'American Idol' lowers minimum age to 15: Who else is dying inside?

15-american-idolImage Credit: Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images; Janet Mayer/PR Photos; Michael Becker/FoxOh Em Gee, you guys! I am so excited about Fox’s new reality show, The Search for the Next Justin Bieber, which is set to premiere January 2011. Contestants will be judged in four categories: Awesomeness of Voice; Floppiness of Hair; Dreaminess of Smile; and Ability to Induce Scrawling of Name All Over Trapper Keeper. And the good news is, there won’t be any need for pesky phone- or text-voting: Instead, an army of tweens will be employed to squeal approval after every performance. The boy who receives the lowest-decibel response each week will have his luscious locks shorn on stage by Ryan Seacrest, then be sent back to freshman algebra class 4-Eva.

Okay, okay…I’ll reel in the sarcasm for a second and give you the real scoop: American Idol has lowered its minimum contestant age from 16 to 15 for its upcoming tenth season. “A lot of young, talented people are now seeking careers and representation before they turn 16. Lowering the age limit allows us to tap into this talent pool,” said Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Idol‘s executive producer, in a press release announcing the kick-off date for season 10 auditions (see below).

With all due respect to Allison Iraheta and David Archuleta, I think this is a horrible misstep on the part of Frot-Coutaz & Co. In fact, if I ran the show, I’d increase the minimum age requirement to 18. Think about it: If recent seasons of Idol have taught us anything, it’s that the show’s audience now has a hunger for well-rounded contestants with a strong sense of self and clearly identified thoughts on the artists they want to be. Better still if these singers possess the ability to play an instrument and/or dramatically rearrange a song.

And yet the show’s producers seem to think they know better than their viewers: “You don’t want a Kris Allen or an Adam Lambert, a Lee DeWyze or a Crystal Bowersox! You want an Aaron Kelly or a Katie Stevens or some other blandly competent little singer who looks like he or she was fast-forwarded from the set of 2003’s failed American Juniors! You want someone who can be molded and manipulated like modeling clay in Kara DioGuardi’s hands! In fact, maybe you’d like something along the lines of 1992’s horrifying toddler-pop act Jordy — he of ‘Dur dur d’être bébé! (It’s Tough to Be a Baby)‘ fame. Yes, yes! Younger, younger, cuter, and cuddlier! Hear those cash-registers ringing?”

Brace yourselves for critiques like: “Have you tried country, young man? Let’s get you a 10-gallon hat and press the ‘light-twang’ button and see how that works out!” And prepare yourselves for a rendition of “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” by a wide-eyed young girl thinking about her puppy that ran away back in the sixth grade.

Then again, maybe I’m just getting too old to understand what the people want. So people, tell me, is American Idol doing the right thing by lowering its minimum age requirement? Sound off in our poll below, then check out the audition dates and locations for season 10. Gotta wonder if the show will name a replacement for Simon Cowell and/or the full roster of season 10 judges by the time the newest crop of wannabes starts lining up in Nashville. (Not to worry, I am already pestering the show’s reps for some scoop!)


July 17: Nashville, TN; Bridgestone Arena

July 21: Milwaukee, WI; Bradley Center

July 26: New Orleans; TBA

Aug. 3: East Rutherford, NJ; IZOD Center

Aug. 11: Austin, TX; Frank Erwin Center

Aug. 19: San Francisco, CA;  AT&T Park

Comments (282 total) Add your comment
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  • Ceballos

    In the past year or so, it’s like they’re doing everything they possibly can to destroy this show.

    I can already hear Randy Jackson beginning about 200 of his critiques by doing, “This girl is only 15!”

    • cld

      Ceballos – you forgot the “yo, yo so check it out”

      • Kiki

        “It was just aw-ight for me, Puppy.”

      • orville

        And ending with “Mad props to you for that.”

      • Ceballos

        So just compiling what you guys have said.

        “Yo, yo, so check it out. This girls is only 15! It was just aw-ight for me, Puppy…mad props to you for that.”

        That seems like a completely realistic critique from Randy next year. (God he’s terrible!)

      • Tharn

        LOL! I think you meant “for me for you” : )

      • Liz

        This, my friends, is the final nail in the Idol coffin. If I wanted to watch 15 year olds mug for the camera I’d watch the Disney channel.

