Nigel Lythgoe Press Conference – He Thinks We All Just Fell Off A Turnip Truck

Nigel Lythgoe gave a press conference yesterday afternoon. It was very interesting!

First some news:

  • Next week’s theme: Songs from the 60’s. It’s the first time the semifinals will feature a theme. According to Nigel, the producers made sure the singers will sing more familiar songs. Says Nigel, à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“These are the 50 songs you can choose from the 60s…as opposed to letting the semifinals pick a potentially obscure song or one that doesnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t get cleared and theyà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢re forced to swap out at the last second.”

I wonder what TPTB are really afraid of? Contestants insisting they want to sing their own songs? (Chris Sligh tried, and he was shot down. He lived to tell about it. I’m sure the producers didn’t like that one bit.) Or maybe they are trying to prevent favorite contestants from getting the boot because they chose the wrong song? Hello Sundance! I loved the free-wheeling semis. I say let the contestants make or break themselves. And perhaps, take that daring chance that leads to a big payoff. Elliott Yamin singing “Moody’s Mood for Love” anyone?

  • There will be a new set for the final 12.
  • Nigel promises–only four celebrity guest coaches this year. He didn’t name any.
  • The results show will feature more background packages on the current contestants. (YAY!) Also featured: A à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Where are they now?à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  segment. Two examples of ex-Idols likely to come back–Kimberley Locke and Diana DeGarmo.
  • Contestants will be able to perform with instruments during the competition. Nigel thinks it worked well in Australia.

OK, I’m down for that. It will be interesting to see how the instrumentalists will fare vs. those who only sing. Anything that promotes musicianship in this show, I’m all for.

After the jump…What Nigel has to say about this year’s semi-pros, and his attempt to explain the controversy away…

Read more here: Reality TV World, American Idol Buzz.

According to Rodney Ho, Nigel bristled when a reporter challenged him on whether Idol had been upfront about Carly’s past failed record deal with MCA or not:

Nigel also incorrectly insisted that à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Idolà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  had revealed Carly Smithsonà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s past with MCA Records. He was wrong. But he got rather testy when a reporter challenged him on it. The show did reveal her past visa problems so he might have simply forgotten. He said he wasnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t hiding peopleà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s pasts at all, though à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Idolà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  has conveniently left out record contract deals. Did they mention Joanneà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s win on Moniqueà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s Fat Chance or David Archuletaà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Star Searchà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  win? I canà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t recall myself.

Or Michael John’s failed deal with Maverick records? Or the fact that Syesha Mercado was a finalist on ABC’s reality show, The One? Don’t forget Robbie Carrico’s days as an Orlando boy bander and Britney Spears’ boy toy. Kristy Lee Cook also had a major label contract, a single and a video.

Here’s what Nigel had to say regarding potential backlash:

He also downplayed the potential backlash Carly is getting on the blogs for her failed time at MCA, saying that most people who vote donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t read the blogs and boards. And since à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Idolà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  isnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t saying anything on air about it, indeed, it probably wonà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t matter. He did get quite testy over this line of questioning. Credit the wonderful Star Ledger writer Alan Sepinwall. I emailed Sepinwall and he merely wanted to know (before he got cut off) if they were going to mention their past recording contracts sometime in the future.

Nigel can’t be that stupid. Most of the hardcore fans read the boards and blogs. We’ve been talking about the semi-pros for weeks. What Nigel fails to acknowledge, is that the mainstream press have also been discussing the “semi-pro controversy” for weeks. I can’t see the media stopping–particularly if it appears that the producers are trying to hide something–the media will keep hammering away. This story has legs.

TPTB may refuse to believe this, but the bloom is off the rose. After 6 seasons, the last having the reputation of being not-so-spectacular–throw in winners and runner-ups who’ve been dropped from their record contracts and falling ratings–and it’s pretty much time for a big, fat cynical backlash. When the press smells blood, they don’t let up.

Personally, I couldn’t care less about the backgrounds of the contestants. As long as I’m being entertained, it’s all good. I think people deserve more than one shot. Show business is tough. There are usually lots of complicated reasons why an artist’s record deal falls through or fails to sell. It doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have talent.

