Eyeing X Factor, Is Simon Cowell Deliberately Sabotaging American Idol?
The hot new dance in Idolmania forums is the Season Nine Hate-Rag -- we shuffle, pout, call the talent pool a worthless bunch of nervous tickers, boo, turn it all about, and blame Ellen DeGeneres too. That seems valid in the broad strokes, but my latent conspiratorial sense wonders if Simon Cowell hasn't concocted this ennui himself. After season nine's coronation ceremony, the 50-year-old judge will leave Idol for next fall's American debut of X Factor, which he produces and has a financial stake in. Wouldn't a muddled ninth season of Idol give X Factor a better chance to shine? Have we already forgotten that the original UK version of X Factor effectively wiped out Pop Idol after Cowell jumped ship? Ahead of tonight's episode, we postulate three ways The Underwhelmed One may be cutting down Kelly Clarkson's alma mater after the jump.
1. Devaluing DioGuardi
Simon's never struck a magnificent brotherhood with his co-panelists, but he seems to harvest a particular antagonism with handsy colleague Kara DioGuardi. Simon dismissed her criticisms of Andrew Garcia's "Gimme Shelter" rendition and Paige Miles's "Walk Away" with memorable acidity. He regularly deflects Kara's coos with a turned cheek. But most of all, he just doesn't do much to bolster Kara's consistency as a judge, and his unceremonious monotone always renders Kara's monologues contrived in comparison. He's not known for playing Mr. Nice Guy, but Simon hardly seems interested in playing on the same field as the songwriting panelist.
Of course, such a slight implies a scheme to invigorate interest in a different X Factor judge, like Paula Abdul. Perhaps Simon thinks the best way of currying favor on Abdul's behalf (if she is to be hired, which I still suspect will happen despite her wacky salary demands) is to underrate DioGuardi. Speaking as a viewer, the plan may be working.
2. Skimping on the Starpower and Spectacle
Don't let the prevailing season-nine gestalt sway you: Crystal Bowersox is one of the most talented performers in the history of Idol. Additionally, Siobhan Magnus ranks among the show's most original talents, and Didi Benami boasts subversive smarts. They all intrigue. Otherwise, season nine is marked by a startling dearth of stage presence, Idol's signature power. As I browse through X Factor's explosive performances in the UK, I realize Simon hasn't lost his touch for finding bona fide stars like Leona Lewis or Joe McElderry. I can only imagine the American revamp will mirror that franchise's blast of ready-made pop icons. Whether or not the music is better seems irrelevant -- X Factor's garish spectacle and doe-eyed cherubs are more compulsively watchable than Idol's unending acoustic medley. In fact, if X Factor's first US season is anything like the last UK one, Idol's ninth season could be deemed forgettable.
3. A Firm Disinterest
Even as Bowersox racks up the best Idol performances week after week, Simon's praises for the busking talent seem muted at best. He's not falling over himself to bow at her feet like he did with Leona Lewis, X Factor's prime find. This could be coincidence, or it could be that Simon's escalated fervor will return on X Factor and remain present throughout the season. While we wait for Idol to pick up steam, it seems only right to wait with greater anticipation for the potentially more seismic X Factor -- along with Simon's own revived showmanship.