      • Brianna

        Ha Ha Ha-LOL-I can just see it now!! Now we are gonna have to hear the judges be like: “I think you should choose a song more for your age”-“that was too mature of a song for you”-“I feel like you are having trouble figuring out who you are with your song choices”. LOL!!!!!

    • Jonny

      Ha-ha! Ceballos and company, you all just hit it on the head. I think I’ll skip Idol altogether next year and go right to the Idolatry recaps. Sleazak’s takes are consistently more entertaining than the show itself.

      • Grace

        I have actually been doing that for a while haha with the exception of kris allen I haven’t cared if I missed a performance because I really only watch because of the recaps!

      • Sally in Chicago

        I’ve been watching the clips from Rickey.org…I don’t watch the show anymore….and Idolatry and Slezak’s recap is good enough.

      • Eternal Clementine

        This is exactly what I do until the finale, and if he says someone is particularly awesome then I’ll youtube them. Don’t have to deal with Ryan or Randy that way, just awesome Slezakiness!

      • candacetx

        jumped.the.shark. this show is dead to me

      • Valerie

        Agreed, the only reason I watched AI this season was so I could read Slezak’s recaps, which was a mistake. This year, I’m only reading the recaps.

    • Sally in Chicago

      I am over the top excited about them lowering the age limit. Brings a whole new meaning to the term “fresh meat”.

    • old john

      I can’t wait for Sinatra Week.

    • Wendy

      How about hearing Ryan Seacrest introducing someone as ‘Middle School Studen, Aaron Kelly’. Blech!

    • Sally in Chicago

      “The song is too old for you”

      • cari

        “No, actually. It was written 40 years before you were born. I just wasn’t feelin’ it dawg.”

    • sally

      Wowwwwwwwwwww!!!Recently, I came across a hot dating site.—-** Black White Cupid [DOT] co-m **—- There are many sassy ladies and handsome rich guys seeking fun, friendship, love ,marriage and even more!!!!! Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends. :D

    • Roma

      They aren’t paying attention. This decision makes that crystal clear. Their problem isn’t that they don’t have enough young people on the show; it’s that when they join so young they aren’t ready and it does both the singer and the show a disservice, because with some seasoning they may be awesome but aren’t given that opportunity because they blow it when they are 16. Now they will blow it at 15. Stupid, stupid, stupd. They should have changed the age limits to 18 to 30, skewing a little older, not younger.

      • Snsetblaze

        They are now catering to the preteen girl entirely. The rest of us don’t matter. I would have rather had them raise the age to 18 and raise the age the other way from 28 (or was it left at 30 as it was in Season 5) upwards. An 18 year old who is good doesn’t always need the same break as a 28 or 30 year old who is good and knows who they are and just needs the break.

      • Roma

        Snsetblaze, they had better replace Simon Cowell with a preteen girl then, someone who will fawn over these younger singers. To have judges who will damn them with “you aren’t ready yet” when they are giving them this opportunity that they will be unable to fulfill is a big waste of time and of talent, IMO.

  • Logistics

    OH MY GOD THIS IS HORROR. HORROR COME TO LIFE.

    NO. NO. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    • mina

      This is a horrible, horrible, mistake. Idol could do with changing a lot of things but this was not one of them.

      • Taylor

        Very few of the 15-year-olds, if any, will make it past the audition rounds. They would have to be exceptional because Fox won’t want to deal with a trunkload of stage parents. It won’t make the slightest difference in the show. This is all for headlines.

    • Quirky

      This maybe the first time in the entire history of the internet that an all caps comment is actually appropriate.

      • AcaseofGeo

        Logistics and Quirky you both made my day. Thanx.

    • bruno

      i just threw up in my mouth. is this to counter cowell’s it factor agelessness? so, idol becomes the one for the kiddies and factor becomes the one for people with taste in things other than tiger beat?

  • daisyj

    When I saw this news this morning it was a big disappointment. I thought they might learn from the problems with this season and try some sort of radical makeover a la SYTYCD to turn the show around, but apparently the AI producers have just decided to give up and embrace the tweenpocalypse. Good (in the short run) for their bank accounts, bad (in the long run) for the show.

