The American Idol revival: Simon Cowell v. Lionel Richie

Meaghan Hudson On June 11th, 2002 once the new year hit that meant that it was the return of the beloved American classic, American Idol. Who didn’t love circling around a family room television set with family and friends to watch as the Simon Cowell ripped into American citizen’s lack of actual talent?Was it the actual British sarcasm of Simon Cowell, the somewhat backhanded niceness of Paula Abdul, or the chillax attitude of Randy Jackson that hooked all of us into watching? Although American Idol was successful, it was eventually cancelled, but only a couple years went by before it was brought back to life with a whole new panel of judges with brand new attitudes, with the same introductions being lead by Ryan Seacrest, it seems as though that was the only similarity between the prior American Idol and this new version of Idol. The fresh new faces of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie are taking American Idol down a new kinder and more comforting pathway in comparison to the harshness of the show’s earlier seasons.

Giving a quick look back through the history of American Idol, it almost seemed like the Golden Age of the show’s height of popularity was with the panel of judges led by Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. If you were an avid watcher from the beginning like I was, you would know that the show did not originally start out in that way but it did morph into showing Simon Cowell tearing apart dreams of doe-eyed young American citizens. In one episode Cowell was even quoted as saying this to one of the auditionees, “How do you think you did? All right, Mary. Honestly, one of the worst I’ve ever heard in my life. What made you audition for this competition? You can’t sing a note in tune and you have one of the weirdest voices I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Right off the bat in the first new season of the show, which aired last year, the famous judges set a different tone on the show. Gone are the days of being outright mean to the hopeful singers of America.Lionel Richie physically teared up when a young woman,who lost the love of her life and singing partner to a fatal car crash, was singing? No more making fun of innocent teens who just want a chance to showcase what talent they have. Of course, every now and then, they show a contestant lacking in talent for entertainment purposes; however, viewers do not see the judges ripping into them as much or laughing at them. Instead, these scenes typically involve Katy Perry playfully dancing with them or Lionel Richie giving them a word of encouragement while noting their bravery for coming out to audition anyways.

Overall, while we all got a good laugh in the prior American Idol ways with Cowell telling young singers to end their hopes and dreams of ever making it big in Hollywood, this new American Idol shows a breath of fresh air and gives new light to this sunshine-like new American Idol. It is a new era of Idol in which we can watch without cringing at our TV sets at the thought of a contestant leaving the audition room in either e tears or just simply flipping off the camera and giving the judges a big curse word. Afterall, who could ever flip off a legend like Lionel Richie?

5 thoughts on “The American Idol revival: Simon Cowell v. Lionel Richie

  1. Jeff Sakakeeny
    This article highlights something that I’ve thought before, people love watching judges tear into contestants. Maybe it is the feeling that after a ‘sick roast’ you feel smarter than the contestant and side with the now smart sounding judge. This was very present in the old American Idol, and still present in lots of talent and cooking shows. It could stem from our specific culture, as things like The Great British Bake Off are almost always very polite and encouraging. I am curious to see how well these new seasons do in comparison to the older episodes. If it is worse, it could very well be people miss the old judges, but it may also be that lots of people don’t find it entertaining without the smarmy criticism from more experienced singers.


  2. John Sava
    I found this blog post to be very insightful and gave me a new way of thinking about the judges on American Idol. Growing up I watched Simon Cowell on America Idol and always thought that he was really funny as a judge. The way he used sarcasm to basically verbally attack contestants I though was funny. However, I never really thought of the person singing. The people who audition for the shows are usually American citizens who have hopes of being a famous singer. While, insulting someone who is bad can be funny because they possibly could be overconfident with themselves and their abilities. There is a chance that if they had the right guidance they could be good. The way this blog post talks about the new judges and how instead of insulting them they more tried to help them be better is also nice. For American Idol this is a new approach that I think possibly could work. Sometimes if a coach for anything helps in a nice way the student can learn more.


  3. Zac Pennace

    I found this blog post to be interesting and in my opinion I stopped watching American Idol after they kept changing the judges. Personally I liked Simon Cowell the best because he was honest and like you said loved to rip the person auditioning apart. Growing up i found him to be funny with his criticism and sarcasm to the contestants. He also gave some very good advice to those who didnt make it thru to the next round in the competition. My other favorite American Idol judge was when Steven Tyler was one of the judges. Switching up the judges looses the true originality of the show but it does bring in new audience members who may be familiar or fans of the new judge. American Idol isnt what it used to be in my opinion and I have stopped watching in for the reason of them doing so many changes. My favorite part always is when the people who try out are funny or fail miserably.


  4. Melanie DeAlmeida

    American Idol for me was always a show to get a good laugh especially when it was audition at the start of the season. I believe that in
    order for a show to continue and succeed there needs to be a little bit of drama in order for it to appeal to the eye of the viewers. With the newer American Idol cast, I can honestly say that I haven’t watched it yet but it doesn’t seem to appeal to me as much either because Simon Cowell isn’t on it. He created this weird tension and cliff hanger almost when you would try to guess if he thought someone was good or not. I wonder how long American Idol will continue with this new cast being so much nicer, it reminds me a lot of the Voice. How many singing shows will last though is the question.


  5. Michael Gille
    America Idol now I feel is just a marketing move to bring in more money for the network. The original show was such a huge success that even today people know exactly what the show was with Simon Cowell. The humor of the show came from criticism that Simon would deliver to contestants. I give the people auditioning credit because I would never do such a thing, but people have became too emotionally conscious and take everything too personally. Judges are there for a reason- to judge. If contestants don’t feel comfortable with that then don’t try out for American Idol. It is made for entertainment and seeing people sing okay isn’t that entertaining. Seeing a judge rip somebody apart is a little more interesting. It wasn’t as if the old panel of judges were out to get the singers, Paula and Randy had a much more kinder approach, and would defend the singer, even if they weren’t that good.


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