New American Idol Producers Freshen Up The Song List, Allison Iraheta Joins as Backup Singer

The Hollywood Reporter preview of American Idol XIII, premiering Wednesday on FOX, notes the new producers, attempt to update the music catalog.

Oh, and another little tidbit: Season 8 alum, Allison Iraheta will sing backup for Rickey Minor and the band! (Rickey is rejoining Idol after 3 years as leader of the Tonight Show band)

…Hollywood Week saw group numbers of songs like Lorde’s “Royals” and Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” an EDM hit. “It was a concerted effort to get fresh music into the show,” says Ignjatovic. “We want to reflect what’s popular today.”

When later speaking to THR, Lopez cited Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and newcomerAriana Grande as “pop stars,” yes, but also “great singers.” Another plus, said Lopez: “There’s exposure to so many different types of music that anybody can do anything; That’s what’s being reflected on the radio right now, you’re seeing a lot of variety.”

Interestingly, the kids don’t always go for the contemporary hits. According to THR, plenty at Hollywood still went for classic hits like the Jackon 5’s “I Want You Back.” For instance, Pink’s “Give Me a Reason,” on the list, was left untouched.

One thing The Voice chart transparency has taught us, that while the show boasted contestants singing contemporary hits, it was typically oldies like “Hallelujah,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “I Have Nothing” that shot to the top of the iTunes chart. Savvy competitors will keep that fact in mind.  The producers plan to ditch the restrictive themes in order to give the contestants more song choices:

Perhaps it’s a way of testing someone’s ability to make the right song choice in a relatively unrestricted environment. As the insider explains, the directive by Idol’s new team is to allow “more wide-open themes” so that “everyone will always be able to sing whatever song they want to do.”

It will be interesting to see exactly what executive producers Per Blankens (Swedish Idol), Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager (MTV’s Den of Thieves) , and FOX sports guru, David Hill bring to the table this season.

“Our motto this year is back to basics,” says Blankens. “We think that this is the best show there is — the original that’s inspired others — so it’s not that viewers necessarily want that big gimmicky change in order to come back to the TV couches. They want to see the show they’ve grown to love.”

Prager, whose production role is on the floor while Ignjatovic’s is in the control room, agrees. “We’re finding the elements that we want to reinvigorate, but each one has to check all those boxes of what makes ‘Idol’ great.”

Via The Hollywood Reporter

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  • Roimeister

    song choice, song choice, song choice!

    it doesn’t matter the age of the song, it’s the song itself that matters

  • Call_girl

    That makes me sad about Allison Iraheta. As a back up singer.

  • thirdtime

    But think of all the exposure she will get from this.

  • Roimeister

    what exposure? do you believe the cameras will zoom in on her whenever she doo-wahs ?

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    Any finalist would be smart to take Iraheta aside and have a chit-chat about lessons learned in trying to build a post-Idol career. She’ll be right there and has had to work for every inch of progress since her debut major-label single flopped and her label gave up.

    Aside from her personal connection to Idol and the expectations she probably cherished at that time, this is a nice steady-paying gig that doesn’t involve serving drinks, waiting tables, or dancing in a big-headed costume for small children. Lots of aspiring musicians her own age would probably love it.

  • Larc

    I agree! New alone doesn’t trump quality when it comes to songs.

  • mtthew

    I’ll be happy to hear some contemporary songs, but as others have been saying, SONG CHOICE SONG CHOICE SONG CHOICE. It doesn’t matter if it’s new or old. As long as the lyrics and arrangement are true to who they are as an artist, the performance will feel authentic. That’s all I ask for.

  • Montavilla

    I don’t feel sorry for Allison. She has Halo Circus to nurture her artistically, spiritually, and emotionally. And she has steady work with Ray Chew to nurture her financially. She’s still young — still in the time of life when growing and learning are more important than being rich and famous. It seems like she’s building a good foundation.

    Two years ago, Toddrick Hall was getting work as a back-up singer on the X-Factor. Look at him now.

  • Montavilla

    As long as the lyrics and arrangement are true to who they are as an artist, the performance will feel authentic.

    What a great way to sum it up. Authentic isn’t a style; it’s what really connects the artist to the audience.

