something that would benefit the contestant (rather than just benefiting AT&T.)

    This would help insure that the Top 2 contestants were ones with the broadest fan base (since everyone would be limited to some extent). But on the finale, it would be fan passion that wins out — the winner would be the one who could inspire their fans to push for that title.

    And, five months down the line, when the cds come out, both album would start life with a nice pre-order boost, at least ensuring that they debuted respectably on the charts. After that, it would be up to the market place as to whether they became true stars.

    • Jo says:

      The bad thing about allowing unlimited voting in the finale is that you can end up with a situation like we had in season 8 where the south, especially Arkansas went on a mad texting spree with the help of AT&T giving out phones and teaching stadiums full of people how to vote thousands of times and skewing the vote to the less deserved contestant just because they were so desperate to keep the gay guy from becoming the next american idol.

  35. merr7242 says:

    Season 10 was really boring. With all of the “mentors and the producer” helping the kids, you would think that they would have done a better job of getting a song choice that would fit their personality and their vocal range better. I was very disappointed with the top 2 singers.

    • Cup of Joe says:

      Now, now, let’s be fair. It could probably be said that it was MOSTLY boring because while there were a lot of solid performances and rarely anything disastrous, a lot of the performances were middling, mediocre, flawed and boring.

      The Top Two singers were the Top Two because they while they weren’t the most exciting, they were the most consistent.

  36. bb says:

    A bottom 2 sing off with the judges deciding who leaves is the format of X Factor. Consequently, Idol shouldn’t adopt the same format. It needs to try to maintain the image of being the original singing competition, and not become a copycat of another singing competition. If they want to change their elimination system, they need to be creative about it.

  37. Jenny says:

    Great interview! I enjoy Nigel’s honesty, because doesn’t condescend or patronize his viewers. He has opinions of our opinions, but he doesn’t disregard us completely. Very classy gentleman.

    • SlezakFan says:

      I completely agree with that. I have never really seen the evil side of him like so many others do… He is a very clever man put in the position to do what he does best and I think he totally succeeded doing that too. The slyness, the tricks, the stirring of passions etc. just come with the territory.

  38. BB says:

    There are probably many songs that should never be sung on the idol stage again, but, I am really suprised that nobody has mentioned the song that should be banned before all others…….YOU OUGHTA KNOW!!! Please remove this weapon from the hands of the judges. I knew it was over for Haley when they chose this song for her (the studio version is awesome however). How about a viewers choice instead? I also think that voting should be limited. I would like to see 10 votes per method and it SHOULD include I-tune purchases as well, with one purchase equaling 10 votes. That is the only way to see who fans will truly support. The first I-tunes I ever purchased in my life were Haley’s (btw i am 54 and female…there go your demographics! LOL). As for “Theme” weeks….how about this requirement….Stick to the theme! I find it hard to believe that every song that Scottie sang was “countryfied”. A truly talented singer (Haley) can sing anything and did! Sorry, I have no interest in watching “County Idol”. The only reason I stuck around was because of Haley (and Casey).

    *Reinharted for life*

  39. Lauren says:

    I really, really don’t want the judges to make the elimination decisions in the live rounds. It seems so obvious to me that the best route to go would be to limit the amount text message votes from each device. This would show how many different PEOPLE actually like a contestant versus how many VOTES someone got because a few voters had the capacity to put out hundreds of text on their phones.

  40. JVC says:

    Any song by stevie wonder, elvis presley, and frank sinatra. Would it be to extreme to ban beatles songs? I’m just throwing the last one out there and I mean only certain ones not all of them. I know future auditioners may have a problem w/ this but they’ll thank people like nigel and especially you slezak because it’s to save them from make STUPID mistakes that can be blamed on song choice alone. And get “against all odds” outta there slezak. I mean we all knew in season 9 that paige miles was done before she started. But to season 10’s credit we did see songs I never heard before, like on songs from the cinema.

  41. Cassie May says:

    1) LIMIT THE NUMBER OF VOTES. On ALL devices. NO ONE is impressed by the _(insert number here)_ million votes counted except the producers themselves. Period.

    2) Allow the judges to critique! Ban “beautiful” and “in it to win it” and all the other stupid, senseless, catchphrases. No more scripts from Nigel.

