Blake Lewis Details American Idol Battle with Nigel Lythgoe

blake lewis american idol

One more entry into the “Nigel Lythgoe sure can be an asshat” category. American Idol season 6 runner-up, Blake Lewis, wrote a first-hand account of his remarkable run on the series, for Yahoo Music, about how he had to battle the prickly executive producer over song choices.

Blake was one of the first Idols to re-arrange his own covers, thereby setting a standard for contestants who would follow. David Cook, Phillip Phillips, Crystal Bowersox and more arranged their own songs in seasons thereafter. But in 2007, a contestant arranging their own performances was still outside of the Idol norm. When it came to presenting songs to the viewing public, Nigel had always been risk adverse. Hence, he made the same tired song lists available to contestants year after year, without much variation. Blake was a contestant who wasn’t afraid to go off and get his OWN songs cleared if needed. For instance, he knew the drummer from Maroon 5, and got the group’s blessing to sing any tune from their catalog. I really admired Blake’s chutzpah!

Here, Blake writes about his battle with Nigel over performing “Time of the Season” by the Zombies for Top 11 British Invasion week. Blake describes Nigel micro-managing contestants’ song choices, and retaliating if they didn’t play along.

On my very short amount of time on the show so far, Nigel and I, you could say, weren’t on the same page – to put it nicely. He was Goliath, and I was David. Every time he walked in the room, I knew I was up for some kind of debate about the show. I just didn’t know this was going to be my biggest battle with him to date.

British Invasion Week was Nigel’s favorite week on the show, mainly because he’s British. So in his mind, he had the whole episode already worked out and was going around telling people what he wanted them to sing. Since day one, he’d always interjected on people’s choices. Considering the fact that he was producing one of the largest TV shows of all time and he wanted it to run smoothly and be entertaining, I totally respected that. From my point of view as an entertainer and artist, I wanted the same things. I just looked at things from a different viewpoint than he did.

Nigel asked for my song choice, and that’s when he went off. He told me it was all wrong. “The Zombies weren’t big enough. It won’t impact the audience. No one knows it,” he argued. “I want you to sing ‘Tobacco Road’ by the Who.”

Me: “NO WAY!!!” I didn’t really know it, and I didn’t think it was that great of a song. Plus, it just was not sexy like “Time of the Season.”

We went back and forth for almost an hour – Nigel trying to convince me that “America” wouldn’t get what I was trying to do. I snapped back with: “I’m American, and I get it. How do you not get this?”

I continued, “Look, the audience doesn’t know what song I sing until I perform it. If it sucks, I don’t get the votes, and I’m off the show. My track record for doing the unexpected and being true to my instincts is working for me, I’m not going to sing a song I’m not 100 percent sure will connect. And ‘Tobacco Road’ is a s— song for me. I’m doing my arrangement of ‘Time of the Season’ that I spent all night working on, and that’s that.”

Nigel stormed out of the room, pissed. I really had to put my foot down with him, and he was never the kind of guy to let it go. If you pissed him off, he’d put you in the middle or second-to-last in the show’s lineup, when you really wanted to be first or last.

After Blake performed the song in dress rehearsal, he braced himself for Nigel’s wrath. But instead, the producer approached him and apologized. “Blake, I’m sorry. You were right and I was wrong. This is going to be one of your greatest songs, and I’m putting you last tomorrow night.” Nigel never bugged Blake about song choice, ever again.

First of all…”Tobacco Road,” by the Nashville Teens (not the Who) was not more popular than “Time of the Season” here in the States. Nigel was totally wrong on all fronts there. At least he was able to admit in the end.

“Time of the Season” was one of my favorite Blake Lewis performances in Season 6, along with Ryan Adams’ “When the Stars go Blue” for country week, “Somewhere Only We Know” from the semi-final round and the game changer, Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Blake had the stones to completely rearrange the song, while the mentor that week, Jon Bon Jovi, expressed reservations. Good times.

American Idol season 15 premieres Wednesday Jan 6 at 8/7c PM on FOX.

Time of the Season

You Give Love a Bad Name

About mj santilli 34526 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!