  • Sicola789

    Is this a first? Former alumni employed by idol? And to think a lot probably thought it would be Carrie, Kelly, J-HUD, or Adam…who would’ve thought Allison would be the first alumni to actually work on the show?

  • Kat

    Allison has a lot going on, check out this chat she did last week about
    her band Halo Circus: Sounds like
    she is going to be extra busy.

  • Amy Beth

    Alison’s presence on the Idol stage illustrates both the positives and negatives of appearing on a music reality show.

    The positives are that you can get great exposure and make helpful connections. Ricky Minor clearly wants to give her whatever breaks he can. She is making a living at music, which is better than 95% of her contemporaries.

    The negatives are that only a few can truly breakout as music stars. If your only goal is to top the charts, you will likely be disappointed.

    BTW, Luke Edgemon has a semi-regular gig as a Voice back-up singer since his season.

  • Henrique Mendes

    This is good for Allison. She can work on her new band and artistic endeavours while having a steady job to get some income.
    That sad, part of me is sad because she is unbelievably talented and in my opinion she should be more successful at this point. BUT she is very young and she still has plenty of time to grow as an artist

  • Henrique Mendes

    Allison is probably the best source around them to get some advice, because she went through the whole process and truly experienced the highs and lows

  • ajr86

    JLo mentioned that God awful Wrecking ball song as a way of using fresh music?? I’d rather hear ‘natural woman’ or I heard it through the grapevine for the 80th time than a lot of the crappie songs that just came out

  • helo23

    I still think that Idol will be dead last when it comes to “song listing/picking” compared to The Voice and The Sing-Off. The contestants always pick the lamest songs on idol. Be it old or contemporary.

    On the voice you hear Awolnation, No Doubt (that’s not just Don’t speak), John Hiatt (why isn’t Have A little Faith covered more on these shows?), Grace Potter (that isn’t just Star), Alanis Morisette, Fiona Apple, LMFAO. And I doubt no one on Idol will cover Delta Rae’s Bottom Of The River like Vocal Rush on The Sing-Off did.

  • Sharil Brown

    The thing I am most excited about is Ricky Minor and the band are going to be returning. Allison will be fine and I am sure she knows what she is doing.

  • Amy Beth

    A good vocalist/song interpreter could do wonders with Wrecking Ball. If you put aside your distaste for the stupid video and/or Miley Cyrus, it’s a good song.

    Matthew Schuler’s version on the Voice was lovely.

  • gclay

    Allison is such a great talent and deserves to be front and center, but at least this gives her some exposure (and pays the bills). Surprised her label isn’t releasing an album soon her EP sold fairly well considering the little promo and indie label (and now going under the name Halo Circus)

  • gclay

    the backup signers always get a fair amount of screentime (as much or more than they deserve). Everyone noticed when George Huff sang backup for Jhud, when Todrick Hall sang backup on XFUS 2, and when Felicia Barton sang backup for Lea Michele

  • Kat

    They are planning on putting out a 2nd single and hoping for a 2nd quarter album release.

  • vd88

    If it’s not the right song it won’t matter how new the songs are. For example, if someone tried to sing Blurred Lines and just failed because that is not a good song to sing no matter how popular the song is. They can get however many modern songs they like but if it the song choice isn’t right it won’t matter.

  • gclay

    sweet Gone rocked

  • Anny_nanny

    “One thing The Voice chart transparency has taught us, that while the show boasted contestants singing contemporary hits, it was typically oldies like “Hallelujah,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “I Have Nothing” that shot to the top of the iTunes chart. Savvy competitors will keep that fact in mind.”


  • perfectstorm

    The difference here is that Allison was a Top 4 contestant who had a major recording contract. She will now be singing back-up for unknown contestants. You want to move ahead in your career, not backwards.

  • gclay

    you also want to pay the bills and get some exposure. Allison is living in LA as the front woman of an indie band that hasn’t sold a single album doesnt exactly let her live a lavish lifestyle

  • Miz

    Glad to hear Ricky Minor will be back. I was wondering what would happen to him with Jay no longer being on The Tonight Show.

    I want to say good for Allison getting this gig, but I’m a bit sad by it at the same time. I know she still has Halo Circus and is putting out new music, but it still feels a bit like a step back.