    • Minnie

      Totally agree. This kills all hope I had that they would make changes for the better. I would especially like them to limit votes/phone line like DWTS so it’s more representative and indicative of the majority, instead of tween power texters. Given this move, it’s clear they are not going to do that! I really don’t know if I can watch again!

    • Al

      This just makes my decision not to watch next year even easier. Will just wait patiently for X-Factor…..

    • Drew

      None of this matters. The winner is still going to be the attractive guy in his early to mid 20s with an interesting, but not unique, voice. Guitar requested, arrangements a must. And I’m OK with that, because I’ve liked them so far. David’s CD rocks, Kris had a few terrific tracks, and I’m sure Lee will too. I hate that the mystery has left the show, and I’ll enjoy the process to the finals even less than this year, but I’ll still probably get the winner’s CD. Regardless of the crap we have to get through to find the winner, and even regardless of whether the winner is actually the most deserving, the end result still works.

      • Marty

        I agree with Drew, though I’m not crazy about Kris.. David and Lee are great and Carrie and Kelly are still entertaining, the show obviously isn’t going to take much of a hit in the being watched category, it could lose millions of viewers and still be one of the highest rated programs on tv.

  • Brittany (blkeener)

    Got to get the money out of the kids before they hit puberty…

  • LizP

    AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  • Kate

    BAD, BAD move on Idol’s part.

    You know why Season 7 was so good? Because it was filled with so many ADULTS. David Cook, Carly Smithson, Michael Johns, Brooke White. Artists with a clear sense of self who had been paying their dues and trying to make it in the business for a long, long time.

    Remember when David Archuleta didn’t know any Beatles songs, so he sang We Can Work It Out because Stevie Wonder had covered it? *Facepalm*

    As if the show could get any worse…

    • Flyer

      I completely agree. Season 7 was my favorite as well. And the few contestants I liked in Season 8 and 9 were also all adults. This past season, I bought several songs by Lee, Crystal and Casey off iTunes. I didn’t even SAMPLE anything by any of the kiddie contestants.

    • nich

      I agree. Season 7 was my favorite and I loved that they were mostly all adults who knew what they were doing and knew for the most part who they were.

    • Cat

      Totally agree. Season 7 was the best because the mostly adult contestants knew who they were as artists. For every David Archuletta or Allison Iraheta the show lets into the top 12, there’s five Aaron Kellys, Kevin Covais, and John Stephens to muck up the competition. If this is an example of the kinds of “revisions” the producers are going to usher in next season, it’s going to be a rough season.

    • Bob

      What are you talking about? Archuleta was the only reason I watched the whole show. The boy’s vocal talent was amazing, the best in the season 7. AI needs more young and pure talent like Archuleta who can beat out any adult singers vocally. After the idol, people found out he’s more talented than AI portrayed. Do you know his nick name is the walking jukebox? How many people knew the Stevie Wonder’s version of We Can Work It Out? Look now. All the season 7 contestants are going for 30 years old or over 30, but Archuleta is going for 20 and so much going on in his agenda. Christmas album, Spanish album, inspirational and/or patriotic album, even the New York Times best seller author? He is popping out everywhere.

      • Fidget

        And we all know the thing that makes a great artist is THEME albums…. (puke)

      • Alifran

        What? So what? He’s only “popping out” if you are making a concentrated effort to find him. The point is, Bob, Archie is the exception – most young kids are just plain annoying (katie stephens? gag) and not even close to being interesting. And so what if season 7 contestants are in their 3O’s? Should we start pricing canes for them? You must be about 16 yourself, huh?

      • Alifran

        AND another thing – David Archeletta is a good singer, but certainly NOT the best of season 7. David Cook won because he was easily the best. And if Archie did not have an army of tweenies pushing him through the runner up would have been Michael Johns, Carly Smithson, or Jason Catro.

      • dgh

        With your obsession with David I am sure he’s not the only thing popping out!!!!!

      • Bob

        Whatever you say, there is no denying Archuleta is a talented teen showing off his versatile talent in various markets. FYI, he has been invited to perform at A Capitol Fourth in DC and at Annual Tejano Music Awards on July 11th. So, if AI were lucky, they might be able to find some talented 15 year olds who can have a longer career than older contestants.

