American Idol fights for survival by promoting tension on the panel

Brian Andrade

American Idol struggles to maintain its status as it competes with new singing shows like X Factor and The Voice. To make matters worse, after the absence of Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, its ratings have consistently dropped.

Since season eight, American Idol continues to shuffle their judge panel with different celebrities each cycle. This year proves to be no exception when Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban were added into the mix. Show veteran Randy Jackson also returned.

The decision was made in order for the show to establish a stable group of judges, as well as to appeal to more audiences. Although the mix isn’t as steady as the original panel from the show’s early years, the new cast has its entertaining moments and provides fairly moderate critiques.

Season 12’s new panel however, did not perfectly get along. It was evident that having two confident divas would erupt some sort of conflict. Already aware of its need for more viewers, American Idol used the feud between Mariah Carrey and Nicki Minaj to their advantage. Even before its air, the clash between the two stars started an uproar that had viewers eager for the season premiere. A video of the artists cursing and arguing with one another was leaked months before the show started.

The argument began when contestant Summer Cunningham, who is an experienced country singer, told the judges during her audition that she also had a drive to experiment with soul music. In response, Carey and Jackson argued that she should just stick to the genre she already knows. Minaj, who takes pride in being both a rapper as well as a singer, was infuriated by their opinion and openly disagreed with them, causing the feud.

Since episode three, they have had no further incidents, thus the fight between the divas was short lived. This heated debate demonstrates how the show struggles to balance its “reality TV” side with an appropriate degree of professionalism.

Since the start of Hollywood Week, American Idol has moved at a far better pace. With the competition getting fierce, the momentum between each aspiring star grows. Consequently, the judges, especially Minaj, are no longer shying away from presenting harsh but honest criticism.

More concrete opinions were needed after the tedious audition episodes where the judges gave the same compliments to almost every screened contestant. It became bothersome hearing the panel call every other contestant a “superstar.”

As the season progresses so do the judges, seeing how much more detailed their critic is in the Las Vegas round, compared to its start, demonstrates vast improvement. The tension that adds definition to competitive reality shows had only recently been bestowed unto this season.

Regardless of the changes American Idol has undergone, the contestants remain serving as the backbone of the show. This season provides viewers with a good share of bizarre auditions, musical talent and inspirational stories.

Passion is illuminated in most of the current contestant voices and a majority of the second round performances were great. Also the drive towards winning, which is the soul of this competition, is still manifested.

Because of their busy schedule, it’s unlikely the new judges will stay for another year. The few things that did remain consistent are the cites of Coca-Cola sponsoring, Ryan Seacrest’s charm, and most importantly: the talent. American Idol’s new season has not been able to measure up to its golden days; however, the show is still standing tall and remains entertaining to watch.