"American Idol" is a cultural phenomenon and a ratings juggernaut, but let's face it, it ain't perfect. There are singers who can't sing, judges who don't judge and, well, whatever that whole Meatloaf thing was at last season's finale.
While the show's sixth season is already going strong, critics and fans have questioned how long it can last (see " 'American' Invincible? 'Idol' Watchers Weigh In On Show's Shelf Life"). And since "Idol" does seem to be the thing everyone has an opinion on, we thought we'd ask some people close to the show or the music industry in general what they'd change if they were in charge.
Surprisingly, no one suggested bringing Brian Dunkleman back.
Taylor Hicks, season-five winner: "I would probably allow people to play instruments. For me, there's a couple different aspects to my entertaining, two of them being harmonica and guitar. That could be a cool possibility."
David Bloomberg, editor of fan site FoxesOnIdol.com: "I'm not a big fan of the bad auditions. We could be done with those in a week and it would make me quite happy. Also, let us get to know all of the semi-finalists before we start to vote, to make it fair. I would suggest adding a special hour before the voting shows begin to give us short intros to all the remaining contestants. That way we don't have a situation where we've seen and heard a lot about a few contestants while others are brand new to us when they sing for our votes. Finally, Ryan Seacrest needs to stop taking himself so seriously and trying to outdo Simon with his jabs and insults. Enough already."
Randy Jackson, "American Idol" judge: "I could definitely live without [the celebrity guest judges]. I mean, the show works because it's the three of us on the panel, and what we do and how we interact. I think when people come into the arena that we judge in, it's often a little awkward and a little hard for them. I think people look at the show as a fan and go, 'I could do that. I'd love to be there.' It's almost like saying, 'I could be a pitcher.' Actually, I couldn't. I don't even know if I could pitch Little League. I mean, yes, you could do it, but is it going to be great or are you just there for the TV face time?"
JoJo Wright, on-air personality at KIIS-FM, Los Angeles: "Give out a William Hung Award [to the worst singer] at the completion of the audition process. Perhaps have William Hung present the award, himself."
DJSlim (real name: Brent Natzle), editor of IdolBlogLive.com: "I would eliminate all the auditions we have to watch, and of course there would be a huge overhaul to the voting system. Right now it isn't fair that people can vote literally thousands of times for their favorite Idol. Shows like 'Nashville Star' have been successful and they limit the number of votes people can cast. The biggest thing I would change with 'Idol,' though, would be allowing the contestants to use the Internet to blog about their experience on the show. 'Rock Star: Supernova' allowed the contestants to blog and it really helped to get to know the individual singers. Blogging is huge right now and 'Idol' needs to see that and take advantage of it. Instead of getting upset and suing blog owners, grow up and allow the contestants to blog about the show. Who cares if we find out any of the show's secrets?"
Paris Bennett, season-five finalist: "I love that people can call in and vote, but that is very, very controversial. So I'd redo the voting thing. And the genres they pick — our show was good, but we had these slow weeks, love-song week, and sometimes they're stupid."
Bryan-Michael Cox, songwriter/producer (Mariah Carey, Chris Brown): "I would focus more on the positive in the beginning. We think the negative stuff is hilarious, but when you're in the process of launching careers, you shouldn't take the seriousness out of it. You know, William Hung got a record deal, but that could have gone to someone with talent who could be building a career right now."
Todd Brabec, executive vice president/membership, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP): "It would be great to integrate contemporary songwriters into the show who can help write original material specifically suited to the finalists. They could show a behind-the-scenes look at the songwriting process and how it helps to shape the artist. I understand the producers are introducing a national songwriting competition into the mix this year, and that is a step in the right direction."
Ace Young, season-five finalist: "I'd change the food they gave the contestants. We didn't get much for breakfast, it was all crescent rolls and fruit. And I'd change the sleeping arrangements. We slept on beds smaller than a twin mattress and I shared a room with Chris [Daughtry] with my feet hanging off the bed. That was the worst thing about the whole deal."
Greg Wells, producer (Deftones, the Pussycat Dolls): "If I ran 'American Idol,' I would immediately ban all Broadway show tunes from being performed."
And finally ... you.: Write in to You Tell Us and explain what you would change about "American Idol."