Why The ‘American Idol’ Age Limit Change Is A Bad Idea

Earlier today, “American Idol” announced that they were lowering their age limit to allow 15-year-olds to audition. Well that makes sense, since season nine’s youngsters — Aaron Kelly, Haeley Vaughn and Katie Stevens — all exuded professionalism and mega-talent under pressure. (Rolls eyes.)

I don’t mean to slam Aaron and Katie personally. In fact, both of those recent contestants have knocked my socks off post-”Idol.” Aaron displayed some legitimate songwriting chops and Katie’s vocals during the finale were as good — if not better — than her co-star Christina Aguilera. But during the competition, both of those contestants received criticisms from the judges that suggested they should have honed their craft and experienced life for a few more years before standing center stage in front of 30 million people. It’s hard to get judged when you’re 25, and it’s a hundred times harder when you’re a sensitive 15-year-old.

“But Jim,” you might argue, “some of the show’s most-beloved contestants were only 16 years old when they auditioned! What’s another year?” You speak the truth. However, for every Jordin Sparks, David Archuleta and Allison Iraheta (who flourished on the show despite their youth), there were two dozen Kevin Covaises, Paris Bennetts, Lisa Tuckers and John Stevens who choked in front of the bright lights and TV cameras. (See also: Will Makar, David Radford, Ayla Brown, Janay Castine, Leah LaBelle, Alaina Whitaker and literally countless others.)

The last time “Idol” tweaked its age range was season five, where they upped the limit to 28 years old. The result? Taylor Hicks, a dude who looked 58, ended up winning. So if “Idol” is going the opposite route, does that mean America might be crowning a 15-year-old who looks seven come next May? In a year, will America be tired of pop stars who look like zygotes?

Given the recent mega-success of Justin Bieber, I can understand why the producers of “Idol” are tempted to discover the next great talented ninth grader. But it’s important to note that Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube covering contemporary pop and R&B hits, songs that “Idol” theme weeks rarely allow. (Would Usher and Justin Timberlake have noticed the Biebs if he had been crooning “Mandy” by Barry Manilow? Doubtful.) If “Idol” wants to make a change to help make the show become relevant again, they might do better by making the song choices and theme weeks younger, rather than the talent pool.

But what do you guys think? Was this a good choice? Are you more likely to tune in if there are 15-year-old contestants? What other changes would you like to see in season 10? Leave a comment below and for more “Idol” insanity, follow me on Twitter @jambajim!