American Idol: Nigel Lythgoe Talks 'White Guys With Guitars,' Ratings Declines, Twitter Peeves

nigel lythgoeIf you think Nigel Lythgoe has an easy job, consider this: Despite producing the No. 2 show of the 2011-2012 TV season in terms of total viewers and the coveted 18-49 demo, American Idol‘s executive producer is still in the unenviable position of defending the show’s ratings and creative direction in the face of public criticism from his own boss.

We caught up with Lythgoe prior to Idol‘s Season 11 finale to get his thoughts on how the season had played out, why female contestants can’t win seem to take home the top prize, what he thinks of his high-profile singing-show competitors, and whether or not Idol‘s judges sometimes get too enamored of their favorite contestants to be able to provide them with good, honest feedback. Oh, and of course, we got him to open up about his ongoing pas de deux with his Twitter “morons.”

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TVLINE | Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly recently told reporters that Idol‘s Season 11 ratings dipped “more than anticipated” and that in retrospect the show should’ve made more creative tweaks to stay competitive in the crowded reality singing competition space. How did you feel about those remarks, especially considering that in many ways, Season 11 felt like a genuine creative success?
I’m shocked that he would say we didn’t anticipate that. We always stayed away from [airing] two seasons of American Idol [per calendar year], knowing that ratings would dip, and the public would get tired. It’s just the very nature of offering the audience too much [of a particular thing]. Now, if you’re going to do The X Factor on the same [network] as American Idol, that’s like two American Idols back-to-back. So, yes, I’m shocked that they thought that the ratings wouldn’t dip. Plus, The Voice is in the mix now, too. There’s just a lot more on offer today, and kids don’t always watch the television anymore. The world has changed in the 11 years that we’ve been doing this.

TVLINE | Nobody is drawing 25 million viewers per week.
They’re not. That’s a fact. So, when Kevin says we’ve got to do new things next year, what are the changes? The format is a very simple format. Kids audition for us. Their talent is what brings people in to watch the show. Do we change the format? Maybe we should do it under water while basket weaving? It surprises me that there’s some kind of challenge to the producers to make it more exciting. What do they think we do? Sit on our asses not worrying about the show? I know, let’s watch the ratings dip down, that will be fun, won’t it? I get very annoyed with people, especially executives that should know what they’re talking about, making statements like that, to be frank with you.

PHOTOS | American Idol Photo Gallery: The 21 Best Performances of Season 11!

TVLINE | Let’s talk about a phrase that comes up a lot with regard to Idol, a phrase that makes me sort of uncomfortable: White Guys With Guitars. There’s no denying the fact that white male contestants who play the guitar have dominated the show for several years running. So what I’m wondering is, do you stress about getting a more diverse roster of winners from the show?
The last few years, without question, it has been that way. I always get the comments — and we get it on [So You Think You Can] Dance, too –“Oh, the boys are always going to win, and the girls are going to be cut off one by one.” Season 11 of [Idol], that’s been the first year I [couldn’t have told] you who’d definitely be in the finale. We never really had one person win two weeks running.

TVLINE | But is it a concern for Idol, as a franchise, to have a similar type of singer winning year after year, and to not have a female winner for five years running now?
There’s nothing you can do about it. When you say to America, you vote, the only thing that can be changed is the voting system. And I would hope that next year we would look at that.

TVLINE | I have to say, though, that unlike your main competitors, Idol is the one program that once the live shows begin, the power — except for the Judges’ Save and the Wild Card — is entirely in the hands of the public. The judges don’t get to add their scores to America’s. They’re not deciding who goes home from the Bottom 2 contestants. They’re not doing instant eliminations. And that makes Idol unique.
It totally is in viewers’ hands. We are informed how the voting works: AT&T informs Telescope, Telescope informs us. There are always accusations, the latest one being “The Philippines are voting!” Well, God bless them! [Laughs] But you know, I am assured that there is no power voting every week.

TVLINE | Let’s talk about the audition rounds. I thought that they started out really strong this year — front-loaded with talent, and not nearly as many gimmicky contestants.
We had the talent. We only do gimmicky contestants when we haven’t got the talent, in truth. We’ve always tried to veer away from the kids who are playing you along, college students who just want to act stupid to get on the show. Those are different from the singers who are deluded. [I’d argue] there’s nothing wrong with [showing] the kids who just totally believe that they are the best thing since sliced bread. “What do you mean you’re going to say ‘no’ to me? I’m fantastic! My parents told me I’m wonderful!”

TVLINE | Have you ever thought about switching from a city-by-city format for auditions to organizing auditions by, say, blocks of country singers or soul singers? Somehow shaking up how you present auditions?
No, I haven’t, but that’s an interesting idea, and certainly one that’s worth discussing. The whole thing about American Idol, though, is that we go to them. That’s what our record companies stopped doing with their A&R departments, and now they just expect people to come to them. Plus, we don’t just want country singers, and we don’t want to pigeonhole contestants too easily. At this moment in time, it’s much easier to go to a city and say. “American Idol is in town.” That’s the magnet.

TVLINE | One new thing we saw this year was a greater number of contestants returning to audition who’d been pretty prominently featured — only to get cut — in prior seasons: Hollie Cavanagh, DeAndre Brackensick, Colton Dixon, even Baylie Brown. Was that a conscious decision on your part? Did you feel like maybe having a few of those familiar faces might hook in Idol fans who were on the fence about dropping the show from their DVR lineup?
No. In fact, I don’t think of Idol like So You Think You Can Dance, where I welcome people to come back because that extra year really does improve them. With American Idol, if you’re tone deaf, you’re going to sing just as badly as you sang the year before. And we’re a little reticent in saying that [a particular contestant is] a returnee. In Season 11, we thought, “Oh, we’ve really got too many coming back.” But when you look at the auditions the year before, the judges were saying, “We really like you, but we don’t think you’re right for us yet.” What is it that Steven [Tyler] says? “You need to marinate a little more, or you need to bake a little more in the oven.” It’s true. And especially Joshua [Ledet] — we showed his [Season 10] audition [late in Season 11], and also with Hollie, as you rightly say. With Baylie Brown, she auditioned four five years ago. Simon [Cowell] didn’t like her at all, and so we lost her. And we do lose good people sometimes. The producers sit there too going, “Oh, you can’t get rid of them!” But that’s the fun of American Idol for all of us. It is all subjective. We all have opinions. And that certainly applies to song choice. And that’s why I refuse to let anybody choose the kids’ songs. The kids have got to choose their own songs, because everybody has an opinion. You can’t turn around and say, ‘Oh that’s not a good song.’ Not for you, it’s not.

TVLINE | I want to talk a little about the judges’ panel this year. Overall, they seemed much, much more willing to give constructive feedback, pointing out things like Jessica’s movement on stage, or Hollie’s connection to the lyrics. Even Steven, who did not really have a lot to say other than “beautiful” last year, seems to have made some kind of attempt to be more present. Was it a concerted effort? Did you talk to the judges about being more specific with their feedback — not just labeling everything as shades of great — going into season 11?
We’ve taken quite a bit of criticism about the judges being a little vanilla, even lately. My feeling is, as artists they are always going to couch any criticism, purely and simply because they’ve taken the critiques themselves over the years. They don’t want to think that they are being cruel to anybody. So, they are constantly going to come from a place of, that was wonderful, that was beautiful, but maybe you should do this or that. Whereas Jimmy [Iovine] or Simon would come from a place of being a record executive, so they’re constantly thinking, “I’ll invest in you, but how much money are you going to make me?” It’s the total business side of it. They don’t mind saying “you’re out of tune, pack your bags, you’re going home tomorrow to go see the singing teacher.” That’s just where their brains are at.

