American Idol: Masters Division?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Strangely enough, it's happened: I've become a fan of American Idol.

Not the American Idol Experience (yet), as I haven't experienced it and still have some doubt about whether I'd enjoy it without Simon's signature cattiness, or Ellen's dry humor. Rather, I've become a fan of the television show itself, having started watching it with my son recently in response to his enthusiasm for Ellen's new role as a celebrity judge. I'm not the first to notice how addictive the show is, how wrapped up one can get with the judging and waiting for the audience votes....and I'm sure I'm also not the first to enjoy watching it on my digital video recorder so I can fast-forward through the endless reminders of what tragedies and obstacles our contestents have overcome.

But without having ever been to the American Idol Experience yet, and without retracting my earlier comments and skepticism, I've gotta say it's got one thing the TV show doesn't offer: The chance to hear vocalists with more mature talents than the TV show's age limit of 28 years permits.

What makes me say this? Well, earlier this week I watched 17-year-old Katie Stevens valiently attempt the song "Feeling Good." The judges and I were as one on this: It's the wrong song for her, in large part because of her age. She's a sparkly, bright-eyed young woman, and simply doesn't bring the angst and depth to the song that it deserves. While there may be the rare teenager who can give that song its due, those who've had a little more time to savor life's ups and downs, and for their voices to more fully mature physically, may have more to give here. (Not to mention how many more tragedies and obstacles those additional years have let them accumulate.)

I'm glad to see that the American Idol Experience doesn't have this age limit in place, leaving open the possibility that I'll get to hear some more seasoned vocalists. But then, what to do if some of those in the 29+ crowd win the golden ticket, the front-of-the-line pass for auditions for the real American Idol? Well, if I read the rules correctly, they're straight outta luck, and can't audition (the same being true for those under 16).

I'd propose that the American Idol TV show should run a special edition one year, perhaps in the off-season if they're feeling skittish, and title it "American Idol: Masters Division," with contestants 29 years and older.  There are plenty of amazing voices out there, and some only improve with age. Just ask yourself: Would Susan Boyle have delivered that stunning performance on Britain's Got Talent 36 years earlier? Surely she's not the only one over 28 who's ever dreamed a dream.