  • Liteasy

    Exposure for being a back-up singer won’t help her sell her songs or give her exposure as an single artist.

  • girlygirl

    It doesn’t seem like her label has much money to promote its artists, so anything Allison can do to help Halo Circus get more exposure is good. Who knows…maybe AI will let HC perform on a results night. I know they have been doing a lot of ustreams as well as gigs here in L.A. But at the very least, working on Idol should give Allison some money that maybe they can then use to fund a small tour or push a second single to radio or something like that.

  • Niall

    With Allison on backup we know the vocals will be much improved from other seasons. I don’t begrudge her this and don’t find it sad. She was 17 on the show, her album didn’t work out, and she’s now an adult. A married adult with bills and an indie group she’s trying to launch. I’m almost certain Halo Circus will release something during this season and gain exposure by performing on the show. That’s probably part of the reason she’s willing to do it. In fact, I’ll be surprised by Allison and Matthew’s lack of savvy if that wasn’t the first thing she asked Ricky to get for her when this offer was made.

  • curlyenta

    I never thought those 4 alums you mentioned would be any good as mentors or anything else – only one word to describe them: boring.

    And Allison as a background singer? Not a great gig aside from whatever they are paying her. No one will know she’s even there – no screen time, nothing in the credits (I assume).

  • Amy Beth

    The thing to keep in mind is the idol themes.

    With the Voice, on any given show, there could be 40 year old songs and 4 week old songs.

    With Idol, many of the themes are time-constrained. If you do Motown, all the songs have to be old.

    They either have to take care to vary the themes (follow Motown week with current chart hits) or make them open-ended, like Love Songs, etc.

  • mjsbigblog

    Idol is pulling away from those restrictive themes this year.

    Perhaps it’s a way of testing someone’s ability to make the right song
    choice in a relatively unrestricted environment. As the insider
    explains, the directive by Idol’s new team is to allow “more wide-open
    themes” so that “everyone will always be able to sing whatever song they
    want to do.”

  • thirdtime

    I think it will remind a lot of people that she exists. I’m sure some Idol viewers will say “Oh yeah, I remember her…I liked her.” when they see her on the show again, people who otherwise probably have forgotten all about her. Hopefully it will prompt some of them to check out her music.

  • Tess Herself

    Current songs….I’ll just listen to them by the current singers, no need to delve into a cover and absolutely no need to buy an I-tunes version. I want to hear how someone can take a timeless tune and fit it to them, putting their stamp on it. I’m not a fan, at all, of having the Idols sing top 40….just like I’m not enamored at guys/gals who are on tour covering recent songs from others. That says to me that the singer feels they can’t capture an audience unless they are mimicking what is popular on the radio. I find it totally lazy and doesn’t show me anything about someone’s talent.

  • Amy Beth

    Any idea what their idea of “wide-open themes” is?

  • mjsbigblog

    Nope, they won’t cover a Delta Rae song, because it won’t get them votes.

    The most popular songs, for the most part (of course there are exceptions) are tunes viewers are familiar with.

  • Sassycatz

    The thing is can they really sing whatever they want? Surely, there are still going to be song lists of preapproved songs that have gotten clearance. Unless these youngsters are savvy enough to get a song *not on the list* cleared — either via Idol or on their own, they’re still stuck with a list. So, hopefully, that means there’s more than 25 songs on it for any one week.

  • mjsbigblog

    Kelly and Adam have already proved their mettle as mentors on The Voice and Idol, respectively. The general consensus? NOT boring.

  • Amy Beth

    Current artists often cover other current artists. It doesn’t mean they’re mimicking, it just means they recognize a good song!

    As an example, there were many covers of “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. And not only by no names on YouTube. Lots of known musicians!

  • curlyenta

    Well I think they would be a boring addition… especially Jennifer Hudson, whom I can’t stand as a personality or a performer. Carrie? Boring as mud – sorta like her acting (and there was consensus on that). Kelly a bit better…. no comment on Adam. If they were considered a great addition, then they would be offered a job. They had the chance with Hudson and Lambert and passed on both, apparently.

  • justmefornow

    I have to agree with you on this. If you’re a casual fan of the show or someone like me who has only watched a handful of seasons this is good exposure for her.
    Honestly, if it wasn’t for this blog, I would have had no idea who she is because I didn’t watch S8.