TVLINE | But I’m talking about Jennifer and Steven, specificially, trying harder to be constructive.
They are trying really hard and I think on a lot of occasions succeeding, and Randy, in saying how they can rethink a piece. Read the lyrics first. Understand what your song is. And when I look around at other shows and look for how contestants are being critiqued, they’re not!

TVLINE | And from where I’m sitting, the Idol judges don’t seem to make it about themselves as much, which is encouraging.
Apart from Randy who’s worked with everybody in the business. [Laughs]

TVLINE | On that subject, though, some of your competitors spend so much time on interpersonal drama between the judges that it takes the focus away from the actual contestants, when those contestants are the real reason for tuning in.
On [The Voice], there’s great chemistry between Blake and Adam, and that makes me smile. But again, are they giving enough to the contestants? I don’t know. It doesn’t really show. With The X Factor, that’s about the judges as well. Our judges, in truth, really do want to be No. 1, and they care for the contestants, because it’s their reputations on the line, too. They’re very proud of who they’ve found this year, and they really want to see them succeed. But what does America ultimately want? I don’t think, nowadays, that America wants to see us bring kids onto the television and slowly chop their legs from underneath them. I really don’t. I think they want to see somebody that comes on, sometimes a little raw, a little amateurish, and watch them grow across the season, to get better and better and better. They want to see the kid who was flipping burgers one day go on to this huge success, like the Kelly Clarksons and Carrie Underwoods and Scotty McCreerys. That’s perfect.

TVLINE | On the flip side, though, I sometimes think it’s problematic when you have a scenario like the judges overpraising Joshua with the constant stream of standing ovations, or their failure to call out Phillip when he’s been off key. I mean, we actually had a case of Phillip saying a few weeks ago in a package, “My brother-in-law said ‘Time of the Season’ was really rough.” And yet for that same performance, the judges were all like, “Great job!” “Perfect!” Do you worry that at a certain point in the season, J.Lo, Randy, and Steven get so mired in their favorites, that they can’t identify their flaws?
That could well be true, Michael. What I would say is, when you’re in that studio and Joshua sings up a storm, you cannot stop yourself standing up. You just cannot stop yourself. He is that good. Further, what I think they admire is that Phillip is his own man. He does change the song up. It is intentional when he doesn’t sing the right tune. He isn’t singing the wrong tune because he doesn’t know it, he is doing it intentionally. I think as musicians they admire that. “Time of the Season” was extremely rough and, yeah, we’re shocked sometimes. At the same time, it’s always been like that. It’s not just these three judges. We’ve been shocked when Simon didn’t like a certain singer, or when we expected him to kill someone, and suddenly he’d smile and say, “That’s fantastic.” Again, that’s subjective, and that’s all part of the enjoyment of Idol.

TVLINE | Do you think and worry a lot about the contestants’ post-Idol careers? Because the one thing that really separates Idol from its competitors is that you really do launch a lot of folks who aren’t simply destined for the bargain bin a week after their albumns come out. That’s really a cornerstone, I think, for why people come back to the show every year.
Do I stress about it? No, I don’t stress about it because I’m already thinking about the next crop of kids, and they deserve our undivided attention. I do love the validation when they are successful. And I get annoyed when the record company, in my opinion, gives them the wrong music to sing. The best example I can give you of that is Ruben Studdard. I believe they just said, “Oh, you’re black, you should be singing urban music,” rather than [envisioning] this wonderful sort of crossover artist that he was. He was singing Neil Sedaka and the Bee Gees songs beautifully — in a sort of Donny Hathaway- Luther Vandross way. They just put him in this [narrow] category, which was a shame to me.

TVLINE | Speaking of song choice, why is it that certain songs get trotted out year after year after year on Idol. “I Have Nothing” or “Without You” or whatnot. Why can’t we get new songs? .
It’s the [contestants’] parents, I think. Their parents know this song or that song. [The kids] look at [a theme like] The ’60s and go, “Oh, what is this?” We try and offer them tons of stuff, but the moment you start doing that, they will look at you like, “Okay, I don’t know that one.” A lot of times, unless it’s been covered more recently, like “All By Myself” or “Without You,” the contestants just don’t know those songs. Maybe they’ve heard a few Beatles songs. [This season], we did some broader themes. An entire decade of music is pretty broad. Songs that I wish I’d written. What inspired you? What do you relate to? What lyrics do you feel like you wish you’d written down? What melody do you wish you’d come up with? Those are big, broad categories to allow the kids to sing great songs, and songs they want to sing.

TVLINE | Do you watch your competitors a lot?
If they’re good.

TVLINE | Okay, specifically do you watch The X Factor and The Voice?
Yes. I’ve watched both. And Dancing with the Stars, too. The X Factor was magnificent in production. And certainly it got us to really look at our set and look at our production. What I always wanted to make sure of, though, was that we didn’t lose our contestants within the production.

TVLINE | How do you know the right scale? That is one thing Idol does very well. It gets that scale right. Somehow, your contestants remain the focus, and I felt like with X Factor, in particular, there were times they’d just disappear up there on the stage.
I didn’t say that. [Laughs]

TVLINE | But seriously, what’s the secret?
We do focus on the talent. The camera shots can really help that. You know, you don’t want to just keep taking wide angles. I’m not particularly interested in the audience. I am happy that they are there, and they give a great atmosphere. But I don’t need to see them when the kid is singing.

TVLINE | This has been a year, at least in my opinion, where the production itself didn’t seem to have noticeably favored any particulat contestant. It felt more like an even playing field, if that makes any sense.
You wouldn’t say that if you read my Twitter replies. All the morons attack it. Here’s the thing: The television producers, of which I include myself, don’t give a damn who wins this show. The only thing we’re interested in is turning out a fabulous show for people to watch. We get no money from the record companies or anything else. Thank goodness. Because, you know, there might be every reason to be swayed if that were true. We don’t care who wins. Even our favorites. Other than that,  we just want the best people to be there at the end. We get involved with, “Oh, how could America not vote for them?” We’re human too. But at the end of the day, whichever one [of the Season 11 Top 3] won, I’d be really happy for them, and to be frank, the other two — because I think they’ll all get recording contracts.

How much do you read your Twitter @-replies from viewers and fans?
Too much. I sleep badly, so when I wake up, I just lie in bed and read them. I keep getting “Stop shouting at me!” because I write in all caps, and I think to myself, “Don’t be stupid!” Plus, it’s the wrong way around in Twitter. You’re supposed to put what you want to say, and then after that, what you’re responding to. Why would you want to do that? If I could, I’d make my reply blue.

So you’re just using caps to differentiate your remarks from what you’re responding to.
Yes, exactly. I also get people Tweeting me all the time, “Thank goodness for Michael Slezak. He knows what themes you should be doing!” To which I say, “Michael F****** Slezak? Come on!” [Laughs] But the thing is, Michael, you actually care. And I don’t understand people who aren’t passionate about what they do. Otherwise it’s work. And why would you want to work?

What do you think of Nigel’s take on Season 11 of Idol, and the overall future of the program? Sound off below, and for all my post-season Idol goodness — including interviews with the Top 5 and plenty of other fun stuff — 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. bjp says:

    Nice one, Slezak! … “the producers don’t give a damn who wins this show” haha. best joke I’ve heard all day!

    • the real wendy says:

      I would have loved if you had suggested to him your Idologly comment that songs that have been done 5 times should be retired. Its the single biggest problem with this show!

    • XX says:

      Of course Nigel doesn’t care who wins. He cares about ratings. He could have a monkey win if he’d pull in 30 mil. The BS answer was about parents choosing the songs and the judges involvement. We know they have no control.

