My new NPR commentary: Dissecting American Idol's new judges
As I noted in the newspaper last week, American Idol producers have done a pretty good job rebooting the show for a new season, pulling off what many of us critics thought was an impossible task -- surviving the departure of star judge Simon Cowell.
My commentary for NPR today talks about the one challenge they have left -- giving the new judges some new things to say.
Part of the problem, is that this year's crop of contestants are clearly better than years past. So how many different ways can you tell somebody they did a good job?
The 24 semi-finalists also made a lot of the same mistakes last week. They chose songs which didn't fit their voice or performance style, or they did straight-up covers of songs with no indication of how their creativity would add to the rendition.
Seems to me, there are three big challenges for Idol performers at this stage of the game: managing the nerves and pressure; choosing the best songs to showcase their style and voice; and commanding that huge Idol stage, where you're riding a band so powerful, it will run you over like a freight train if you're not careful.
That's why Idol producers say they're continuing to pre-tape the performances shows this week; to make sure the band doesn't overpower the singers. But I'm thinking they're really making sure the show doesn't have anymore uncomfortable time overruns -- Thursday's live program came perilously close -- and smoothing out any rough spots with their new judges.
Still, I hope they let it all hang out live soon. Part of Idol's complex appeal is that the live shows force everyone to work without a net.
Time to take off the training wheels and let this new version fly.
Super shout outs to my editor Sara Sarasohn and producer Felix Contreras, who have done amazing work in helping this radio neophyte learn the tricks of the trade. You guys are truly amazing.
Hear the audio of my commentary below: