American Idol lowers age limit to 15. Pundits call it a bad idea.

We did a big announcement post yesterday about the [[American Idol (2011 Series)|American Idol 2011]] auditions and the producer’s decision to lower the age of entry to 15.

Now, since that was an announcement, I decided to keep my opinion to myself. However, today opinions are emerging that say the decision to reduce the age limit is definitely a bad idea. I totally agree. A number of big name publications have come out and criticised the move, including MTV, Entertainment Weekly and Time magazine.

Writing for MTV, Jim Cantiello says that Idol may be trying to cash in on the Bieber phenomenon and find a young ‘un of their own to make famous.

But it’s important to note that Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube covering contemporary pop and R&B hits, songs that “Idol” theme weeks rarely allow. (Would Usher and Justin Timberlake have noticed the Biebs if he had been crooning “Mandy” by Barry Manilow? Doubtful.) If “Idol” wants to make a change to help make the show become relevant again, they might do better by making the song choices and theme weeks younger, rather than the talent pool.

James Poniewozik echoes many of these points in Time, but suggests that the attempts to recreate Bieber fever will come too late, just as the crest of popularity for Justin Bieber is starting to decline. He warns that many of the younger contestants on these shows just aren’t polished enough to succeed and that “there are very few Michael Jacksons or Britney Spearses out there—underage singers with the stage-readiness and self-possession of seasoned stars.”

Finally, the well-known entertainment journalist Michael Slezak points to the outcome of this year’s American Idol – the unpolished teenage acts got voted off in the middle stages. In fact, I think that Kara DioGuardi personally extended Katie Stevens’ run on the show by being overly complimentary even when Katie was clearly awful on occassions.

I think this is a horrible misstep on the part of Frot-Coutaz & Co. In fact, if I ran the show, I’d increase the minimum age requirement to 18. Think about it: If recent seasons of Idol have taught us anything, it’s that the show’s audience now has a hunger for well-rounded contestants with a strong sense of self and clearly identified thoughts on the artists they want to be. Better still if these singers possess the ability to play an instrument and/or dramatically rearrange a song.

What’s your take on this one – is a younger bunch of auditionees going to make Idol more relevant, or is it going to turn us off with even more bad acts?

The worst thing is, by making this move, the production will feel the need to editorially justify their decision by having the judges ramble on about the “previously unmined pool of American talent”. Sigh.

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