    • carol anderson says:

      I think Idol does an excellent job with Idol and the Judges are awesome for sure–we love this show–leave them alone,Phil Phillips deserved to win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • ‘DESERVED’ usually means ‘earned’ or ‘worked extremely hard to achieve goals’…from that definition I would say Joshua Ledet or Jessica Sanchez DESERVED to win. They both consistently gave challenging performances and showed alot of gutsiness with their ‘sophisticated performances’.. JOSH laid everything out on the stage and was awesome.
        Jessica’s voice was ‘awesome’ and inspiring. That is wh so many former contestants on American Idol chose them as the ‘favorites to win’…….not because of their ‘charm or outward appearance’!!!

      • Leila says:

        Carol, Phillip Phillips victory was not easily digested by the critics or the public and that’s why you see all this uproar. P2 is a “ho hum” idol, not a superstar. He may even be successful, but it won’t be due to his singing ability or virtuosity as a musician.

        • tarc says:

          Most poeple couldn’t care less, leila. Of the rest, most of those voted for Phillip. You mistake the very much minority of people that post that kind of stuff on a blog for reality.

        • Marsaili says:

          That’s just a load of crap. Geez, I get that you don’t like him—but making stuff up about him (not easily digested by the public or the critics? LIES!!!) is just sad and desperate.

        • lizzie says:

          I agree with you 100% Leila, very well said.

    • tarc says:

      Seriously, why would they? It’s their job to make a show that they sell to a network for a price. They get nothing based on who wins. We’ve been saying thia all along – as long as the ratings (and thereby advertizing dollars) keep rolling in, a flying monkey could win for all they care.

    • When you look at the demographic of the Idol audience, the facebookers, the twitterers, and the Idol tour goers, Phillip was almost a shoe-in from the beginning. You can decry the “cute southern white guy playing a guitar” phenomenon all you want. But it exists.

      That is why I found it very surprising that the Judges made America pick between a lot of soulful voices:Joshua, Jessica, DeAndre, Erica Van Pelt, Jeremy and Elise. Which left one rock guy (Colton), one country girl (Skylar) one strictly pop voice (Hollie) and country/blue grass boy (Phillip). Although Phillip did have that “white boy grit” to his voice.

      I personally have always had a problem with the “country contingent” on Idol. It always felt like the judges chose too many of the same country/pop voices and the very few strictly soul or r&b voices, got voted off rather quickly by the “special demographic” of the Idol voting audience. It seems you can turn any song into a country song. But you can’t turn country into anything else!

      This is why the judges critiques need to be on point for every contestant for every performance. Also the judges need to be able to keep up with the critiques they give. A lot of times they confuse the contestants by saying one thing and then the next week telling them something totally different.

      I don’t think you can overhaul the voting system-but I do think you can make sure the votes are counted properly. There were a lot of complaints that votes for other contestants were being tallied as votes for Phil. I personally did not get a response for about 30 of the text votes I made for Joshua. So I don’t know if those were counted or not.

      Also, a guest judge each week during the elimination rounds would be different. If each week whatever the theme is, an artist that makes that genre of music could be a guest judge. That would shake things up a bit.

  2. Rocky says:

    Now that you’ve admitted that the voting is a joke, let’s see if you actually do something to fix it. And how about we stop telling 16 year old girls what is appropriate for them to wear or sing? Try telling the guys that, and let’s see how far it goes.

    • Jayzeeisme says:

      I totally agree with you. Phillip was dressed like a bum all season and no one commented negatively. They can use the excuse that he is his own person and he does what he wants, but that doesn’t make him less of a bum.

      • Templar says:

        That’s BS. Think back to the 80s and early 90s with Def Leppard wearing slashed up jeans and tank tops to headline arena shows. I’d much rather watch a guy in a Henley and jeans than watch a girl in a prom dress and boots, or an underdeveloped adolescent dressed like a hootchie mama.

      • tarc says:

        Phillip looked like pretty much everyone else that does that kind of music. If you don’t like it… well, you’re free to let fashion rule common (sense, at least).

      • Sha says:

        I wouldn’t go that far. He was just too casual for national television and style is actually a part of the whole package and being an Idol.
        Only Joshua got it right every week with his outfits and Skylar and Jessica looked the part most weeks as well. Interesting that people have a problem with Jessica’s clothes but nobody batted an eyelash at Lauren’s unfortunate choices last year. uff da.

        • Yo' says:

          I actually don’t mind P2’s wardrobe at all, and thought Joshua occasionally overdid it. When these kids are dressed for “national television,” it messes with their identities, which it is advantageous to leave alone. I don’t know any girl who dresses as the girls on this show do; they are way too feminine and way too uncomfortable. . Folks criticized Lauren mercilessly last year: every female’s wardrobe is criticized. The show is a talent show, not a makeover show, but they makeover the females yearly.

      • Mary B says:

        Some bum, I saw him om the Tonight Show and Phillip said the stylist told him his clothes were the most expensive of all of them. She even pretty much said that on a segment of the show. Why because he wasn’t wearing too tight jackets, he’s a bum?

        • Belle says:

          A button-up shirt over a teeshirt & jeans were the most expensive outfits? More expensive than the prom dresses Jessica wore? Or the co-ordinated outfits with blazer that Joshua wore?
          BTW, I agree with Yo that Joshua overdid it but I would have used the word “often” instead of “occasionally”. I thought Jessica did too….what teenage girl dresses like that? Hollie was dressed too old in the early live shows but then she started really looking cute.
          Nigel is a lying sack of sh&t. Michael interviewed him last year after the season & he said then they were going to overhaul the voting. I thought he also agree to get rid of the swaybots & to clear more songs. Now he says that there were many choices but the contestants “chose” those same old tired songs. Yarite. I predict that next year it will be business as usual & we’ll all have the same gripes but will still watch. 2013 WGWG FTW!!

          • Mary B says:

            I promise you that is what the styliss said about Phillips clothes and he mentioned it on the tonight show. I know right! You do know how sometimes the movie stars dress like complete slobs with ripped jeans and all and then you find out you can feed a family for a week in what those jeans cost. Joshua admitted he likes wearing jackets a size too small. Sometimes it did not look bad but sometimes it looked like a little kid who outgrew his clothes and mommy couldn’t afford to buy him a new one. Maybe some people like that look but I personally don’t like it.

      • miraclelurker says:

        Dressed like a bum wearing the most expensive clothing of all the contestants? I thought his style was very preppy, not trendy. Hilfiger wanted him to wear leather pants, for Pete’s sake. Of course Phillip put is foot down. He’s not Steven Tyler, he’s J Crew.

    • Angela says:

      I always got a kick out of it whenever girls would sing songs from the ’60s and the judges over the years would be like, “That song’s too old for you, I think.” Well, then, maybe stop having theme nights with music that was out well before they were born, where they have no choice BUT to pick from songs that are “too old” for them? Maybe try theme weeks dealing with the era they can actually relate to and are growing up in? Yeah.

      • Templar says:

        I think you misunderstood the remark about a song being too old. They don’t mean how much time has passed since the song was a hit. They mean the lyric is too mature for someone the singer’s age.

        • Angela says:

          I understand that. But then maybe pick songs that would fit more within their maturity range, which includes stuff that someone who’s 16 years old would logically sing about and relate to. And the best way to do that is to pick songs that 16 year olds today would likely listen to.

    • ThatBob says:

      If Nigel didn’t know Philip was going to win from the beginning, he’s an idiot. All you had to do was call it for the WGWG to be right, as any number of people did, and were. The voting system has to change.

  3. kam says:

    How does White Guys With Guitars make you uncomfortable? Are you serious?

