Talent Recap

‘Idol’ Season 1 Judges Set the Standard, How Can Others Compete?

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When American Idol first launched in 2002, viewers were not prepared for what the show would soon become. The concept of having America vote for aspiring singers to win a record contract was something new. From the sometimes outrageous auditions to the judges who were in charge of critiquing and helping America with their opinions, Idol was careful with how they tailored the show. The secret to Idol besides the great talent who were introduced, were the judges.

When Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson first walked into the audition room at the first stop in Los Angeles, California, viewers did not know what to expect. Cowell and Jackson were new faces and only known among elite music industry members. Abdul was a pop queen from the 80’s and early 90’s. Virtually, the show did not have the mega stars that we have seen judge throughout the later seasons.

Season 1 of American Idol had close to 10 million viewers watching. The ratings continued to grow with each episode. The show became a pop culture reset. By the time the finale came, 22 million people tuned in to watch Kelly Clarkson win. Obsessed fans steadily sent in text for their favorites. Top 24, Top 16, Top 10, and a winner. Debates on who deserved to make it further was water cooler talk in offices statewide. The adoring screaming fans waited for a moment like this. A moment where they could have an influence in creating their favorite artist.

The fans did not only tune in for the delusional “singers” who auditioned, nor the actual singers who inspired them. They tuned in to watch the banter, the funny moments, the drama, and the chemistry between Idol’s original three judges.


How To Find The Next ‘Idol’ Champion

Cowell, Abdul, and Jackson were able to capture the essence of what makes a good drama as well as a good comedy. The classic element of plot plays out on the show, who will win? The element of tension among the judges was present in each episode. The characters they embodied were consistent. From Cowell taking on the villain role, to Abdul being the hero, to Jackson playing a double agent at times. From the music language given with critiques, to even Jackson’s “Dawg.” And the spectacle that the show built up towards the finale. These elements are how viewers stay engaged and what makes judges shine.

As the season went by, of course Idol continued to grow. Production was on a larger scale, with each season asking the question, How do we make the next season bigger and better? With other singing competitions rising in the rankings, the formula of judges sometimes seemed to take a back seat. Yes, there were things that worked and things that didn’t. Because of the need to get the biggest names in today’s music signed on to judge, some of the elements that made the early seasons magical was lost. There were judges who were great, and judges who were not so great. What makes a good judge for Idol has always been not to sit in the chair ready to judge someone, but to sit in the chair with the hopes of truly finding the next American Idol.

American Idol Season 20

For a show entering Season 20, Idol has come a long way. The show has evolved with the growing times of heightened celebrity culture. What will continue to make a great Idol judge, is the chemistry shared among other judges, the elements of a great story, as well as the legacy they leave behind through the artist they helped to discover.

Cowell and Jackson were A&R guys who had already been tasked with finding new artists for record labels. Abdul was a top notch performer in her day who could spot talent. She had already helped Janet Jackson creatively and choreographed The Jackson Five Victory Tour. Cowell, Abdul, and Jackson set the standard. They weren’t there to hawk a new album or song. Having the experience on the creative side of what makes a great artist is what makes a great American Idol judge.

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