    3) Ban any song by Whitney, Mariah, Stevie Wonder, Queen, and Heart.

    4) Get rid of the save. It totally nullifies America’s votes, and the save has not proven to ultimately save anyone, as no one who was saved went on to win. It just delays the elimination of whom America wanted to go home, anyway.

  42. MAS says:

    Nigel you seem to be forgetting that people did vote for the dancers in the bottom 3 or bottom 2 as the case may be and when the judges pick then those votes become essentially irrelevant. They weren’t enough to keep the dancer out of the bottom and they aren’t enough to save them when they are there. Also, I watched it twice and it was clear you sent home Jordan as the lowest vote getter, but it wasn’t clear until I read this article that that was true with Jess. Next year, just let the audience decide and leave it at that.

  43. Jo says:

    No one cares about the vote totals. You cannot get an accurate vote across the board when females text vote the cute WGWG every time. This was proven in season 8 when it was clear that Adam had the most fans throughout the country and Kris’s fans were mostly from Arkansas alone that got out 30 million votes as the governor stated that night. It needs to be fair for once so the most popular and the most talented contestant has a chance to win.

  44. Jonathan says:

    Ban any song from the soundtrack to an animated film, for starters.

  45. Jonathan says:

    Nigel’s response to Michael’s question about Steven Tyler shows that he is still pretty clueless, or just refuses to give honest answers. The fact was that these kids were not so amazing that they were beyond criticism, and Steven seemed completely checked out after a very enthusiastic showing in the pre-taped sections of the show.

    • Cassie May says:

      I agree. Nigel is also clueless when he insists that the singers showed growth during the competition. Every week it was the same thing over and over again, except for the amazing Haley, who showed true growth as the weeks went on.

  46. A_Viewer_Idol_Lost says:

    They can come up with something else to say rather than mention the number of votes that came in. No need to touch the subject of the number of votes at all. All that matters is the order of the result. Idol currently has no credibility in the voting department and that matters big time.

    They have to fix the voting for the sake of the contestants careers and fan expectations. Next they MUST spend some of the Millions they waste over paying judges promoting the careers of the best contestants after the summer tour is over. Sign, miss manage and drop before the artist has a chance to find where they fit in combined with very little promotion after tour for some of them should not be the norm for Idol. It is now though.

    They should hold auditions for judges rather than pay celebs ridiculously different amounts of money for not very good judging. Any figure head with a personality will do and they could be backed up by a panel of experts feeding talking points to them. I think it would be best though if critical feedback is given off camera and let the contestant mention it in their packages before the next performance if they want to.

    Michael Slezak should be an Idol Management consultant.

  47. Amy says:

    Oh, Uncle Nigel. You drive me crazy.

  48. Trisha says:

    The only reason Haley was in the bottom 3 so often was becauase of the asinine voting structure in place now! Equalize the voting method and the silly little girls and moms voting en masse for the cute & sweet boys/girls would go away. The judges’ nasty comments about Haley probably did galvanize her fan base but discerning teens & adults can’t compete with an army of tweens who block text. I voted for Haley with redial for almost the entire voting period every week – how many others did the same?

  49. Mikey says:

    I think the shoul ban:
    All By Myself
    and I’mTelling You
    Summertime and others
    I think they should actually retire songs once they have been made legendary, like retiring jersey numbers. Hanging from the idol rafters next to posters of the winners you’d see
    Alone – Carrie Underwood
    Mad World – Adam Lambert
    Summertime – Fantasia
    Solitare – Clay Aiken
    Heartless – Kriss Allen
    Bennie and the Jets – Haley Reinhart
    Natural Woman – Kelly Clarkson

    And it could be a two hour special replaying the old performances and retiring them from the show

  50. Lauren says:


    Against All Odds
    Sun Going Down on Me
    I Don’t Wanna Be!!!!!! OMG STOP WITH THIS SONG!
    Man In The Mirror
    I Who Have Nothing
    Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me
    Unchained Melody
    Heat Wave

    Bonus 12th banned song: Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing

    I feel like these songs are done to death on the show, and a few of them have been awful almost every time. There’s a case to be made about not repeating a song that’s been performed flawlessly by a past contestant, but I think the list would be better with these songs on it rather than arbitrarily saying no one should ever perform Stuff Like That There again.