Thursday, February 28, 2008

Song choices limited for 'American Idol' contestants

Sometimes I get frustrated listening to "American Idol" judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.

They tell contestants to have fun with a song, and when they do, they are criticized about not being unique enough or not letting their true personality show.

They tell contestants (often) to pick better songs that fit their voice, and when they do, they are criticized for picking songs that are too "safe."

They tell contestants to be "relevant" as they sing, but many seem to get confused during these "theme nights" as they seem to try harder to appeal to the flavor of the 1960s, 70s, or whatever choice of decade the show wants them to be.

Maybe they should just eliminate the theme nights and have the group experiment with different music genres more relevant to our time — pop music, alternative, R&B, etc. That would make more sense.

In Wednesday night's show, the judges weren't too impressed with a lot of the women's song choices, including Sarasota contestant Syesha Mercado, who performed "Me and Mr. Jones."

I thought it was good arrangement and performance. Maybe too safe of a song choice at best.

Judges want that "wow" factor — someone who can be fun and bold, have a unique personality that shines in their performances and be relevant. Something like what the judges say they found in contestants during their initial auditions.

But sources close to the show tell me that contestants are only able to pick one of three songs out of a list of 50. Whether it's three or 50 songs to choose from, restricting contestants to a limited list seems kind of wrong in a way. The guys and girls shined in their initial auditions because they were free to pick a song from any genre and era to perform that showed off what the judges wanted to see.

I hope "American Idol" gives the group more freedom as the weeks progress so we can see Syesha and the gang thrill us more with their talents. — January Holmes

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