What bugs me, is the producers attempting to play the audience. Check out the contestant bios news organizations received. For example, here is Carly Smithson’s blurb:

Carly Smithson (24) à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬’ Currently lives in San Diego, CA, but was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. Smithson made her singing debut in à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Les Misà ©rablesà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  at the Olympic Theatre in Dublin. Smithson moved to Los Angeles at age 13 to pursue her singing career. Before auditioning for AMERICAN IDOL, she was working in a bar and running a tattoo shop with her husband.

To Carly’s credit, she does mention her MCA record deal in her official video at It’s  the handlers who appear to be hiding the backgrounds of the contestants.

The producers have always kept little inconvenient factoids about the contestants they wanted to advance to themselves. Or, they  kept interesting information a secret about contestants they wanted to fail. It’s all business as usual. The difference, is that the mainstream media appears  less willing to kiss as much Idol-producer ass as they were in the past. Bulletin to Nigel: It’s more than the blogs and boards, Skippy.

A final word from Nigel:

“The rules of the competition state it’s if you do not have a contract now. Goodness me, if Elvis Presley came back and was out of contract — and was able to participate through [Idol’s] age [restrictions] — then he would be in the competition. Nobody said this is an amateur competition. This is something that people are making up for themselves. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a professional contract. Kelly Clarkson had a professional contract. Bo Bice had a deal. [Taylor Hicks] has got records that are out there. This is nothing new.”

Elvis is rolling in his giant white jump suit…

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mj santilli

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  • poporange

    David A will probably will go far because he can sing ,cute and is young probably will get the preteen and teen crowd . “where are they now” will be a hit even if I doo suspect it is thier favs because curiosity killed the cat. I wish it was more choises for the contestnts to take a risk but the instruments are good idea…I guess it will never be thier own songs ….VFTW,treatment, season 6 non attention,and not telling of true past on ai makes me cynicle and I am sorry about that. I hope something happens this year which will nulify it. I am going back to lurking which I did for years.

  • daisy

    Nigel, Nigel Nigel, we have your number, you sneaky little scamp.
    the wheels of the American idol bus go around and around, for the chosen ones, and hit huge potholes for the poor cannon fodder; contestants who simply “don’t fit in” to the grand picture that is Season seven. I hate hate being played, and I’m afraid that it is going to backfire this time around for Mr Double talk- will be interested to watch and see…
    And the chosen songs, not liking this, let them pick the songs and be individual, good, bad, obscure-just let them be- the great performances we would have missed, Moody Mood for love, Bo’s in a dream. Am tired of the retreads of Aretha, Whitney and our newest, Bryan Adams.

  • star

    Ew! I don’t like the idea of themes for the semis. And the 60s? Snore. I like it when the contestants have the opportunity to do more current songs.

    (Although if they decide to do an 80s week, all will be forgiven.)

  • primeminister

    I don’t like the idea of themes either; it blatantly aids the people with good voices but no musical identity, and screws it up for people with artistic direction but without voices like David Archuleta. What a timely intervention.

    Also, Nigel is terribly disconnected with the public concerning Carly.

  • cheese

    I donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t like the idea of themes either; it blatantly aids the people with good voices but no musical identity

    I agree with this, but I’m not so sure any of these people have a musical identity based on what I’ve seen. Can’t wait to hear one of the teen fodder boys sing “My Girl” or “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” Ugh. I’m sure the 50 songs on the list have been done to death before on the show.

    I’m glad to see that there will only be four celebrity mentors but whatever other filler they come up with might be worse. If they have no guest performances and hour long results shows all year, we’d better not just have cheesy group songs, but cheesy group medleys. I want those kids stomping around doing their “choreography” for at least 8 to 10 minutes every Wednesday night.

  • poporange

    Cheese-your a sweet – so back once briefy to add this–what I read here was that the filler for the results would be “where are they now”( mini snark above) and backgrounds for the contestants.I do not know for every results show . Hope this helps…

  • Tracy

    Themes for the semi-finals? I really hate that idea…a lot.

  • Ladybug

    First of all, exxxxccceeelllent analysis of this entire situation, mj.

    Second, it is very apparent that Idol wants to tightly control this entire season. No Taylor Hicksian winners. No Sanjayas that embarrass them week to week. No Savol’s. No McKibbon’s.

    TPTB have picked a professional lot and they are going to micromanage this one down the the final minutes, it seems. Thus, a tightly controlled list of songs right out of the chute.

