'American Idol' Drops Minimum Age Limit to 15

Show previously barred contestants younger than 16 from auditioning.

One of the frequent complaints from "American Idol" judges during the recently wrapped season nine was that this year's younger teenage contestants couldn't really connect with the emotions and meaning of certain cover songs because they just hadn't experienced much outside of their parents' house and high school.

That makes it even more surprising that one of the show's producers announced in a press release touting this summer's "Idol" tour that for the upcoming 10th season, "Idol" will be lowering its age limit from 16 to 15.

"A lot of young, talented people are now seeking careers and representation before they turn 16. Lowering the age limit allows us to tap into this talent pool," said Cecile Frot-Coutaz, the show's executive producer. The move seems to go counter to the recent trend of 20-something winners and runners-up who had years of performance and recording experience under their belts, including David Cook, Kris Allen, Adam Lambert and this year's finalists, [article id="1640537"]Lee DeWyze[/article] and Crystal Bowersox, both 24.

The maximum age for the show will stay put at 28. The move sets up a situation where next year's contestants could be two years younger than this season's youngest, 17-year-old top-five finisher Aaron Kelly, who was frequently criticized by judge Kara DioGuardi for not really connecting with the passion behind some of the songs he covered due to his limited life experience. A number of outlets have already criticized "Idol" for seemingly chasing after the Justin Bieber train with the new age requirements.

In the meantime, there's still no word on who might replace departed lead judge Simon Cowell, even with the prospect of auditions already looming. The "Idol"-making machinery is slated to kick off again July 17 with open auditions a the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and current plans call for wannabe singers to sing in front of DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres. The audition process will continue on with casting calls in Milwaukee (July 21, Bradley Center); New Orleans (July 26, TBA); East Rutherford, New Jersey (August 3, Izod Center); Austin, Texas (August 11, Frank Erwin Center); and San Francisco (August 19, AT&T Park).

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