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'American Idol' makes changes in response to sinking ratings

Jena Irene, right, wins the coin toss and

Jena Irene, right, wins the coin toss and elects to perform first on the "American Idol" Season 13 finale, where she'll battle the other finalist, Caleb Johnson, left, as Ryan Seacrest hosts. Photo Credit: FOX / Michael Becker

Things are so bad for "American Idol" (Tueday and Wednesday nights at 8 on Fox/5) that Fox officials are already promising a major revamp of the show before this season is even over.

Now that it's regularly getting beaten by "Survivor," the former ratings juggernaut will air only one night a week when it returns next season. However, maybe the most shocking "Idol" change already has taken place: The contestants now complain.

Even more telling, Jena Irene, who called producers' barely veiled attempt to keep teen heartthrob Sam Woolf around another week after he received the lowest number of votes "so unnecessary and stupid," and Caleb Johnson, who lamented the song fans chose for him one week, are now in the finals.

The power has shifted at "Idol." Remember when a withering critique from Simon Cowell could torpedo a contestant's chances? Those days are long gone. So are the days when judges' support could keep a contestant around, as their constant praise of Woolf, who, at 18, is promising but still inexperienced, didn't seem to have the desired effect. And "The Powers That Be," the "Idol" fans' nickname for the producers who pull the strings of the show behind-the-scenes? Their power has diminished this season.

All the season 13 machinations to create a Jena-Caleb final also may end up backfiring, since third-place finisher Alex Preston was the most musically accomplished and the most connected to current musical trends of the three.

However, Irene and Johnson will certainly put on a great show, especially when they perform with Paramore and Kiss, respectively, during the finals.

Judge Jennifer Lopez told Irene, "You're gonna be so hard to beat" after she performed a stunning version of Radiohead's "Creep" on the piano. However, Lopez was also up and rocking out, along with judge Keith Urban, as she watched Johnson slam a mic stand into the stage as he powered through a thunderous version of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused," even as he nursed strained vocal cords.

The contest will be interesting, but, unlike previous seasons, the winner is guaranteed little more than a head start on a career. That doesn't seem like something "Idol" will be able to change any time soon.


AGE 23

HOMETOWN Asheville, North Carolina

STYLE Rock and roll all night!

CHANCES He has a great, powerful voice and even stronger performance style. Will that classic rock persona lure in or turn off younger voters?


AGE 17

HOMETOWN Farmington Hills, Michigan

STYLE A little bit hard rock, a little bit EDM

CHANCES She is a good singer who has a strong grasp of where today's mainstream is heading. Will that be enough?

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