  • usedtobelucy

    Yeah, you want to move ahead. But if you ask, oh, anybody in the music industry aside from the virtually infinitesimal portion who hit the jackpot for ineffable reasons, what you find out is that moving ahead is hardly ever straightforward. And earning cash for doing music on a national tv show, which is cushy, compared to most of the places you can do music, is something you have to do if you get the chance. Rent must be paid. Your own backup musicians must be paid. Etc. Unless you don’t want to move at all.

  • shell29

    Top 4 finalists aren’t always going to breakout and manage to keep their major label deals. Folks like Daughtry are the exception, not the rule. Things didn’t work out for her and now she’s trying to make her way back. Being a back-up singer on the show that gave her a break is not anything she should feel bad about. It’s a paying gig that could lead to other opportunities.

  • curlyenta

    What exposure? No one will know she’s there.

  • Guest
  • mjsbigblog

    We’re talking about serving the shows as mentors, which, to be honest, could still happen this season.

    Producers decided to go in a different direction with the judges. Doubt if the decision had anything to do with how “boring” the alums were.

    In fact, JHUD had already signed a contract before they changed their minds. Obviously, some folks found her not boring.

  • mjsbigblog

    And she will at least be introduced at some point as an alum. I doubt the producers will allow her to languish in the back anonymously.

  • Sicola789

    I’m guessing something where they can still stay in their lane like “guilty pleasures” or “one hit wonders” or “love songs.”

  • Incipit

    “…if it wasn’t for this blog, I would have had no idea who she is because I didn’t watch S8.”

    Heh. Same here, justformenow – I didn’t watch it either, couldn’t stand the format that yr – but I did see some videos here at mj’s.

    Allison had a truly fine voice, but I discovered I could only understand what she sang because I already knew the songs..After the show, RCA aimed her at teenage girls, I think – (Just Like You??) and not the rock which had served her so well on the show – and my interest dissipated.

    I’m happy to see her on the Idol stage again – a back up singer is gonna need good diction, and the Very Young Person appears to have grown up – and figured out how to make some headway in the market, while still representing her own art, a skill her younger self did not have.

    Nice double play, IMO – I wish her good fortune.

  • No Thanks

    I’m not so desperate for more current Top 40 songs as I am for looser themes and a WIDER VARIETY of song choices.

    Idol has been in a terrible rut for YEARS giving us the same tired old themes and contestants singing the same songs over and over and over and over and over again. And we’ve all heard the stories of the ridiculously restricted/short song lists they were forced to choose from.

    I just want the contestants given more freedom and to give us more variety.

  • Dewayne Boyd

    Or you could just actually listen to the performance and see how good it is. Novel idea, huh?

  • standtotheright

    My secondary concern after broader themes (which allows for a better mix of both older and newer songs) is that the themes are announced to the contestants with more lead time than has been the case in the past. Pre-clearing songs is great. Giving contestants more than 1 1/2 weeks to go over the song list and to potentially request alternatives before having to go into the studio for the iTunes cut is crucial.

  • standtotheright

    Where does this idea come from that someone CAN’T put his or her stamp on a current song? Don’t current songs come with particular arrangements, phrasing choices, and instrumentation by each song’s artist, the same way that older songs do? And don’t other artists have an opportunity to tweak all of those to “fit the song[s]” to themselves and thus reveal them to their audiences in a new way?

    Why is one a creative challenge and the other lazy pandering? It. Makes. No. Sense.

  • Tess Herself

    Sure…make a rap song a ballad, or regae, or jazz. I’m all for that. But 9 out of 10 times a current top 40 cover is just a cover…nothing new, nothing exciting. Roar still sounds like Roar, Wrecking Ball ditto. Once the original artist isn’t still on top 40…then the song is fair game. Until then its just “listen to me, I’m as good as so and so”.

  • yaddabing

    Wrecking Ball is a pretty solid pop song if you ask me.

    Miley is just not suited for it.

  • standtotheright

    I think a few tempo and key changes could make Roar sound like a very different song. Wrecking Ball could easily be a tear-jerker country ballad. Etc, etc.

