Is this the year that American Idol stages a big comeback? We’ll find out, starting tonight, as the 14th season of the once-legendary Fox reality competition premieres at 8 p.m. ET.
Last year, viewers were positive about the show’s new judging panel, featuring Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr., all of whom are returning this year. But still, USA Today reports that for season 13, ratings were down for the third year straight, and for the first time, the show was out-gunned by NBC’s The Voice. Then, longtime Idol mainstay Randy Jackson left the show, Coca Cola pulled out as a sponsor, and later this season, the show will cut back to just one night a week.
On the positive side, the show is adding a new mentor, Scott Borchetta, the head of Big Machine Records and the man who turned Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line into superstars. And the judges are bullish on this year’s batch of contestants.
“There’s probably, maybe, five, six, seven people that I think are really gonna be duking it out, and then all the others that we’ve chosen have shown sides that are really surprising,” says judge Keith Urban. “When they get the right song, they really step up. It’s that classic thing where the dark horse can just completely trump the expected winner, and I think there’s gonna be a lot of that happening this season.”
Keith is also happy about the addition of Borchetta. “I think it’s terrific,” he says. “I think he’s got such a good sense of how to find great talent and how to make the right record and get the right people assembled. I think he’s going to be an extraordinary addition to the whole family.”
Asked what’s changed about this season, host Ryan Seacrest jokes to ABC News Radio, “Jen has a whole new closet of shoes. So her shoes are very different this year. We’ve auditioned some of the shoes. And we’ve also auditioned the contestants.”
Seriously, the host adds, “We brought back a bunch to Hollywood who are really good. They’re all very different…there’s a lot of different textures on the show this year, so looking forward to introducing that crop to the audience.”
As for Scott Borchetta, the newest member of the family, he tells ABC News Radio, “You know, I’m having a blast. Working with these kids, it’s what we do every day at the Big Machine Label Group, as far as developing talent. So the fact that we can get in there and work with them now, before they win….when we’ve been involved with other shows, we don’t get to even talk to them until after they’ve won.”
He adds, “Now, we have an opportunity to start very early on and really help them develop and make sure they’re ready for what their life could look like after they win.”
Borchetta notes though, that these days, if you want to win a reality singing competition, it takes a lot more than just a killer voice.
“What these shows have done is they’ve kind of leveled the playing field for great singers,” he explains. “So now, you have to be a great singer, but a lot more. You’ve got to have artistic vision, you’ve got to be great socially, et cetera. So I think there’s a real opportunity for us to go in and make them aware of all the things that they need to be, you know, to, to win this and be successful in 2015.”
What fans may be most excited about this season is the prospect of not having to sit through the dreaded results show. As Borchetta explains, that’s a very good thing.
“In this media moment, we can tell the whole story in one night,” he says. “So many times, whether it’s Idol or The Voice or some of these other shows, that second night you’re going, ‘Alright, I’m waiting around all this time just to get to the last three minutes.’ So now you don’t have to. So now it will be a really great episode every night and every night counts, which I think is, is really important.”
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