Every “American Idol” season tends to get a lot of auditioners looking to pry as much learning material as possible out of the past. Some things are already obvious from previous years; for example, everyone knows that it’s a bad move to dress in costume for the auditions (but you likely will get on TV), and a good idea to come equipped with a heartwarming and camera-appropriate story.
But each season provides a new stash of learning material. Season six finished with a few lessons that future contestants would be wise to emulate. Among them:
Sing well every week
As ad nauseum, this is a singing competition. First and foremost, it’s important for “Idol” hopefuls to bring all their vocal skills every night.
What separated the final three performers from the rest of the field is that they all sang well nearly every week. Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis and Melinda Doolittle avoided the subpar nights that sank rivals like LaKisha Jones and Chris Richardson, and that kept them in the competition until the end of May.
The worst thing anyone can be is bland. A hook that’s sure to get the viewers interested is often the difference between making the final 12 and not even getting out of the Hollywood round.
Sanjaya Malakar had the faux-hawk, Blake Lewis had the beatboxing, Chris Sligh had the hairdo, and Haley Scarnato the wardrobe. Each used their unique assets to make the finals.
Roll with the punches
Everyone on “Idol gets criticized eventually (except Melinda). Dealing with the negative comments properly is key to success on the show.
Do not get all snippy with Simon Cowell, as both Chris Sligh and Chris Richardson did this season. And don't keep trying to reinvent yourself in order to please the judges, as numerous hopefuls have tried — and failed to do.
This season, most of the finalists were a lot smarter. Blake kept on beatboxing despite the fact that the judges didn’t always like it, and picked contemporary songs even after being criticized for it. Sanjaya kept on being Sanjaya. Jordin Sparks smiled and agreed with her critics, and didn’t let the bad news faze her.
That’s the way to go. Take Cowell's comments for what they’re worth, and move on.
Be a young girl or older guy
There’s not much an “Idol” hopeful can do about this one, apart from getting the necessary fake IDs. But this season once again proved that being on either end of the spectrum is an asset.
It’s the third year in a row than a young woman and older man competed in the finale. In 2005, it was Carrie Underwood (22) over Bo Bice (29). In 2006, Taylor Hicks (29) beat Katharine McPhee (22) in the finale. And this season, Jordin (17) knocked off Blake (25).
No woman older than 22 has ever made it to the final episode. No man younger than 24 has gotten that far either. America has spoken, and all the Sanjaya love aside it doesn’t like older women or younger men.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.