    • ds says:

      Michael has mentioned this before. He thinks it’s too pat to group the past 5 winners under that label because it undermines what makes them unique and actually talented. It’s a valid point. People grouped Phillip into the WGWG almost immediately, and yet what he brought to the show was an entirely different vibe and skillset.

      • Jayzeeisme says:

        Come on. Phillip is a no talent fad that will go as far as Lee DeWyze, Taylor Hicks and even Chris Allen. Nigel says he does it on purpose when he is off Key but the fact is he can’t carry a tune. Simon Cowell would have ripped him apart but the three judges just said , “You know what I love about you, you are being Phillip and that is a beautiful thing”. Oh and ‘Time of the Season’ was really rough.” because that is what Phillip does on purpose to make it his song. Yes he won and I congradulate him but only a few of all those little girls that voted for him will ever buy his album and I an certain JLO will never listen to one of his songs again.

        • Tommyo2000 says:

          While I would not put PP in the group with Lee, Taylor, or Kris yet, we have to see what he produces and how it sells… I did laugh at the comment he sings out of tune on purpose .. no he doesnt.. who wants to sing off key? … nobody … If you said springsteen, dylan, billy joel, were not good singers but they were loved that is correct, but they dont sing badly because they want too … only Biz Markie sang off tune on purpose …

        • tarc says:

          Since they all make a fine living doing what they love, most people should be so lucky.

      • Jane says:

        I might be willing to believe that if Phillip hadn’t been so easy on the eyes. Phillip was unique for sure, but how far would he have gotten if he looked like Ben Stiller?

      • Chuck says:

        Yes, they’ve never had such a blatant Dave Matthews imitator before *eyeroll*

        Let’s be real: if people can watch Phillip’s audition, note that he’s a southern kid who plays the guitar, and right then and there go, “Well, there you have it. There’s your winner,” that’s a problem for the show. You can’t keep a show at #1 if there’s never any suspense at all. Once Colton was voted out, there was no chance P2 wouldn’t win.

    • E says:

      I can understand framing it that way. While it’s an accurate description, it makes it sound like any hack with a guitar and white skin will win and/or that those that have don’t deserve it. I think many people just don’t feel comfortable labeling people in that way….especially as often as it’s been thrown around. Jessica is no doubt talented, but she’s also VERY young and while her “talent” was on display, you don’t know much more about her. With Phillip, you know he’s a musician, he writes music, he clearly enjoyed the experience of playing music WITH musicians. And while his vocal talent does not match up to Jessica or Joshua’s (which he admitted), he offered things that the other didn’t as well. Chalking it up to WGWG may be a disservice.

      Of course, I’m not Michael, so I’m just projecting my own thoughts.

      • Jeremy Gable says:

        I agree on the face that just writing someone off as a WGWG does a deservice to that contestant, but the whole concept behind why people despise the WGWG is still there. They just don’t have to try as hard as the rest of the field to win. If they do, great. But they don’t have to.

        For example, David Cook had a pretty amazing run. Chalking him up to just a WGWG doesn’t do him justice. Lee DeWyze, not so much. He was a WGWG through and through. Crystal stomped him and every turn and he still won.

        • E says:

          I agree about Crystal vs. Lee, I also brought that up in a previous discussion. That was probably the final that pitted 2 similar artists, genre-wise, against each other. No shock the “boy” won it, I guess. The rest of the time, the 2 finalists have typically been rather different. I suppose Scotty/Lauren were similar, but I thought Scotty was the stronger and easier to embrace (I think Lauren would have been smoked by the top 5 or so this year; it would have been interesting to have Scotty in the mix to see how he stood up).

          • Margeaux says:

            Lee won because the huge southern viewers block would never vote for a tattooed unwed mother.

          • tarc says:

            And at the end of the day, Crystal isn’t doing any better than Lee out there in the real world (which is to say, making a modest, but fine living).

          • Sha says:

            ^ Crystal has roughly sold 100 000 more albums than Lee.

          • tarc says:

            @Sha – Nope, not even close. In certified sales, the number is less than 39,000, and that does not count direct sales of Lee’s first or second albums, and he has a new album this year (while she does not).

    • MLO says:

      I think the reason ‘white guys with guitars’ are successful is because it’s a niche in the current music market that is missing, and the voters are telling them they want it. Where’s the new Springsteen? Where’s the new Mellancamp? Seems the audience is telling Idol they’re tired of screechy female singers (btw, I’m female so don’t go there!) and the hip hop/rap/country/gospel formulated crap they play on most radio stations. That said, I was not a PP fan – but fully support wins for David Cook and Kris Allen even though they’ve haven’t achieved their potential yet. Too many cover songs for David, and not enough soul for Kris. Was also a big fan of James last year.

      • Kay says:

        Oh Please. WGWG win because young girls vote for the cute guy. The only thing the audience is telling Idol is that the voters are all 13 year old girls.

        • C.D. says:

          And I’m sure you have the very-carefully designed, rigorously-applied, peer-reviewed and often-replicated market research to back up your assertion that “the voters are all 13 year old girls” and they all “vote for the cute guy” right?

          Well, but you probably don’t need good market research to back up your assertions. Because everyone KNOWS that the only thing teenage girls are capable of doing is slobbering at the screen as Phillip Philips and Kris Allen strum at their guitar and then, like mind-controlled drones, picking up their cell phones and texting to vote 4-evah. Because hormones. Hormones make them mind-controlled drones.

          I find it rather hilarious that if we’re not blaming the male winner’s streak on teenage girls being completely mindless robots, we’re blaming it on the female contestants being robotic. What is it about being female that makes it so easy for people to compare you to a machine?

          I’ve figured it out! Since every single female contestant on Idol has been called robotic at least once, I’m convinced that all women under the age of 30 are ACTUALLY part of a robot army that is about to TAKE US ALL OUT. It’s the only explanation. Warn all your friends. We must prepare for the robot apocalypse.

          Of course, I’m a woman under the age of 30, so I am probably a robot as well, in which case this entire post was part of our evil robot plan.

          • I’ve been guilty of making this assumption myself, that it’s THIS demographic or THAT demographic that’s “ruining my show!” It is certainly easy to lower oneself to that kind of mindless charge when your favorite doesn’t advance. But the truth is, we have no idea what demographic (if any!) is swaying the results. Or maybe no one is swaying the results. The problem is, with unlimited voting, any single voter, or small group of like-minded voters, can radically shift the results. If the average voter casts 5 votes, and I cast 100, how is it fair that my opinion is just as influential as twenty average voters combined?

            If Idol changed their policy to “one vote per device” and WGWG’s won the next three seasons anyway, that would say something about the tastes of the average Idol viewer. If no WGWG’s won the next three seasons, that would say something too. As it is now, no one can really make an accurate statement about the tastes of the average Idol viewer/voter based on who wins. Robotic or not. :-)

          • teatime says:

            “I find it rather hilarious that if we’re not blaming the male winner’s streak on teenage girls being completely mindless robots, we’re blaming it on the female contestants being robotic. What is it about being female that makes it so easy for people to compare you to a machine? ”
            Hah! Very good observation!

        • Jeremy Gable says:

          Actually, the young crowd abandoned this show many seasons ago. It’s the cougars that vote for these WGWG.

        • JD says:

          Exactly right! 13 year old girls are voting like crazy and they like cute white guys with guitars…’nuff said!

        • MLO says:

          I think you’re wrong. I think young girls would be more likely to vote for Jessica, and would think PP too old. Can you remember when you were 13? Everyone over 20 was OLD! And he certainly wasn’t ALL THAT cute.

          • Suggestor says:

            So you thought ALL those screaming girls in the finale audience were screaming for the teen aged female finalist?