    I get the feeling that they know they cannot control the voting (at least that anyone knows of), so they control everything else so it does not matter much who wins this year since he or she will come pre-stamped “19 Alphabet Approved.”

  • maracaibo

    I know… It’s much more fun to have the kids select their won songs and take a risk. It makes this stage of the competition much more enjoyable.
    Oh well, songs of the 60’s… So boring. I hope they really bring it this week. Who starts off on Tuesday? The guys or the girls?

  • ealbino

    I hope the boys start off this week.. I am so excited!

  • CarieB

    most people who vote donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t read the blogs and boards.

    Yeah, right, Nigel. What a ridiculous statement.

    And Hell to the NO on the 60’s theme for top 24 night. How could I have gotten all fangirly over Chris D. if he’s sung “My Girl” instead of WDOA? Let their personalities emerge and entertain us – good bad or ugly.

    ETA: Ealbino – it’s 5 hours of Idol this week. Tuesday it’s the top 12 boys, Wednesday the top 12 girls (two hours each) and Thursday is a 1 hour show with 4 eliminations.

  • t2

    Well, if they really do bring back Kim Locke and Diana DeGarmo to SING!!!!, I’m there. I never thought that Diana would come back…EVAH!!! I’m thinking this may have something to do with Gone Country (and hopefully Diana winning…but not so sure on that…oh heck just happy she’ll be back…maybe.)

    While some of you may be disappointed that the contestants will be restricted, I am reminded of one Rudy Cardenas and his hips. Anyone remember his open-minded song choice — Free Ride. My Girl could have saved him.

    And then there’s always Patrick Hall…sniff.

  • dvls

    Wow! I just watched Carly’s intro video — it’s 8 minutes and 46 seconds long!!! What’s up with THAT?? Most of the others are around 3-4 minutes long, although Brooke got 7:07. Poor Colton got only 2:50! Nah, they don’t have any favorites, do they?

  • Grammie Kari

    He also downplayed the potential backlash Carly is getting on the blogs for her failed time at MCA, saying that most people who vote donà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t read the blogs and boards. And since à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“Idolà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  isnà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t saying anything on air about it, indeed, it probably wonà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢t matter.

    Nigel needs a rude awakening. Carly’s contract is a BIG deal when the integrity of the show is at stake. Randy Jackson worked as an executive, spending four years heading the artists and repertoire division (A&R) at MCA Records. Yes, the same major label that spent $2,000,000 trying to promote Carly’s CD.

    Carly has been able to experience something the other contestants haven’t. She received the royal DIVA treatment for promotion of her CD which sold less than 400 copies. I am so disappointed with the cover up and hope the reporters will get all of this out in the open.

    TPTB may refuse to believe this, but the bloom is off the rose.

    MP you have analysized this accurately. Nice job, yet kind of sad.

  • dusty

    Here’s my theory:

    AI needs to get people talking about AI because buzz drives press–> drives interest and viewers. Hey, hardcore non-AI-watching friends of mine tuned into AI last year to see what all the hoopla was about with Sanjaya. So it worked.

    Last year we had the girl who had the sleazy pics on the net (forgot her name–Antonetta?) as our first AI buzz builder.

    Then we had Sanjaya. He worked for many weeks as a buzz builder–I still hear pundits use his name when they need to make a point of something ridiculous.

    All the while, the AI producer machine was working a Jordin strategy–you can see their interest in the early interviews with Nigel.

    Couple that with the early supportive, audience- thought -leading comments on her talent by the judges and total pimpage in terms of singing last or near last for nearly all of the top 12 shows…and viola! They lead America to pick Jordin.

    So, they don’t show their whole hand too broadly too early. It takes awhile to unfold. By the time they had Jordin sing last a second time in the top 12 before most of the others had even gotten the pimp spot one time you knew the agenda was at work.

    I am wondering if Carly is the early PR fodder–hey, they may have even seeded some of the press on her themselves with well placed anonymous messages to get the buzz going. I expect Carly to make the top 12 but she could be one of those early-ish “surprise” boots that has everyone saying “Wow!” and Randy reminding us we need to vote to keep our favorite in the show.

    Haven’t watched much of the show so far except for the top 24 reveal this week, but so far I am guessing that Kristy Lee Cook or one of the sultry sounding guys could be their “real” pick for the year.

