Somewhere in the U.S at this very moment, there is a musician who is going to be the winner of American Idol season 16. Here’s what Billboard would love to see on the new edition of Idol.
THE HOST: Ryan Seacrest’s new job on Live with Kelly and Ryan is keeping him in New York and there’s no plan to move the show to Manhattan. That means a lot of air miles for Seacrest should he host the ABC version of Idol, but we would love for him to rack up the points on the airline of his choice -- or be given the ABC corporate jet to move him back and forth to Los Angeles for the few weeks of the live shows. Ryan is an integral part of the series’ success, and frankly, it just wouldn’t be Idol without him. There is a reason that while the roster of judges changed several times during the first 15 years, Seacrest remained the only on-air constant. We’d like to see that continue.
THE JUDGES: We will always have a place in our hearts for the original panel of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. At the same time, the final grouping of Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. was perfection. While Cowell was on the panel for the first nine years, every version of Idol around the world had a “mean” judge. But once he was gone and Lopez, Jackson and Steven Tyler were sitting at the judges’ desk in season 10, Idol producers realized they didn’t need a “mean” judge. We think that still holds true. We do regret that since Ellen DeGeneres was invited to be a judge on season nine, we’ve only had celebrity judges since. Let’s not forget that Jackson wasn’t famous when he started on Idol in season one. We’d love to see a music industry expert join the triad -- he or she will become famous soon enough. (And we’d be fine with Abdul, J.Lo and/or Urban returning.)
THE AUDITIONS: As Idol matured, the show de-emphasized the bad auditions, though they never completely went away. Not that we want to copy The Voice, which doesn’t feature any untalented singers, but it’s time to completely do away with this aspect of the show. In many ways, we live in a world that is much more cruel than it used to be. No need to encourage that.
THE CONTESTANTS: We’ve always believed that Idol rises and falls on the shoulders of the contestants. The series found a lot of amazing talent over 15 years. Some seasons were better than others, and when we think of the standout years, they were stellar because of the casting of the show. Give us a talent roster as great as Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Kimberley Locke or Carrie Underwood, Bo Bice and Vonzell Solomon or David Cook, David Archuleta and Syesha Mercado or Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey, and we’ll be happy.
THE PRODUCERS: Simon Fuller created American Idol and if there is one person in the world who knows the show best, it’s him. He’s not going to come back and be the showrunner -- he never was -- but it is essential that he be involved for his excellent counsel. He’s open to change and ready to move Idol into the third decade of this millennium, so sign him up. The one other person in the world who knows Idol that well is Nigel Lythgoe. He left and returned and left and returned... and he should return again.
THE RECORD LABEL: We’re big fans of Big Machine and Scott Borchetta but we’re puzzled by the amount of time it took to release an album by season 14 winner Nick Fradiani. Granted, Idol didn’t have as many viewers by that penultimate year, but Fradiani’s album was outstanding and should have garnered more attention. It’s been over a year since Trent Harmon won season 15 and he still doesn’t have an album in the market. This has to change.
THE DISNEY EXPERIENCE: Now that Disney owns American Idol, it’s time to return the theme park attraction based on the show to Disney World in Orlando. Plus, it was never available in Anaheim -- the Frozen revue had a good run but we can hear the Hyperion Theater at California Adventure calling Idol’s name.