    • Angela says:

      I hate that phrase just ’cause it sounds dumb and I’ve heard it way more than I care to within recent months. I’m all for a good discussion about why it always seems certain types of contestants win over others on a regular basis, if people feel the winners’ circle isn’t diverse enough, fine, let’s talk about why that is and see what we can do to change it. But can we discuss it without throwing in cheesy labels and acronyms?

  4. Fantastic interview, Michael, as usual. ;)

    • Leila says:

      I actually like Nigel, he comes across as being honest, he even disses his own boss in public, too funny.

  5. stacy says:

    Great interview as always

  6. Jeremy Gable says:

    Why was this entire interview just a suck up to Nigel?

  7. ... says:

    Disappointing interview. It felt like too much time was spent talking about/trashing the other singing competitions and not enough time was spent on other aspects of the show. Valid topic, but I would have liked a few less questions about it.

    Also, complimenting the judging when it’s constantly (and rightfully) complained about in Idology? Really?

    • Joe says:

      Also had a problem with that to be honest. Can’t believe it took Nigel to call Randy to task in his own way and Michael was giving the judges a cookie for their nonsense all season.

    • TheBeach says:

      Yep, Michael has (justifiably) ripped Randy’s ridiculousness in most every write up but gave him a big ole pass here…kinda dissapointing.

    • teatime says:

      I think if you took the judges from The Voice and moved them to Idol, then you would have a really great show.

  8. Kristi says:

    So basically he’s saying that, unlike popular opinion around here, Phillip did NOT dominate the voting every week. He even said on twitter that Elise dominated the week she sang Whole lotta love. That said, I do feel that once you get down to top 3 and the finale, there was no stopping a Phillip win.

    • Teresa says:

      I wish we could get the percentages/breakdown after the season ends.

      • Jen says:

        Even if you get the percentage breakdown, what will it really prove? That one singers fan base are more dedicated than the other by having the patience to dial over and over, or vote 50 times on Facebook. I liked Elise and all, but I also have a life and not to mention a job where I have to wake up early. Her getting a vote from me was enough, or at least it should be. 120 plus million votes, 20 plus million viewers, c’ mon now…….not mention not everybody votes. I think they just need to change the voting system. 1 vote per phone number/ 1 vote per URL.

  9. Karen O says:

    It’s official- NIgel watches Idology! (and then gives Jimmy Iovine his script). Nice going as always! =)

  10. revknits says:

    Great interview, Uncle Nigels brings it and says what he wants. I do think the ratings thing is a bum rap – he’s right about X factor and how much people watch TV with all the options today.

    Did laugh about the X-factor did too!

  11. Jeremy Gable says:

    Just reread the entire interview back. I’ve been a fan of your articles and interviews forever, Slezak, but this is the worst you’ve done. You couldn’t have sounded more biased against The Voice and X-Factor if you tried. =\

    • E says:

      Is that a shock? He’s been covering Idol longer, he has had a internet show about Idol. He’s talking to the Producer of Idol, so why wouldn’t he frame things in that manner?

      • Jeremy Gable says:

        I just find it vastly unprofessional to take pot shots at the other two shows. I’ve watched and read his recaps even on EW and he’s never produced something so blatantly biased.

        I’m not even a fan of The Voice that much and found Season 1 of US X-Factor to be disjointed, but him just scheming over Idol’s problems like no big deal (when he takes the other two shows to task)?

        • E says:

          I guess I didn’t see “pot shots”. But not at all surprised he talked about Idol’s strengths when talking to Idol’s producer.

        • deedee says:

          You make no sense, JeremyGable. Where are all these alleged “pot shots”? If Michael thinks Idol does some things better than their competitors, should he remain silent about them? I don’t get your “reasoning”.

          • Jeremy Gable says:

            When he’s recapping all of them for a popular entertainment website shouldn’t he at least fake the fact the he can’t stand the other two shows? Especially since he’s in charge of recapping them too. That’s my “reasoning”.

          • deedee says:

            Mmm, I dunno. Michael clearly likes Idol best of all – this has never been a secret. Not sure that – as a reviewer of shows – it’s his job to be impartial.

  12. Aww, Nigel is right, Michael you care about American Idol, that’s why your the best!

  13. Holly says:

    Very nice compliment for you at the end, Michael. And its true – you deserve the recognition for being so passionate about Idol and so knowledgeable about music in general. Now – what do you think about I’ll Have Another???

  14. Sherry Covill says:

    I agree with the production comments about X-Factor. Most of their production was over the top and distracted viewers from the contestants.

  15. noa says:

    great job Slezak! you don’t let him get away without answering the actual question. i would like to know why everyone respects P2 for being “his own man”, but if a woman comes in to the show a fully formed artist- she’ll get no respect!

  16. TinyTim says:

    Based on this interview , the show is probably toast. If he thinks the only thing that can be fixed is the voting then he is not putting enough time into the show.

    • deedee says:

      Come on, TinyTim, the show is great. Flawed, but still great. I don’t know how they’ll fix the voting and still retain that voter passion, but hopefully they’ll find a good solution.

  17. Brigette says:

    Great interview. I love that he knows how much Idol fans listen to you. Hah! But is it REALLY true that they don’t make money from those kids at all? I thought Interscope & 19 were all connected to the Idol machine.

  18. Tara J. says:

    Great interview! If they would stop having the contestants play instruments, then the chances of another WGWG winning would go down considerably. But that is just my opinion. :)

  19. I loved it when you mentioned why the judges didn’t tell Phillip he was off tune. That was a really good question about favoritism. I think Phillip got the young girls vote when Ryan’s girlfriend said he was hot. From that point on, anytime Phillip heard the screams.

  20. Really enjoyed hearing another prospective from the exec producer. I sure hope they seriously look at tweaking the voting next year. Who cares if 132 million votes came in last night?! I would much rather it be a fairer system. Also why is the online voting limited to 50 but teenage girls can vote continuously for 2 hours! Anyway, Michael, I am glad to have found someone so passionate about Idol as me. Enjoyed all of your articles/critiques. :)

    • deedee says:

      Errr, anybody can vote for 2 hours, not just teenaged girls. You just have to use the phone rather than the computer. :-/

  21. anibundel says:

    Can we please have Nigel on for an Idology interview?

  22. Christine says:

    Nice interview. Good for you for asking the tough questions! I really hope Nigel decides to change the voting like Melinda suggested in Idology.

  23. “When you say to America, you vote, the only thing that can be changed is the voting system. And I would hope that next year we would look at that.”

    MICHAEL! For goodness sake – why didn’t you press him on this? What does that mean?

  24. JASon says:

    Lythgoe seems too scared to take a chance. There are plenty of things he could do to make the show more exciting. Maybe have a week where the contestants can write their own songs. Maybe have cameras follow the contestants arounfd during song choosing sessions. Drop the incessant advertising and concentrate more on content.

    Maybe move Jimmy to the live shows to have a Simon like character. MAybe fire Randy Jackson. Look what Cowell did. He’s not afraid to shake things up. The producer of the show should not just sit around and hope he keeps his rating while the competitors are nipping at their heels. They should make the show so good that people can’t help but watch it.

    That being said. I did enjoy the Duets they did this year. And it seems they eliminated the lyp synching group numbers.

    Seriously there should be three new judges next year. If I were the producer my panel would be Jimmy Iovine, Katy Perry and Courtney Love.

  25. jcs says:

    Nigel seemed fairly open but you took it too easy on him, Slezak. the judges were not better this year, and it often seemed like it was about them, and they did pick favorites, and you made it sound like great strides were made this year…wtf?