    We know who the pick is **not**. Is is not anyone whose audition or backstory was not shown on the top 24 reveal night. It is not anyone who we barely saw be told they made it to the top 24. That was around 10 of the contestants. So they field has already been narrowed by the producers.

    There could be a break out person from that group of ten. Someone like an Elliot. But I am really doubtful that anyone who has not already received the build up of back story, reminder clips of their auditions, and judge interaction/hugs will be in the F4 this year.

    And today’s article by MJ on the Nigel interview tells us we will get more backstory this season. That’s another opinion shaper and another thing to track.

    I’ll be watching for judges’ comments/ pimpage and comments from Nigel in interviews and in around 2-3 weeks we’ll know their agenda. They just can’t help themselves. :)

  • dusty

    Feb 16th, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    And Hell to the NO on the 60à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s theme for top 24 night. How could I have gotten all fangirly over Chris D. if heà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s sung à ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã…“My Girlà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬  instead of WDOA? Let their personalities emerge and entertain us – good bad or ugly.

    So you may want to ask yourself…which contestant(s) are favored by having the 60’s as a theme this week? ;)

  • bean99

    I don’t really want a theme night at this point either although I’m okay that they’re limiting songs. Maybe we won’t have so many obscure or dreadful song choices this time. I don’t care at all if they’ve had contracts in the past. I’ve never heard of any of them and why not give them a break?

  • St.Lucia

    Ick. I want the old Semi’s back! I liked the openness of the Semi’s! It makes or breaks contestants, and I just LOVE not knowing what I’m going to get, whereas in a theme I know EXACTLY what I’m getting and the lack of surprises are few and far between since they are no limited not only to a genre, but specific songs in that genre I’m sure. ACK! I’m not ready for over idoled songs AGAIN. The semi’s were the only time we lacked some of the over idoled songs! I just loved the ability for contestants to really show who they are in the semi’s and I feel now, we are going to lack that. Dagnabit.

    60’s make me worried somewhat for some contestants now. This could POSSIBLY change how I think the Top 12 will go, because some weeks will absolutely not favor some contestants…

    Oh well. I keep telling myself they already have the winner picked so I might as well stop pretending that this isn’t all being set up to make sure one of three prevail…

  • MrsTrep

    I just saw the AI top 24 commercial. it’s pretty cool and the music to the commercial is…… DAUGHTRY.

  • foxydonna

    All this smacks of desperation to me. They need ratings and must avoid another Sanjaya affair at all cost. So they pack the top 24 with very talented, experienced people and make sure there’s enough fodder in the mix to keep their favorites in the running. The people who get no air time during the audition process normally are the first ones out during the semis.

    Then, when their little ruse is discovered, Nigel lies about it and insults the millions of fans who do read forums, comments, and message boards. Biting the hand that feeds him and giving incentive for outfits like VFTW to step up the pressure. Nigel can laugh us all off, but who’s doing the voting and going to the concerts. Us, that’s who.

    I think this one may backfire on him, though. It’s stupid too because Carly’s tale of failure would have made a compelling backstory. She does deserve a second chance, but may be denied it because of this attempt at deception. It will be real interesting to see how this shakes out.

  • purplesmile

    I just saw the AI top 24 commercial. ità ¢Ã¢â€š ¬Ã¢â€ž ¢s pretty cool and the music to the commercial isà ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ ¦Ãƒ ¢Ã¢â€š ¬ ¦ DAUGHTRY.

    The Competition Begins

    I also posted the link in the Headlines thread. :)

  • abbysee

    What I don’t understand is why worry about having another Sanjaya, or Taylor, and does having these semi-pros in the contest negate that as a possibility? Nah, not at all after all Taylor was a semi-pro and he won, but did not garner the units they required of him as a winna.

    Shouldn’t the lesson be that you can’t really know what the public will accept. Something tells me if Sanjaya had won, he might have sold more than Blake and Jordin combined. Why? Because Sanjaya is more interesting than Jordin is, and Blake is trying to be. I don’t know why we or tptb assume that stacking the deck assures anything. Frankly I am sure more people know about David’s star search win, than Carly’s MCA deal. Was Nikki McKibbons past reality show spoken about? Or is it just the amout of ringers that is the problem. Just sitting here I realize that that is the problem, not that they are there, but that there are so many of them.

