American Idol’s audition process and “secrets” explained

Watching American Idol last night, I was amazed at how the show was continuing to pretend that people were going from the stadium into the auditions with the judges. Chicago geography alone would make that difficult, but well before Paula quit, it was well-publicized that the judges wouldn’t show up until months later. Yet there was Ryan Seacrest, pretending that the massive crowd had been whittled down by the judges right then.

Of course, that’s not even true: Talent scouts and producers screen the big crowds in groups, then the executive producers audition a smaller group, and then they select a group of 100 or so people to be judged by Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson, and the guest judge.

Anyway, to some American Idol viewers and/or fanatics, all of this is well-known, and some of it is just necessary to make the show narratively interesting and the auditions manageable. (Can you imagine if Simon had to hear 10,000 people?) If you’re unfamilar with some of this, or just need a primer, Richard Rushfield runs down the “secret rituals of American Idol auditions” in The Daily Beast today.

That includes the way producers have each contestant sing the same two songs (hence the montages), the way most auditioners tend to just be average or mediocre (not crazy or crazy good), and the fact that the auditioners are actually told that some of them are going to see the judges because they’re so bad. Of course, that doesn’t affect a lot of the self-delusion.

Secret Rituals of American Idol Auditions Exposed [The Daily Beast]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.