How ‘American Idol’ Truly Stepped Up Its Game

It might sound crazy, but this year marks the 13th season of American Idol. Yes – 13th. It seems like only yesterday we met Kelly Clarkson, and pretended we didn’t want to see From Justin To Kelly but totally saw it and didn’t tell anyone unless they mentioned it first.

With a show like Idol, it’s typical to miss a season or two (because, hey – Shakira was on The Voice the other season, and watching two vocal competitions just seems like a bit much.) In fact, with all of the Idol change-ups in the past few years, you might have jumped ship completely. If you were wary about jumping back on board, here are a few reasons as to why this season of Idol might be better than you expected.

1. JLo is back.

Yep, Jennifer Lopez decided to grace our presence once more. And I have to say this – she’s a sweetheart. You can tell that she truly appreciates the crying contestants who tell her how much of an impact she’s made for them. Also, she doesn’t seem mad when her fellow judges make reference to “Jenny from the Block”. You have to admit, it’s a really catchy tune.

Jennifer makes a great female judge, since while she’s (probably, I’m guessing) high maintenance off camera, she seems pretty relaxed on screen. She also seems to have a pretty good relationship with the other judges, so there probably won’t be any petty drama that takes away from the focus of the show. (Ahem. Nicki and Mariah, I’m unfortunately talking about you.)

2. Harry Connick, Jr.

He was the reason why your Mom all of a sudden made Will & Grace a priority in the house. As the newest judge on the show, he’s been hilarious about the realization that nobody who enters the room seems to know who he is. (At one point, a contestant tried Googling him. Another referred to him as “Tony Connick”.)

Instead of getting bitter, he seems to play it up. It’s always important to have fresh ears on Idol, and it doesn’t hurt if those ears belong to someone who is pretty knowledgeable about the music industry. I mean, let’s be honest – you’re probably listening to a lot of Harry around Christmas, since his holiday album from 1993 is still one of the biggest selling Christmas albums in the United States.

3. Less hurt feelings.

Do you know why I went for The Voice instead of American Idol the last few years? It’s because I felt really bad for the contestants who kept getting humiliated on television. Obviously not everyone is chosen on The Voice, but at least they leave with some positive yet constructive criticism.

Here’s what a lot of people don’t realize about American Idol: The round that you see on television isn’t the first round. Heck, it isn’t even the second round. The first round lets contestants sing for maybe 15 seconds with a group of people, and very rarely are they given the opportunity to reach that next level. They seek the best of the best, and the absolute worst – after all, that’s what makes good television.

Contestants who finally reach the stage that we see from home often have to pay for their own travel arrangements. And if they really think they have talent, they’re paying for the chance to become laughed at by America. While you might think “wouldn’t someone tell the contestant that they’re super awful before they reach this stage?” think about how you’d break that news to someone you love.

From what I saw of this season so far, everyone has some type of talent. The ones who get rejected are at least complimented on their vibrant personalities. While there are tears (since, of course!) there’s no fear that they’ll be going viral tomorrow for being the worst singer of all time. I appreciate that.

4. Randy is back! Sort of.

We all miss him telling people that they can “sing the phone book”. While Randy isn’t a judge, he will be a mentor. A new round has been added this year that will represent a two-day workshop between him and the contenders. Since Randy has seen his fair share of Idols compete for glory, his wisdom will probably be greatly appreciated.

5. There’s something extra special about the camera work this season.

I noticed it in the commercials, and it became obvious while watching. Kudos to the production staff, since I just can’t take my eyes off of the screen.

And finally…

6. The contestants just seem really darn likable.

Check out Sam Woolf. And just tell me you don’t want to hug that kid. Seriously. I know you want to smother him with hugs.

Even better, more and more of the contestants featured on Idol this season are equipped with their own material. While I applauded the season where they allowed guitars and instruments to accompany auditions (especially since that was during season 8, when my fake boyfriend David Cook won and I cried and cried happy tears forever) it seems like this year the Idol-wannabes really want to show off their chops by demonstrating how creative they can truly be. It’s no longer a karaoke sing-along on Idol, and I think that’s amazing.

Have you been watching this season? Do you think the show has improved?

Image Credits: Featured, Connick Jr.

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