    I think the problem is that in trying to insure a more mainstream winner they have given the perception that it really is not in the voters hands, but theirs, but then doesn’t Taylor’s win, and Jordin’s less than stellar numbers prove that they don’t have all of the answers?

  • Chicago-sally

    Uh-oh, this just in from vftw:

    “Even though Yahoo and Reuters have finally picked up on the Carly Smithson debacle this week (the same story that we posted before Christmas and then again a week later… seriously, you guys should lurk here more often, you’re way behind), no one else has picked up on the fact that Randy Jackson worked for MCA Records the same time Carly was there. Randy was the senior vice president of A&R. That’s big stuff. Come on guys… we posted about that one back on January 28th. So who will be the first news outlet (besides us) to post about it? Go read up on it, but make sure to give us credit where credit is due. You’re welcome. And as always, check back here early and often, as VFTW and the VFTW Forum are your premiere sources for the breaking Idol news that the producers don’t want you to know.”


    These are not ORDINARY singers; they are Pretty Singers, all of them. There’s not a bad looker in the bunch. Was that calculated? There’s no Chris Sligh, no Lakisha, no Sanjaya, everybody looks like they walked out of VOGUE. I trust the American public to do the right thing. What I don’t trust are the vote tallies…we never know what % each singer gets….we have to trust the producers to tell us who won. Where as on DWTS, they give a % of votes.

  • mj


    DO NOT cut and paste from a blog or news source WITHOUT PROVIDING A LINK! Thank you.

  • poporange

    I gather anyone who would of won the elliott, Katherines or Kellie P would have a good chance of having disapointment in sales in the AI world. All of them would be considered falures except for D for some silly reason or another and fans would tick off by how dare they.(just put idols name in slot)

    The anweres of Taylor and Jordan proven wrong? Total nonscence and biased statement . 3 things to know:
    1)American Idol does have the answere they made a cheap #1 show which brings in a boatload of money via tv revenue and is also internatinal.
    2)Thier not a record label asmuch as they want to be precieved as one.
    3)the argument about out of viewers hands , having to make a certain amount has and also That AI put at a high level have been aorund since at least seaon 2.
    So stop the nonscence of blaming (it could be your fav next) when the artist has nothing to do with it a quote from “on golden pond” you are a grown women stop living in the past move on with life”

    The present: The problem is not about past contestants per se but amount of experaiance and the multitude of contestants in the top 24 this year that have it.

  • pj

    I don’t mind theme weeks. I actually like to see how the kids do with stuff that isn’t 100% familiar to them. I like seeing if they can interpret it well as is or change it up to suit them.

    Plus, I can’t rag on th 60s. It produced some great music. I loved Blake’s “Time of the Season”. That made me take notice of him more than “Virtual Insanity” did.

    That said, I like the top 24 to be able to pick their own songs. I think it gives us hint of their musical identity (or lackthereof).

    In the end, I don’t believe the format is designed to favor singers who lack a musical identity. In the three years I’ve been watching, someone with a strong musical identity has come in first or second despite the themes (Bo, Taylor, Blake).

  • gabam

    I don’t think I like the idea of only 4 guest coaches. I wonder if they will rotate or if the Top 12 kids will be on their own some weeks.

    What if they get 4 mentors who suck?

    Of course they spent too much time showing the mentors last year but this change seems extreme, IMO. I liked having an artist from each theme’s era mentor the contestants. Well, I liked it in Season 5.

    I hope they don’t have random people with no association with AI come on the show and sing, like AKon and some others did last season. It would be great if they were to bring back past Idols though.

  • abbysee

    Poporange, I don’t understand all of what you said so I can’t truly justify my statement. Just for the record Taylor was my favorite, and as a matter of fact my three favorites were the ones who in fact underperformed, so I am not biased just stating my opinion as I believe it is okay to do here. For the record who was blaming anyone?

  • Connie D.

    60’s theme for the Top 24 and pick a song off of a list? No… no… hell, no. I am quite ill over this announcement. I want to be entertained with live music chosen by the singer.

    My friends don’t like “themes” and karaoke contests. I wonder if I’ll be able to find anyone who will want to watch the show with me now.

  • mj

    I am not biased just stating my opinion as I believe it is okay to do here. For the record who was blaming anyone?

    Exactly, yes you are free to do that here.

    Reminder: Please do not put words in your fellow poster’s mouths or question their motives. If you feel angry, step away from the computer before you respond.