      • AliFran

        No, if WE are lucky AI will weed out the 15 year olds during Hollywood week. By the way, who, besides you even heard of the Tejano Music Awards?

      • Bob

        You may get what you wish for, weeding out all the 15 year olds, but there are talented youngsters out there, though rare, and if they have monstrous, jaw-dropping talent, why not giving them a chance? You may not be familiar with the Latino music and it’s a huge market that any idols have never tapped into. It’s never a bad thing to have ability to cross over different markets.

    • MelindaB65

      Season 7 was the last season of AI that I watched…and it may be the last season of AI that I *ever* watch. Raising the age limit makes more sense than lowering it.

      • Taylor

        Season 8 was better: Kris, Adam, Allison, Matt, Anoop, Scott, and Lil (in the beginning anyway; she quickly lost her mojo, which was too bad). I am, however, trying to forget that Danny Gokey ever happened.

      • Suzanne

        No, Season 7 was better. Scott and Lil weren’t good at all. Anoop is a good singer but didn’t know his own style at all. Kris, Adam, Allison–fabulous; David C, David A, Jason (love his CD, btw), Brooke, Michael, Carly–strong season.

        But back to the issue–everyone who is saying that David Archuleta and Allison Iraheta are very unusually talented teens are SO, SO right. Justin Bieber and Miley would wash out of AI in no time.

    • Vivian.

      Season 7 was my favorite season of Idol also. Such amazing talent that year. And the Rocker won! Loved it. Archie was an amazing vocalist, but his music is a bit boring for me. Still think he deserved to be in the top 2 though. But I actually enjoyed the entire season so much that I actually forked out money for the Idol tour. Mostly to see Cook, but I enjoyed the others as well. You couldn’t pay me to sit through the tour this year. I’d love to see Lee, Crystal and Casey, but no way could I sit through the rest. For me S7 was the best!

    • Amy

      David Archuleta was awesome! Anyway, he made up for We Can Work it Out with The Long and Winding Road the following week.

  • anonymous

    If this is what producers think needs to be “fixed”, the show is done for after this season. On the other hand, I’d kind of love it if the judges totally ignored this new rule, sent a couple 15-year-olds to Hollywood so that they could have one “as the youngest contestant here” segment, and then picked finalists who were all 18+. (17 if the contestant is honestly, truly as good as Jordin, David, Allison, etc…but just one of them.)

    • mina

      I like this idea!

  • bryan

    is this what the show means by “major changes”? i dread season 10 already. season 9 was bad enough. now i have to see more baby justins on my screen. i have a bad feeling about post-Simon era on Idol.

    • elr

      Well, the good thing is it shouldn’t be too long.

    • Jeanne

      Justin’s voice is already changing–and not for the best! Chwck out his appearance in Toronto this week-end. Pretty awful!

  • Val

    THESE are the improvements they were talking about? This show is going to be done, if it’s not already.

  • clio

    Ugh when I saw Ryan’s tweet about this I thought, “please, give me more reasons to not watch this show.” And I have no idea how they got that out of the poll they did. All I can think is that it’s a desperate ploy to get the demos younger.

  • trisha

    I agree with you Michael. I don’t think anyone under the age of 18 is mature enough for that kind of fame. I’m done with American Idol

  • Garrett

    The producers seem to have written off the show and pushed the self-destruct button. Bets on how badly the ratings will plummet next year?

  • Nancy

    I’m done watching Idol now, last year was bad enough and all those foolish, screaming little girls (swaybots) are enough to drive anyone crazy. GGGGRRRRR How to ruin what was once fun to watch.

  • Rachel

    I cant wait for Frank Sinatra week.

    • mikel

      Nah, it’s gonna be Beeber Week, Lovato Week, and Hanna Montana Week.

      • cari

        Instead of Songs from the Year You Were Born, it’ll be Songs You Learned From Barney.

  • sb

    THEY SHOULD BE RAISING THE AGE LIMIT. NOT LOWERING IT.

    • Emily

      AMEN! Esp. since the voice matures around 25-30. Which, y’know for a show that’s a marathon for vocalists, should maybe be taken into account? Lowering the age = American Laryingitis! *facedesk*

      • V

        yeah, but a 15-year-old who makes it on Idol now will pretty much be done with his/her career by 25…

    • SH

      sb — I’m with you on that one!

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