    Are there plenty of contestants (in the past and present) who don’t have the skill set to make those changes, at least in the amount of time they are given? Sure. But, in that case, they’ll probably fail with older songs, too. So at least with current hits I’m being underwhelmed by novel source material instead of by a standard that I’ve heard a thousand times.

    And if those acts DO have the skill set, then they actually demonstrate to audiences that they have a potential career in radio ahead of them.

  • Pat H

    I think it’s a great gig. She gets a steady paycheck from Idol and will still be able to do weekend gigs with her band! Win/win!

  • Pat H

    Ray is gone. She is with Ricky Minor!

  • Face

    but more recent songs have also been successful on iTunes… I recall Michelle Chamuel did quite a number of recent songs that did well on iTunes… also look at Alex & Sierra from US XF… all their big iTunes hits were recent songs… Say Something, Gravity, Little Talks, I knew you were trouble, best song ever…
    so I think it’s the combination of the song/interpretation and the act singing it…

  • Kariann Hart

    I agree with you. For example, “Big Band” has produced some wonderful songs. I wouldn’t mind seeing this again, but with added selections.

  • Emmuzka

    Yes, the age of the song does matter. It’s not all about the quality of the song or the right song choice, but familiarity. Idol is glorified karaoke, essentially, and part of the viewing pleasure come from the song recognition. Which doesn’t happen if the intended viewers are born in 80s an 90s and the songs are from 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

    Yes, almost everyone learns a “cultural catalog” of songs from different periods; almost everyone knows the best hist of Bowie, Sinatra, Queen, Whitney and so forth. But not all: Was it Scotty McReery who’s group in Hollywood knew only the “Hello Goodbye” song from Beatles’ entire catalog, and that was only because it has been in a recent commercial?

    If they keep the old categories, the contestants better dig deep to find at least something that is recognizable for current viewer. The Who’s greatest hits? Everyone knows them, they are the C.S.I. opening themes :)

  • Kariann Hart

    The earlier tours included the classics and songs actually sung on the show. The more recent tours did current songs not even sung on the show. I have no problem with the Idols singing their own songs on the tour if they introduced it on the show. I like familiarity.

  • Lexie O’Neill

    I’ve never watched CSI and only listen to country music…so my kids wouldn’t know those songs (nor would I).:)

  • Tess Herself

    And Crazy was a hit in 2007 or so….that’s 7 years ago. An eternity in the music biz and by no means a current top 40 hit.

  • Kariann Hart

    Hey, MJ! I just wrote that upstream.

  • Kariann Hart

    Indeed, Toddrick has done some cool things. I like when he works with former Idols.

  • Amy Beth

    Sure, but the covers I’m talking about were done when it was a current song. It was just an example. A good song is a good song.

  • deshae78

    I don’t feel sorry for her either. You have to do what you can to make a living. How many people are going to reach the stratosphere in their careers? Not many. To me you are a success if you can make a reasonable living doing what you love. I think Allison is doing that, so good for her.

  • deshae78

    Yes, exactly.

  • Q_3

    ITA — this is a great opportunity for Allison to make some money and stay in LA. And it leave her plenty of time to work on her music.

  • Q_3

    Adam was a mentor on Season 9.

  • Q_3

    There are several excellent covers of Wrecking Ball. It is a pretty good song — and the right vocalist could make it a great song.

  • Montavilla

    D’oh! I meant to say Ricky Minor!

  • Q_3

    I think you are right. Any promotion of Halo Circus will probably need to be funded by Halo Circus. They are signed to Badlands Records which is a subsidiary of Manimal Group. But Manimal has never had anything close to a hit — and they seem proud of that. They have put out some very good music.

    But setting that aside, I have great respect for back-up singers and wish that they would get the same respect afforded to musicians who play instruments. She will be a regular on one of the top TV programs in the US, twice a week, working with Ricky Minor and his band.

  • breakdown

    I dunno. It’s good exposure for Allison and will put her back in peoples’ minds. There are all kinds of success and many of the Idol contestants can make a living at what they love to do. I’m looking forward to seeing her.

  • tomr

    As far as Allison is concerned…anyone finishing below #1 should take anything that they can get as few will have what can be considered as a very successful music career. It might be fun to group former contestants by “Very Successful,” “Somewhat Successful,” and “Other.”

