Reshaping Reality: How to make American Idol matter again

Rick Rubin - 2007 Once upon a time, there was a reality television show that ruled above the others. This show held such amazing numbers that some people thought it could never sour. Unfortunately for the people over at American Idol, all good things seem to come to an end. While the show has produced some remarkable singers, it’s also had more than a fair share of complete busts. Watching the show over the years you have started seeing repeat artists coming in for their second and third attempt at making it on the show. This year the winner was a girl who tried had failed to make a dent in the competition the previous two seasons.

While I have nothing against Candice Glover, the fact that it took three attempts for her to get a shot at the title speaks to how this show has gone downhill over these past few years. If she wasn’t even good enough to make the top 10 two years ago, and she wins it this year, has she REALLY improved that much? While it’s possible she’s actually improved, another possible problem is that the producers may be flagging certain people for the judges and this year they finally let her get through. After 10 years, any show becomes difficult to move forward, it’s only natural, and Idol is sitting at 12 right now. It’s not impossible to right the ship, but it’s going to take something big to pull off the feat.

Another problem Idol seems to have is the newer singing competitions, and the variety competition that regularly features singers, are taking away from the audience and putting them in a hole. Shows like The Voice, America’s Got Talent, and The X-Factor are singing competitions that owe their existence to Idol breaking new ground on American soil, but they’re climbing quickly and may soon overtake the once hulking monolith. The younger fans are tuning out, and the rest of the audience may be soon to follow. This year alone the finale dropped by about 21 million viewers against last year, losing around 44% of the coveted 18-49 demo; that’s a massive hit for a show that could once do no wrong.

While I’m no television genius, I do have one idea that could help get the show headed back in the right direction. With Randy Jackson leaving, the original three judges are now officially gone, Ryan Seacrest is the only remaining original on air part, as he should be, love or hate him he’s the perfect host for the show. I would take out the checkbook this summer and write whatever size check it takes to get Rick Rubin to step in as the head man on the judges panel for Idol. Rick Rubin is the mecca of producers in the world of music, crossing almost every major genre and working with royalty from Run DMC and LL Cool J, to Johnny Cash and the Dixie Chicks, and even Slayer, Slipknot, and Metallica. The man can, and has, done it all.

If the producers were to lure in Rubin you are now opening up the door to artists as mentors who would have NEVER set foot on the show before. You’re opening the door for different musical choices that people wouldn’t have expected from American Idol, you could have more than just country, R&B, pop, and “rock” artists. Alongside Rick I would consider keeping Keith Urban because he seems to know what he’s talking about and can read an artist, but one person I would ask to step in is the one and only Dr. Dre. This could keep Jimmy Iovine on board, while loading up with power from the 70s, 80s, and 90s to get artists developed. While Mariah has the voice, she was too nice this year as a judge, I would look for a female judge (if you went to one at all) with a little less sugar to their style. Maybe offer the spot to a Natalie Maines, or Ann and/or Nancy Wilson.

American Idol is sinking, but it’s not quite to the tipping point just yet. The show can be saved; it will just take some major changes to keep it alive. Rick Rubin would be the first piece of the puzzle that could lead to the show actually seeing resurgence and becoming a legitimate, viable show once again. How the panel is filled out from that point would help shape the rest of the competition. Even if it takes giving the entire show over to Rubin and letting him run it his way, I say go with it and see where it leads. There aren’t a ton of people who are respected across the board in the world of music, Rick Rubin being very close to the top of that list, if not at the top. While Idol has many problems at the moment, if they pick up Rick Rubin a lack of talent most certainly wouldn’t be one.
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