SAN FRANCISCO — It was an interesting juxtiposition of power in the pop culture world.
On one side of the wall outside AT&T Park stood two of the larger-than-life power-brokers of the country’s most popular TV show – American Idol, in Nigel Lythgoe and Ryan Seacrest.
On the other side of the wall were the 9,200 hopefuls on their opening journey to make it to another round in the quest to become the 10th American Idol. Some were dressed like Superwoman, some like punk rockers, but none of them had a seven-figure bank account like Lythgoe and Seacrest.
Lythgoe has officially rejoined the power structure of Idol, a ladder he was perched on for the show’s first seven seasons. The past two seasons the show’s ratings and popularity have tumbled for a variety of reasons. Hence, the thought was to go back to the AI roots and hence, Lythgoe.
“This has been happening in America for 10 years now and it is part of growing up – come and audition for American Idol. They get dressed up, they have a good time. Today is about having a good time,” Lythgoes said on Thursday morning at that location outside the Park.
So, what changes, either forward or backward, does Lythgoe foresee?
“Don’t forget this (San Francisco) is the place where we found Adam Lambert and also the place where we found William Hung. So, we are not sure what we are going to find today.
“I really would like to see somebody who can sing and move. I’m so sick of watching people who are just wondering around. All of the stars of the show move. The next Michael Jackson must be out there somewhere.”
Maybe he’s right, maybe not.
The last three winners – David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze – didn’t move, they sang. And AI has always been a singing competition, not a multi-talent show.
But Seacrest, seemed to buy into Lythgoe’s vision.
“If you look at some of the more popular acts. Look at Gaga for example. Most of the more popular acts are young and are spectacles on stage,” Seacrest said.
“Younger contestents are more poised than the older people. And I think that is because of the internet and them performing on YouTube. They are just more comofortable.”
So, what exactly happened at AT&T Park on Thursday?
“They (contestents) get a few minutes to make a first and last impression and if they’ve got something then they move on to the next round.”
The show’s first downward spiral has been well-documented from the drop in the talent pool to the departure of Simon Cowell.
Is it the sunset for the show?
“I would say it’s more like the sunrise for American Idol,” Lythgoe said.
“And don’t forget when Simon (Cowell) came out here (to the U.S. from England) no one knew who Simon was. Simon became a star on the strength of American Idol. There are other shows like Idol around the world who don’t have Simon Cowell on them and they are hugely successful.”
Seacrest was equally upbeat.
“I will say we have had huge numbers at the auditions. Big, big crowds and more excitement than ever for the show and I think that’s a very good sign.”
Of the 9,200 who tried out on Thursday, about 300-400 will advance on to be judged down the road by the real judging panel whenever that is selected.
Does Seacrest share the pain of the those who were rejected on Thursday?
“I feel bad sometimes that their parents have lied to them about how good they are,” he said.