Nigel Lythgoe promises major 'American Idol' changes
Posted January 9, 2013
The judges aren't all that American Idol has changed for this season.
The Season 12 tweaking began with the auditions, says executive producer Nigel Lythgoe.
"American Idol has always gone out to the cities en masse," Lythgoe told reporters during a conference call Wednesday. For the upcoming season, which premieres next Wednesday and Thursday on Fox, Idol went out in search of contestants who lived farther away from the audition cities. "We've actually taken an American Idol bus out to the little towns this year, with a producer on board. ... That introduced new talent to us, I must say."
Idol producers also listened to "friends and family who thought the person they nominated had a great voice but were a little too nervous to audition," Lythgoe says. In those cases, judge Randy Jackson went out with a hidden camera to surprise the would-be contestants. With Randy's approval, those singers skipped the lines of the first-round auditions and headed straight to the judges.
Hollywood Week brought more changes. "We split the weeks up and gave a week to the boys, then a week to the girls," Lythgoe says, adding that the change allowed the judges and producers to focus more on talent. "It allowed us to see the wood for the trees, if you will." Lythgoe plans a similar split during Vegas Week.
Don't expect a wild-card pick this time around, Lythgoe says. Once they narrow the field to 10 singers -- five women, five men -- the show will have its finalists.
"I've never liked a Top 11 or a Top 12 or a Top 13," he says. "It was always created in order to fill the transmission times Fox wanted.
"We've never found a way to do it with everything that has been asked of us. This year, we have."
Lythgoe says he likes the idea of not only revealing the contestant with the fewest votes each week but also ranking the singers by their vote totals, much like The X Factor has done. In fact, Lythgoe says, he has wanted to do that on Idol for several years.
"Now it looks like we're going to be copying them," he says. "I thought it was a good move from when we first came here. ... We'll still discuss it. I'm not sure how we'll do it."
Lythgoe also floated the possibility of breaking out voting data by geographic region: "I think it'd be exciting. I think we'd see if they have hometown support."
As usual, Idol judges and producers have indicated that the new season has an unusually deep talent pool of female singers. So what does one of those singers need to do to become the show's first female winner since Jordin Sparks in 2007?
"What they've always had to do, which is capture the vote," Lythgoe says. "It isn't always the voice. It is about charisma, it is about personality, it is about attracting an audience, and doing that week on week. If there was an absolute formula to stick to win American Idol by now, we probably would have found it."
Ultimately, Lythgoe adds, "the depth of talent doesn't matter. You're still only dealing with five males and five females" in the finals.
Lythgoe also said he doesn't believe the addition of Nicki Minaj as a judge will lead to the Idol audience embracing a hip-hop act or a rapper/singer winner. "I don't believe rap really fits into American Idol," he says, likening the genre to poetry and drama. "I think we'll get a lot of good R&B kids, a lot of good street kids coming in. Goodness knows we need it." However, he adds, "I do not believe hip-hop will become a genre on American Idol."
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