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June 23, 2010  | by: Laura Rosenfeld

Can we handle another Justin Bieber? The producers of American Idol sure think so.

Is 'American Idol' trying to find the next Justin Bieber?

In a statement released June 21, the hit singing competition announced it has lowered the minimum age requirement for its contestants from 16 to 15 for the upcoming tenth season. The reason for the change is, according to executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz, “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.”

Idol’s producers may be on to something. Young people seeking careers in show business is certainly nothing new, but it does seem like in the past few years there has been a huge resurgence of “tween” stars in entertainment. Starting with the premiere of High School Musical back in 2006, the Disney Channel and its gaggle of stars have become phenomena amongst middle school-ers all across America. Now with celebrities like Miley Cyrus and the aforementioned Justin Bieber hotter than ever, kids are looking up to these stars and thinking, “Hey, if they’re young and successful, why can’t I be, too?”

Where Idol’s producers are certainly missing the mark is with its viewers. The show’s past season was disastrous. Almost everyone agrees it needs to be saved from what is sure to be another lackluster year if the quality of talent doesn’t improve. But changing the minimum age requirement is not the way to do it. With the exception of a few standout performers, like season six winner Jordin Sparks and season seven runner-up David Archuleta, teens on Idol do not do that well. The Idol voting audience doesn’t enjoy their performances, and teen contestants are usually eliminated early on in the competition. As teenagers, they have yet to come into their own as performers. Their voices have not yet matured, and these contestants show little emotion when performing because they haven’t lived enough to feel the songs’ emotions. Season nine’s biggest problem was the contestants and their lack of star quality. Lowering the age limit is only going to worsen this problem and Idol’s ability to recover from its already damaged reputation.

Season 10 auditions kick off July 17 in Nashville, and while I don’t anticipate teens to suddenly flock to the auditions in droves, this change will have an impact on the show. We’ll all have to tune in to Idol when it premieres in January 2011 to see if it can still churn out stars and regain its accolades as a groundbreaking reality competition.

Just thinking about Idol becoming a Justin Bieber factory is a very scary thought. For the country’s sake, I don’t think we are ready for another mop-topped, baseball-hat-wearing pop star with a high-pitched singing voice. Right now, one is definitely enough.

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