    • noa says:

      while the judges still suck, i do think they were better this year. even I, the eternal Elise fan, can admit they were harder on Haley then on her. they gave some really bad critics and were completely unfair, but no one had a “everyone were the best except for Haley” moment. at least on the show. Randy did go to talk shows and name everyone but Hollie and Elise. ah. i hate them. why did i just try to defend them?… so conflicted.

  26. Luann C. says:

    Great questions. Over the years of watching Idol and SYTYCD, I have gained respect for Nigel unlike many others I suppose. But those may be the ones who will complain about anything and everything. I think Nigel does the best he can to produce fair and honest shows. My favorite thing about Idol is that, although the judges do get their moments in the spotlight, they definitely keep it as much as possible about the participants. I do not like that the competition has, as part of the judging/voting, the contentents sing duets with the coaches or guest performers. How can an amateur contestant be judged fairly when singing a duet with a power vocal like Alaina Morrissette? And I love that by the end of the season the AI viewers have been able to really get to know the finalists and watch them grow as artists. You get a good feeling, with the help of the right editing, that AI makes it a priority that the participants and crew are treated like family and remain family over the seasons. This is what, for me, allows AI to remain superior. I have yet to see that with the others. The others are too much about the judges, or in X-Factor’s case, looking for that “super star” instead of looking for raw talent. I hope AI stays true to these qualities. And I agree with Nigel that in this market, the Execs need to appreciate the viewers AI is pulling in. Stop being greedy!

    • gregk says:

      I have watched SYTYCD and I also have gained respect for Nigel from his judging where he always shows a lot of heart and soul for the contestants. The judges are much better than on AI and never fail to give an honest opinion and are more entertaining than the judges on most any other show.

  27. of the top 3?!?! wow, that was bull about the producers not caring about who won. or why else would he have said top 3, and not mention being happy for hollie?!?!

    • deedee says:

      I think Nigel was saying that as long as the best contestants stay on the show as long as possible, it doesn’t matter who actually wins. For Nigel, it’s about ratings, so if the best 3 or 4 actually make it to the Top 3 or 4, then he’s happy. How they shake out in the end is less important to him.

  28. Teresa says:

    If Fox is unhappy about the ratings, maybe they shouldn’t force Nigel to keep producing two-hour show when the contestants get down to four. Also… if a mentor is going to show up, show them mentoring! Harry Connick Junior style!

  29. musicfan46 says:

    The so-called ‘wgwg’ is popular because this is the only event on earth that traditional American singers gets the spotlight and celebrated for months at a time, not just a one night award show.

    • Jeremy Gable says:

      Only white guys with guitars can be traditional? Are we talking 1950’s traditional here where women had to be servants to men and people of color had to sit at the back of the bus?

      • MA says:

        Oh, come on. Do you really not get the point here? White guys who play guitar have been popular in music since at least the 1950s. Any woman working in music today will tell you that it’s a constant battle and a man’s world, from the musicians to the producers to the roadies to the club owners, etc. That doesn’t mean all men suck. It doesn’t mean women can’t be good musicians. But white men who play guitars are popular and the norm. Yeah, it’s sexist and lame, but it’s also just a fact. American Idol represents the general population, not the niche or the unique. That doesn’t mean Phillip is bad (I think he’s very good), but he does have two things going for him: he’s white and he’s a guy. He fits the standard better than Jessica, Elise, Skylar, Haley, whoever. It’s a valid observation, whether we like the reality of it or not. It’s also representative of the larger western world. Women and minorities still have to work harder. Yes, in subtler ways than they used to, but they still have to do it. It sucks and is lame and we should always keep an eye out for when we buy into it inadvertently, but for god’s sake, man. It’s just life.

        • Jab says:

          Thank you for your comment. It is fact. Sad, but true!

        • Name That Tune says:

          Thank you for that. We forget that Elvis was the first WGWG. Could he sing? Yes. Could he play the guitar? Yes. Did have beautiful eyes? Yes. But that isn’t what made all those girls scream and swoon. It isn’t what had the stoic parents of the 1950s so nervous. It was those gyrating hips.
          American Idol. Idol as in sexual, as in I have a great big crush on you.

  30. MA says:

    I have to say…reading this interview and actually watching the show at home do not jive at all. Besides the fact that, based on things the contestants themselves have said, I don’t believe that they’re always able to pick their own songs or that there aren’t short lists to choose from. Plus, come on…the judges are terrible and biased, and it’s not because they’re too nice to tell someone he or she is bad. They do that all the time. The problem is that they only do it when some people (women) are bad (or good even). They don’t do it as much to the boys they like. And that is painfully obvious watching at home. I absolutely believe that things come across differently live, but I don’t believe that Haley or Elise was awful live while Phillip and Joshua were always great. Maybe Nigel should stop sitting in the studio and take a look at what we actually see on TV. I have to say, my first thought after reading this was, “What an bullsh***ing jacka** Nigel is.” I generally appreciate his opinions on SYTYCD, but a lot of this is just ridiculous…or totally clueless. I’m not sure which.

    • TheBeach says:

      I agree with so much of his post.

    • TheBeach says:

      I meant *this* post. I don’t know if MA is male or female but he/she sure had some pearls of wisdom there.

    • noa says:

      i gotta say, it’s weird how many compliments Slezak has for the judges in this interview. yes, it is his favorite show, and when all is said and done he loves it a lot more than the other shows. but really, the people who are reading this have been watching Idology and we can’t be fooled so easily! we want Slezak to interview Nigel so he can really ask the hard questions, and the only one we got was “how come they didn’t tell Phillip Time of the Season was bad?”.
      where’s all the questions about the way they treat women differently? and why is Nigel the only one making fun of Randy?? (10 points for Nigel).

    • Yo' says:

      Hear, hear. Nigel, in some respects, is certainly full of bull; for example, you don’t get 153 million votes without power voting. It ain’t doable. I don’t think the judges see how they sabotage accomplished females; they certainly do sabotage them, but unwittingly.

      • MA says:

        That’s possible, maybe they really don’t see it. If so, they need to take a good look at what they’re doing. It’s interesting too that Nigel tries to play this off like there’s no agenda, when just last year, he (I’m pretty sure it was him, anyway; I suppose it could’ve been Jimmy, but I don’t think so) was asked why the judges bashed Haley for songs she did well. He said something like, “Well, they’ve seen the dress rehearsal and know she’s doing two songs and will have a great moment on the second one, so they’re hard on the first performance.” I’m sorry, but…WHAT?? I wish he’d just been honest in this interview and said, “Yeah, it’s a TV show. We want good ratings.” We all know it’s true, so hiding behind his BS is so silly and makes him look kind of dumb, honestly.

  31. CJ says:

    I think the interview shows he is disconnected from the audience and even contestants. The only thing he said with some validity was about Fox airing two singing competition in a calendar year. From my point-of-view here are the real problems. 1. Randy needs to go. I get they want familiarity on the judges panel but everyone I know is tired of Jackson. 2. I understand about the judges save but it needs to go. I heard so many people say they wouldn’t vote for Jessica because she didn’t deserve to be there. And last year Casey was a joke and a lot of people I know were pissed they wasted it on him and so soon as it was needed two weeks later. 3. Song retirement might be a good idea. People are sick of the same songs each season and this year we say many repeated the week after they were on The Voice. “It’s a Man’s World” and “The Prayer” just to name two. 4. Do away with themes at least those over 20 years old. These are young people and they should sing young songs. Nigel should have the clue when he admits the parents are picking the songs because the contestants haven’t heard of any. That’s a big red flag. 5. Make Jimmy part of the judging panel and get a new mentor. Jimmy is like Simon and tells it like it is which is what the show needs in a form of a judge.

