DAVID BIANCULLI

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'American Idol' Has Made History Once Again
April 28, 2020  | By Mike Hughes
 


American Idol 
has changed a lot in the past two decades. For instance, the singers are much better, but the judges are much worse.

But now, with the addition of a new challenge to production, COVID-19, it was time for another change. The music-from-home trend has taken over, and it has changed a lot in a few weeks. Everything is better.

So on Sunday (April 26), Idol became the first performance-reality show to switch to a social-distancing format. A new episode will arrive Sunday, May 3. Then, on May 4, The Voice has its first social-distance show.

How did the twenty Idol contestants do, singing from their homes Sunday? They were very good but not as good as the judges indicated. No one could be.

“I feel like we’ve had about five superstars in a row,” Luke Bryan said at one point.

You’d think so by hearing all the judges. After each of the twenty performances, they raved.

These are, apparently, really nice people. Lionel Richie’s (top) daughter has called him the happiest person in the world, Bryan seems like the sort of good guy country music abounds with, and Katy Perry also seems pleasant enough – even if her gimmick Sunday (spending the whole time in a hand-sanitizer costume) wore thin in a hurry.

But twenty straight bursts of “wow” get to be a little monotonous and predictable. Sort of like a professor whose grading curve ranges from A to A+.

Still, I have to admit that most of the performances were terrific, and the logistics were impressive.

Advance descriptions made it sound like this would be terribly basic: Each of the twenty contestants would be at home, singing into an iPhone, the way many celebrities did after the virus shutdown began.

Idol, however, had something bigger and better in mind. There were, apparently, three stationary cameras in each singer’s home; a gifted director was cutting between them, and sometimes between the back-up singers and musicians, all in their own homes.

Still, life is never completely equal, and neither are the conditions under which we’re quarantined. Some singers seemed to be alone while others had family members nearby. Some seemed to be crammed into small apartments, but Lauren Spencer-Smith had a spectacular, lakeside backdrop.

Most contestants were in relatively appealing settings, and most sang well. “Let’s just let all twenty” singers advance, Richie said, perhaps somewhat seriously.

That’s a bit much, even for the happiest man in the world. Sometimes, we long for early Idol and Simon Cowell, back when he was one of the meanest men in the world.

 
 
 
 
 
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