  • Anny_nanny

    Sorry, but to my ears all the songs Alex & Sierra sounded like that writers died for 100 years before my birth.
    But I agree, it must be a combination, and I will not mind if the contestant is able to make the old song sound like the current.

  • Anny_nanny

    I agree with you, if I am sure that the contestants CAN make the right choice. Because last year we had a beautiful theme of “Winners of AI,” but we only got one song written in this decade. And only Janelle tried to move around the stage.
    I can “buy” that the guys strangled at this time, but for girls did is connected only nuclear accelerator to boost. And we have received a lot of sad ballads on the week “without ballads”, and the coronation of Kelly on the show, where everybody remembers that Kelly had in the final shaking voice on this song and all the audience wept together with the First and Original Idol, because they felt that at that moment the dream is coming true.

  • Anny_nanny

    They may not refuse completely from the lists, because most of the young contestants will not understand what they should choose. But the Season 11 it was not a problem for Colton and Skylar, for Elise and Phillip to get the songs that were not in the lists and that did not knew neither the audience nor Jimmy, nor even the musicians.

  • Sicola789

    I wouldn’t call that being “employed” though. It was just for one week not a full time job.

  • R Gray Shaw

    If Wrecking ball was done by someone like Pink or Kelly Clarkson, it would be a great song. I agree that Miley was not just suited for it… I have imagined both Pink or Kelly singing it and it would have been fantastic

  • milwlovesadam

    This is what Ricky Minor and Michael Orland are great at. I remember many songs from 7 & 8 that were given a whole new sound.

  • milwlovesadam

    I’m really looking forward to seeing Allison on my TV every week. I’ve noticed her doing back-up several times on Leno and other shows for several artists . This is only good news as far as I’m concerned. She’ll be on TV, singing, and getting promo for her own music, no doubt.

  • LA944

    I’m with those who don’t care the age of the song–as long as the song is decent. Some of the most well known and fave performances over the years were of older songs–dating back to the 1930’s with Summertime. There were a hell of a lot of great songs written in that era that stand the test of time and are still recorded by artists as well as used in movie soundtracks etc. Good music is timeless IMO.

    I don’t even think themes were a huge issue. It was always the small amount of choices on the song list. It would be the same songs every year. Plus, the contestants would get stuck with an over-done song that may not even suit their style or voice. The contestants don’t always have time to rearrange the song–or even the ability to do it. However, broader themes would be better.

    There is nothing wrong or sad with the fact that Allison has been hired as a back up singer on the show. She’s not some kind of a loser cause she didn’t hit it big with her album. She’s only 21 yrs old. It’s a good job for someone her age. She has plenty of time to pursue her music career with her band. You just got to go out there and keep plugging and making connections. There are successful artists who started as back up singers. And even though all of them don’t make it to the front–there is still a good living to be made. Plus, they are doing what they love–music.

  • b_james

    It’s actually a pretty good gig for her. She’s got her own band going on still. She’s gonna be fine.

  • b_james

    I have to say, I am REALLY excited about this season.

  • lukien

    Allison had her songs played pn MTV or Channel V Asia and I watched a televised gig of her in a beach of Bali (it was a New Year’s gig if i am not mistaken). From all of those to a backup singer. As a fan of her i just feel sorry for her, that’s all. Anyway she’s got to do what she’s got to do … It’s better than being a backup singer to a Pope!

  • HKfan

    yeh, I actually prefer Pixie Lotts version of Royals over Lordes, and Adam lamberts version of Stay over Rhianna’s. Thats just 2 fairly recent ones.

  • HKfan

    I don’t know them,,,,,,heard of them of course, but couldn’t tell you one of their songs…

  • Trishdish2001

    Can’t wait for this season! Allison backup singer, Ricky Minor & The Band back! More focused on the contestants, love the judges! Going to be the best season since Adam Lambert season 8!

  • Mary Hemme

    She’s not a single artist anymore, she is the lead singer for Halo Circus. She also hooked up with Rickey Minor on the Tonight Show and so he brought her along when he came back. Halo Circus is working on their first album. They do have a single out now-Gone.

  • A Ray

    Think about this. There’s plenty of successful artists whose big “break” was getting the right backup singer gig. Think Sheryl Crow on Michael Jackson’s Bad tour. That ended up pretty good for her.