    • deedee says:

      Good post! I especially agree that the judges’ panel needs a new Simon. Without brutal honesty, the judges’ segment of the show is a long, dull, insufferable waste of valuable show-minutes. The only good part of the judging used to be waiting for Simon to cut it all down to size. Jimmy is a good choice, but I wonder how he’d do on the spot, rather than his monday morning quarterbacking.

  32. Dave in Alamitos Beach says:

    I think they could fix the voting with one statement. The voters should put their money where their mouth is and vote via itunes purchases. You would only buy a song once, right? So everyone would get one vote, and if people were rich or crazy, they could buy 50 “votes” in one week.

    Or they could at least factor the sales into the votings tallies. 50% from itunes sales, 50% from phone/text calls?

  33. Steve says:


    • Sha says:

      lol Nigel’s excuse about typing in all-caps was lame and likely untrue. He does it because he believes he is superior to these lesser idol fans. I really like him on sytycd, he’s awesome there but Idol brings out the worst in him. Calling his critics “morons” is highly immature.

      • I don’t know… when he replies to a tweet and calls the poster a moron, the original post was usually pretty moronic. Some deserve to be singled out like that. He doesn’t do it to everyone.

  34. Lori says:

    I just think that the judges should critique the contestants and leave it at that. I don’t think that they should be saying to America that this is the one you should be voting for or they shouldn’t announce who they think the winner should be. Randy would often say that Jessica, Joshua or Phillip will win but leave out Skylar and Holly when it was top 5 and I thought that was cold and very mean spirited. He should have just answered with a generic answer. I think when the judges do that its all power of persuasion and they shouldn’t be doing that. That is up to the contestants. Once I saw Nigel tweet the Joshua was his favorite, all his standing ovations to me met nothing. I feel like they were told to do that just to push him further and further into the competition. Total manipulation, not fair!
    I feel if the show is about the voting then let America decide on their own!

  35. Donna says:

    Agree, the end was a nice off-hand compliment to Michael’s ongoing, possibly inexplicably so, dedication to this show. The sincerity of the answers is hard to gauge accurately in writing vs. a video interview. I vote for changing the voting. It’s been completely perverted by texting and whatever other technological shenanigans people figure out for stuffing the ballot box. They need to get a handle on that, for the sake of their own credibility. How can there be 130 million votes in a year when ratings have consistently gone DOWN??

    • deedee says:

      Right. Nigel *laughed* at the Phillipines (and other foreign) votes accusations, but I am convinced that those votes were counted in the “world record” that Seacrest proudly trumpeted at the finale. When ratings are down by such a large percentage, the record voting totals don’t compute.

      • Jr says:

        Exactly. Ive voted using a phone that has a US number and im from the philippines. They are covering up!

      • Suggestor says:

        The world texts were not voted. You can look at the data graphs of popularity. In the US, Phillip had an edge over Jessica. When you look at the world view, Jessica is almost triple the number of Phillip. So if the world was allowed to vote Jessica would have won handily. Most viewers from around the world know their votes do not count and have better things to do than do a cyber dance to work around the system during their country’s work hours that MIGHT get votes in or perhaps get a dose of malware.

      • Full of Clues says:

        Oh you clueless little twit, get a clue. If those votes counted, Jessica would have won. Didn’t you know, the Philippines has 130 trillion people and they have nothing better to do than vote for American Idol during work hours! My God, what a stupid little twit for carelessly posting this.

    • Sha says:

      the answer to that, imo, is that texting is getting more and more accessible. Everyone, young or old, seems to have it. Online votes are also allowed and when people have more than one phone from which to vote, the numbers can only go up. After season 8, Oprah had a mother-daughter duo on her show who used like 5 phones between them to power vote for Adam Lambert.

      As for the phillipines, yes they think that they are legitimately voting but obviously their votes don’t count. I wish they didn’t waste their time. These phillipinos actually “vote” every year (David Archuleta and Adam significantly) yet it only becomes an issue when one of the contestants is of filipino descent? lay off people (not directed to anyone here, just in general)

      • deedee says:

        Yes, the votes may not be counted for the show’s outcome, but they can easily be used to pad the vote totals announcement every week. Why not? They don’t give details of what they do with these votes – just: ” after a world record 130 million votes, we have a new American Idol!!”.

  36. Jo in Wisconsin says:

    I watch every year, and love the young people growing week by week. However, I think you work too hard to gather the 18-49 crowd and have lost most of the ‘older’ fans. It is pretty rare where a song I love is performed. It didn’t used to be that way. I loved the music in ’03 – ’06 particularly. Now, I am smart enough to know you can’t ever go back to that, but, would you consider assigning each of the top 10 to perform an oldie once, each in a different week. It would give us a reason to enjoy the music, and a bit of a different skill set from each contestant. You should keep using the type you use for the group numbers.

    As far as the other singing shows, I don’t expect to see any of their winners on the charts. “The Voice” prides themselves for not choosing the contestants by looking at them. That is great, but as soon as they see them, the same, familiar choices get plenty of attention. And, as far as the “X Factor” is concerned, it seems that no matter how good we think the contestant may be, they are lost after the show is over.

    I guess I miss the excitement of the Clay/Ruben finale, and the two Davids as well. I know you have been adding visual bling, so much it hurts to watch sometimes. I also miss the simplicity of visuals. I’ll always remember the blackout for Clay’s “Solitaire”. By having so much everything, all the time, you miss chances for much needed drama.

    And, yes, the voting is still a problem which favors the male contestants. And, yes, the judges have problems as well. Please continue to consider changes of all kinds, ’cause we love the show. And, Nigel, we are very glad you are back with Idol, and love the SYTYCD too.

  37. ejones says:

    The best performances of the season corresponded to the evening when they allowed over 180 seconds per song, instead of the usual less than 120 seconds truncation. I have Haley’s Repad produced youtube songs on my Realplayer system, almost all are 120 seconds or less. This season they did go past the 120 quite regularly, for example, Elise was allowed 150 seconds for her ‘You and I’ whilst Haley’s is less than 120. Cut out some of the preamble to each competitor and allow them more time per peformance is my main proposal for change.

  38. jonerick says:

    The show is over lets wait for next season and see if the WGWG myth will be break.but i notice somebody’s comment at different websites,runnerups gets the most record sales(RGMRS)

  39. Don’t care who wins my ass. I’d say 90% of idols problem lately actually has more to do with the succes of the idols after the show. What this show needs right now is another Carrie or Kelly.

    • tarc says:

      And why is that? I think we need Idol to select great artists in a lot of genres – and the last five are a great example of that.

  40. xerxia says:

    Michael F****** Slezak, that was too fabulous :)

  41. Jr says:

    Im from the philippines and I voted for jessica sanchez for like 700 times a week through my magicjack that has a US number. My cousins are voting too using skype, and i can hear myself the word “thankyou for voting…” So dont tell me nigel that the philippines is voting like a joke. the Finale has the lowest rating ever but how come its 132million that broke records? Simply more voted came from the philippines. So clearly the result was altered! Stop lying.

  42. moonbunny28 says:

    I’am surprised no one has mentioned that they need to get rid of the ridiculous we need 6 boys and 6 girls . How about the best 12 singers regardless of gender?

    • deedee says:

      In a perfect world, I’d agree with this, but because “the best singers” is so very subjective, you sort of have to put some parameters around the competition.

  43. Karen says:

    I think there are two major problems that need to be addressed and if they were fixed, we would have a very enjoyable show that we’ve all looked forward to watching for many years. In my mind, American Idol brings us a better format, better showcasing of the singer’s talent (not like the unbelievable overproduction onstage of the XFactor where you can’t even locate the singer with all the props and people onstage; or the constant pimping of the judges singing duets with the contestants on every show like on The Voice).

