But none of those singer/songwriter-types have caught on, and those seasons of searching for the perfectly packaged artist have been notorious snoozefests. This shift in mindset means viewers are missing out on what was one of the most endearing aspects of the show, and probably why it took off in the first place. These green singers were put on a national stage like fish-out-of-water, and found themselves organically. They weren't there because they had a sense of what kind of artist they wanted to be or sounded like Sara Bareilles; they could just sing. It was exciting to watch and, as these novices unexpectedly blossomed, made for a far less predictable show. Hopefully in Season 10 Idol foregoes pinpointing what kind of pop superstars these singers will be, and just lets them be contestants instead.
2. Will Season 10 be about the singers or the judges?
Nigel Lythgoe has trumpeted that the new season of Idol will return to being about the contestants. Truly, one of the most infuriating aspects of recent seasons—particularly last year with four judges—was that the contestants would sing for 90 seconds and then the Simon & co. would critique them for seven and a half minutes. There's one less judge this year—a good start—but the new panel's motivations for taking the job are a bit suspect.
Jennifer Lopez's new single was released earlier this week, conveniently timed with her debut at the AI judges table. Steven Tyler and Aerosmith are reportedly in the studio at work on a new album, one that would certainly benefit from the purchasing dollars of the young consumers who will be watching Tyler on Idol this season. Can we really buy that the judges will hand over the spotlight to the contestants when it's already clear that they're coming at the gig from a career resurgence angle?
3. How far will Idol distance itself from its "Karaoke Idol" image?
The criticism that American Idol is ostensibly karaoke on national TV stretches back to its debut in 2002. Recent seasons, however, found several contestants receiving positive attention for rearranging songs entirely—translating into immediate buzz for the show and massive iTunes sales (David Cook's "Billie Jean," Adam Lambert's "Tracks of My Tears," for example).
Perhaps catching on to the in-season success of these performances (neither artist has fared particularly well post-Idol), Lythgoe has brought in top record executive Jimmy Iovine to be a full-time mentor for the contestants. Other music producers including Alex da Kid (Eminem and Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie"), Christopher "Tricky Stewart (Beyonce's "Single Ladies"), and Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins (Lady Gaga's "Telephone") will also be collaborating with contestants on a rotating basis. Does this mean that this season of Idol will be more aggressive about convincing contestants to play with a song's arrangement? Furthermore, though there have been brilliant Idol moments owed to rearranging classic songs, it's not always a good thing. Does anyone else remember this country-fied version of The Beatles' "Eight Days a Week?"