American Idol

'American Idol' judges are missing key component -- credibility

April 18, 2012 at 7:06 AM ET

Fox /
"American Idol" judges Steven Tyler, Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez stormed the stage on April 12 to save contestant Jessica Sanchez from elimination.

You can forgive the “American Idol” judges if they’re wondering why nobody listens to them any more.

Two weeks ago, Jennifer Lopez praised DeAndre Brackensick non-stop for two hours on performance night, only to see him exit the next day as the lowest vote-getter. Last week all three urged voters to kick off Hollie Cavanagh, but instead it was Jessica Sanchez who found herself in trouble. The perennial favorite of all three judges got the boot from the voters only to be saved by the judges.

That keeps Jessica around temporarily, but it might not mean much without a change of heart from the audience. The judges can’t save her again if the voters continue to ignore their praise. Love the rules or hate them, “Idol” puts the fate of everyone in the hands of the viewers, not the trio on the podium.

And right now, there’s no indication that those viewers consider Randy Jackson, J.Lo and Steven Tyler credible voices.

The back-to-back results send a clear message, which is that all the hyperbole, cheerleading and begging in the world doesn’t sway voters who aren’t listening with the same mistake-cancelling eardrums the judges have. J.Lo can rush the stage to keep Jessica from having to sing her farewell chorus, and Randy can tell the crowd that she’s the best singer in the country, but it doesn’t make people care.

The question is why so few seem to be listening to the experts. Randy has been with the show since day one, so he presumably has a good idea of what makes an “Idol” contestant a likely future star. J.Lo and Steven are more recent additions, but both would seem to have a background that'd indicate the ability to spot the potential superstar in the rough. But none of that seems to translate into respect.

One theory is that this group of judges has given so much over-the-top praise over the last year and a half that it’s become easier to tune out. Yeah, yeah, Jessica’s awesome. And Joshua Ledet is a treasure. And Elise Testone is incredible. And Colton Dixon should be a hit singer already. In fact, all of these finalists are just-add-microphone superstars who just somehow went undiscovered until they were plucked from obscurity by the “Idol” staff.

Or perhaps, all are talented singers who still have much to learn before they’re truly ready for the big stage. In an ideal world, the judges would help them get there by pointing out when they are weak and offering tips for how to be strong. Instead, Randy, J.Lo and Steven are just three high-profile fans. We get “that gave me goosies!” or “that didn’t work for me,” but rarely anything constructive – except for when viewers see mentor Jimmy Iovine’s video clips on Thursdays.

Somehow, the audience has become more discerning than the judges. It’s fair to accuse the crowd of not being able to appreciate some of the technical abilities that gets the judges all gushy, but it’s also true that the viewers have been able to see some obvious flaws that the judges haven’t pointed out. 

The viewers should be the ones blindly cheering for their favorites, and the judges the ones pointing out the problems. That’s been reversed in season 11, and it’s why the judges shouldn’t be surprised that the audience is tuning them out.

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