    The voting methods need to be changed. Limiting the amount of votes will allow someone like me who may only want to vote 5 times for a singer to do that without thinking that my vote is useless because someone else is voting 500,000 for their favorite. The power voting is totally out of control and changes to the method and amount of votes would go a long way to make all the people watching feel like their votes would count.

    The other problem would be to have the judges actually be constructive. Why are they even speaking after a performance if they are not going to say something constructive? They don’t have to be cruel but there are ways to get your point across and actually teach these kids something. Saying “you’re the best singer in 50 years” is NOT going to get anyone anywhere. But telling someone they were off pitch, off key, singing age-inappropriate songs, etc., is what needs to happen. They also need to be consistent and I think they should be able to critique a performance without showing bias and favoritism.

    There’s been so much talk about the WGWG. I do think it’s being dismissive of the singer. In our culture, one of the primary ways we make music is with a GUITAR. We also use other instruments like the piano as well as others, but the guitar is one of the major ways we make music. To play the guitar and sing at the same time is harder than just singing so it’s a plus if someone does play the guitar. For some reason, we almost never see a black man or black woman audition playing the guitar. It’s rare to see a white woman also. (We’ve seen a few). You also almost never see an Asian or hispanic man or woman playing the guitar. So here in the good ole USA we see white guys with guitars more than anything else. I LIKE it! I like the guitar. I like drums and I like the piano. If someone uses those instruments, then I want to hear it. So all I’m trying to say is let’s just see how it all plays out. I’d certainly rather watch anyone at all who is entertaining, has some charisma, moves around the stage, and/or plays an instrument than someone who just stands there dully with no personality or “it” factor. Maybe if the voting is changed, the outcome of the show will be changed too. But I’ve been watching AI for a long, long time and it’s something that I look forward to. I love seeing these young kids progress and I’m in awe of their talent. I also love Michael Slezak and Idology and would absolutely hate to lose it!

    • Suggestor says:

      If the show was truly about the talents of a performer then would an Asian guy who could play like the second coming of Hendrix and the greatest acoustic guitar players in the world combined win Idol if they sang and composed music better than Phillip played guitar? Especially if there were a WGWG better looking than Phillip in the competition with him? Be honest, because everyone reading will have their BS meter on high.

  44. Luann C. says:

    A couple of things: For those who think that it’s the 13-year-olds that are doing all the voting on this show these days, think again. I just turned 50 today, in fact, and started voting for the first time in season 9, as I got caught up in the show and liked both Lee and Crystal. But that’s all I did was vote, and bought 1 copy of Lee’s CD!
    What I have found out after getting totally caught up in Season 10 (even worse than Season 9 after watching the injustice occurring with Haley being in the bottom 3 week after week) is that it takes more than voting on the show to get these winners to sell records. This year I also, because of Haley, got on Twitter for the first time. And over this past year and a half I have watched the incredible amount of effort it takes for the fans of these winners to keep these young singers in the winner’s circle. It’s the fans that need to constantly beg the radio stations to play their music to keep pushing their favorites to the top.
    What I believe has occurred over the years is that the audience has grown older, as my 20-ish daughters who began watching AI with me way back when, no longer watch it. They think I’m obsessed. But most audience in my age category do not follow through with supporting their favorites. We get caught up during the show and vote. But when the show is over, we move onto the next thing. This is what I see happened to Lee and David Cook, etc. I never followed through with radio stations to have them play Lee’s music. But this is what it takes from the fans. If the music doesn’t get on the radio, it dies.
    The exception that I am seeing, even as we speak, is with Haley Reinhart. Her fans/Haliens of all ages are determined to get this girl to the top and rightly deserved.
    With Philip Phillip, he may have the same advantage as Haley, which is that because of his appealing raw talents as well as his good looks, his fans include both young and old and probably both female and some males, which may help when it comes to the support he is going need to push his music to the top. Otherwise, his music may never stand a chance outside the AI fan bubble.
    It truly takes an army these days for new talent to stay on top. It blows my mind to think how powerful social media like Twitter and Facebook have in an industry like this. That’s why singers like Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber with millions of followers constantly win awards if these awards are based solely on fan votes and not by their peers in the industry. And if you are lucky enough to have a friend like Bieber who asks his millions of twitter followers to buy your record, the very next day you’re a worldwide sensation! Too much power in my opinion for any one person to have.
    There is no guarantee for any AI winner or finalist that they will sell millions of records unless they acquire a wide fan base on the show and know how to hold onto them.

    • Name That Tune says:

      The demographics don’t say that. It’s still a 18-49 audience. Still draws well with the under 35s. But the audience is getting smaller with each passing season, which means it’s not the most exciting show on TV anymore. It’s got competition from the X Factor and The Voice, which also draw well. But it gets more and more predictable and boring as the audience shrinks.

    • Karen says:

      Luann C, your comment just really got me to thinking about the success or failure of these idols that we watch year after year and become invested in as we choose the particular one that we want to win. You are so right about needing to support that person that we really like. In the past years, I’ve downloaded some songs here and there of different songs that I’ve really liked during the show. But after the show, I’ve never continued to buy the music they put out. With the exception of David Cook. Cook, in my opinion, is the voice of a decade, no, make that a century. This is my opinion and I want him to succeed so that I can continue to hear music from this awesome voice! So, think about the fact that if there is someone you’re really excited and interested in listening to, you need to be buying their music when they release it. I really want to see them all do well. I am not a fan of a lot of the Top 40 rap/hiphop/autotune/crap that is submitted to us as “music.”

  45. Name That Tune says:

    I read about half of this interview and couldn’t take any more. Those of us who watch the show, and try to write intelligently about it forget that Nigel’s only job is to produce a successful show with good ratings. It isn’t his job to worry about the post-Idol careers of the contestants or how many iTunes get downloaded or how much radio play these guys get. For many years Idol as been successful at doing what it was created to do – generate ratings and advertising dollars. A shrinking audience means the show is not as successful as it once was. It means the audience isn’t as excited about it anymore. We can talk about why that is so, but Nigel isn’t seeing the problems. He’s The Emporer With No Clothes. He has talked about making slight changes in the past, but none of it has come to fruition. Eventually, FOX will lose patience with the show and axe it. But not just yet. It is still popular enough to keep around for a few more seasons.

  46. teatime says:

    “Season 11 of [Idol], that’s been the first year I [couldn’t have told] you who’d definitely be in the finale. We never really had one person win two weeks running.”
    Is the most interesting quote in the interview. Michael, you should have put something about that little tidbit of information in the article title.

  47. Luke says:

    Until they change the voting format for the show, all these other great singers who arent male and dont play a guitar will never have a chance to win. You can blame it on all the teenage girls who are mostly reponsible for the vote, but AI can certainly do something about that to give every contestant an equal chance.

    • Louise says:


      • Mary B says:

        I keep hearing that it is the teenage girls fault for the vote yet the news says that Idol’s viewers have gotten older. The average age of a AI viewer is now 48. They are trying to do more to bring in the young people because they are losing that age demographic. You can’t have it both ways people. Either Idol got older or the teenage girls dominate. My granddaughter who is 14 and none of her friends watch idol anymore, her mother watches but she doesn’t. She’s too busy on Facebook chat. Phillip’s single “Home” went gold and his EP Highlight album is climbing the charts way ahead of the other top 5 contestants including Jessica. It is not the teenage girls that are buying them. So don’t you think it is about time that we start realizing Phillip won because he deserved to not because he is cute. There are some of you out there who do not like Phillip but there are more out there that does. I voted for Haley last year because I felt she was the best but this year I voted for Phillip because he had something special that none of the other contestants had for me and it certainly isn’t because he is cute. I am a 64 year old grandma.

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