‘American Idol’ talks of working with ‘Empire’

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Idol’ 14 NY auditions with Adam Lambert: If you can make it there….

“American Idol” producers are banking on fewer hours and stronger contestants to boost the franchise’s 14th edition after suffering a precipitous ratings drop last year. “We’re pleased to be down to one show a week,” Trish Kinane, executive producer and an exec at FremantleMedia North America, said Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. “We have all the drama of an elimination and all the performances.

“Empire’s” early renewal was like the winning moment on “American Idol” for “Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken. “It was a nice way to start the day,” she said.American Idol exec producer Trish Kinane said they’d love to do something with Fox’s new drama series from Lee Daniels and Danny Strong and Imagine’s Brian Grazer, in which Terrence Howard plays the head of a music industry empire. There’s a lot to do in that one show.” The show had aired twice a week — often with two-hour episodes — since it exploded as a hit for Fox a decade ago. That connection between place and musicianship was not something Connick saw in the early rounds of this year’s auditions. “People were coming in from New Orleans and surrounding areas, but there was nothing indigenous about the music… We went to Bourbon Street in my world. But by show’s end, you could tell Judge Harry Connick Jr. was missing his Australian colleague, mimicking Urban’s Aussie accent with such exaggerated flare that the voice seemed more the excitable Steve Irwin, the late “Crocodile Hunter,” than music enthusiast and artist Keith Urban.

After last season’s ratings tumble, producers made a number of changes, including enlisting music mogul Scott Borchetta as a mentor to work with the 24 finalists from the beginning. It was sad that nobody came in really representing New Orleans… There’s blessings to accessibility, but one of the great drawbacks is that everything has become melted down. Every season has to be different, has to be better, has to be consistent and continue to tell the stories of these characters who I think are already beloved, but also has to be completely new and unexpected.” But Borchetta drew most of the questions as reporters pressed him on how his Big Machine label group exploded with Taylor Swift and other stars in under 10 years’ time.

The panel discussed how would-be performers have been influenced by modern technology, which means they have access to a greater range of musical genres but are less comfortable interacting with other emerging artists. It was great to see Adam Lambert re-audition for “Idol” with a reprise of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (there’s something to be said about prescience, since the Season 8 runner-up is now touring with Queen as their frontman). In fact, as Jeff Dodge recapped the New York auditions at Buddy TV Jan. 16, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to go back to four judges — but only if it means Adam Lambert would hold the fourth chair.

Urban noted that Borchetta’s involvement is vital because the landscape for “Idol” winners and the music biz in general has changed so much since the show bowed in the U.S. in 2002. Connick observed that during the audition process he noticed the influence of technology and the global connectedness that music buffs can achieve through social media and other online platforms. And more than most years, producers, executives and talent have been candid about why they think the show took such a tumble over the course of the 2014 season. “Why didn’t it connect? These late-stage contestants also have to give a live performance at the House of Blues in Los Angeles to help the judges decide who to keep around for viewer voting. I think that the show is successful because the sum of all parts,” said Ryan Seacrest. “We had some great contestants, but they could have done more in certain aspects to connect more with the audience — and we could have done better.” One way they’ve tried to convey a renewed effort at showcasing the best personalities in the audition broadcasts has been by teasing out the singers who’ve already earned a ticket to Hollywood for the live shows. “We really think we’ve got great talent, so we really wanted to say up front, ‘Listen, America, these are great singers,'” said Kinane. “We didn’t want to spoil the additions, so we decided to show the silhouettes and let people hear them singing.

The combination of performance and elimination in one episode will be used to dramatic effect, according to Kinane. “The one thing I can tell you is that we’re not going to do the elimination at the top of the show. This upbeat guy not only wowed the judges with his clear vocals but he could play guitar as well. (And not just play, but PLAY.) He chose an original tune, “My Best Friend,” that brought Judge Jennifer to tears. She stepped out on the audition platform with a big piano as a prop, so Judge Harry, who is known to be quite the keyboardist, had to ask if she would be playing. In what can only be described as Norah Jones-esque, the young woman’s minimalist keystrokes only accentuated her unique vocals all the more in her jazzy arrangement of the Beatles’ classic “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” As always, in addition to the ones that got through that obviously should have, there was at least one where you have to wonder what the judges have in their drinking cups.

Judge Adam Lambert gave him an adamant “no,” apparently seeing through the young guy, but his vote didn’t stop Dunn from getting a gold ticket. (Oh, well, it’s the “Idol” producers’ money, so…) All the judges thought New York had stepped up and delivered some good talent with their auditions. “Represented,” as it were.

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