Should American Idol Increase its Age Limit?

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On seasons four and five of American Idol, when the semifinals featured 24 singers, one-third of them were teenagers — eight each season.

When this season's semifinalists were named on Wednesday, only three of the 24 were in their teens: 17-year-old Sanjaya Malakar, 17-year-old Jordin Sparks and 19-year-old Stephanie Edwards.

The numbers prompt the question from Is Idol growing up?

American Idols

Since raising the age limit to 28 for season four, singers approaching 30 have dominated the show, from Taylor Hicks, Chris Daughtry and Elliott Yamin to Bo Bice, Constantine Maroulis and Nadia Turner. And in season six, eight of the remaining contenders are 27 or older, including early favorites like Chris Sligh, Melinda Doolittle and Jason "Sundance" Head.Jacob Clifton, who covers American Idol for, believes stocking the top 24 with older contestants is a practical decision from a television-marketing standpoint.

"I'm sure that the mean viewer demographic has increased in age over the six seasons of the show as it goes through the cool cycle, so I'd imagine that has something to do with it," he said. "People want to see themselves on TV."

"Because we saw so little of the Hollywood round, it's difficult to say much about the particular contestants," added David Bloomberg, editor of "But it did seem to be a particularly harsh Hollywood round, and it might simply be that the older contestants were better able to handle it than the teenagers."

"Idol" co-executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, however, was not so quick to say older singers have an advantage.

"I think you get tired and a little more jaded when you get older, and you feel as though it's your last chance, and that can be very emotional and affect you greatly in this competition," he said. "Whereas the 16-year-olds bounce from one thing to another, they don't know half the music they're singing."

Daughtry Quote
Lythgoe is fully supportive of how the contestants reaching the semifinals have been getting older each year, though. In fact, he wants to raise the audition age limit to 30 next season.

"I think [28] brought us some more maturity and a little more professionalism in certain areas and we're happy about that," he said. "I don't know why 28. I really don't know why 30, but I guess we're just about managing to cope with the hundreds of thousands [of applicants] that we're getting at the moment. Opening up any more and I'm frightened to death how many people we'll get."

"I think it's a great idea," Daughtry said. "I think there's a lot of great, talented, untapped talent out there that has been doing the bar scene for a long time. Most of the guys in my band are over 30. And I don't think it stops there. I think that's when a lot of people are getting discovered.""I don't think it's a bad thing," Katharine McPhee added. "By the time the record is out they're like 31, 32. By the time the second record is out they're like 35. But, hey, 30 is the new 20!"

And, finally, how would last year's winner feel about raising the age limit?

"I think it's a good idea, because the experience helps," Taylor Hicks said. "And you can never look too old either, take it from me."

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


I have been singning since I was 2 years old, and I am thirty four. I have been performing vocal and piano concerts since I was 19, but have never jumped out and pursued a full-time career. I have published a book entitled I Choose To Sing.
I think that age doesn't matter. People want to be touched by music. They want to be inspired, the age of the performer has very little to do with the success of the album or the career. After all, God will gives us all our breaks. Raising the age limit to 35 would be wonderful for many.


I am 31 and a mom, but have been singing my whole life. It has always been my dream to sing on stage. American Idol would be a great place to show my talents, however the age limit is the only thing standing in my way. If only AI would realize how much more talent they could find by raising the limit. It would create a bigger fan base and a more interesting competition! Something to think about for season 8! Renee


I am 32 and I went out for idol in 04, 30's are more mature and there will be more raw talent adn fox ratings will be off the charts


I wish the age limit would increase. I am 30 years old and feel I have a voice that needs to be heard. I think the older you get the more drive you have and it would be a very tough competition. The age should not take the place of your voice. I know people who are over fifty that are still young at heart and have the strongest voice. I hope some day maybe we will be given the option.


I say skip the age limit. I have a friend, age 34, who really deserves a chance!


I absolutly agree that the age limit shoould be raised at least up nto 40. Many successful singersare are older and are still rockin'. I am 36 and I have sang all my life but never had a chance to show my talent except for my family, friends and church. Besides more variety of generations can be reached by allowing the age limit to be raised. Let's face it music is for all to enjoy not just the younger generation. I know of kids today who love 80's music and even some music from th 70's.


I think American Idol should have an upcomming season where they change the age requirement from 16 to 28 to between 30 and 40 years old. The judges would get to hear a new group of singers and for one season I think it would add a new interesting twist to the show. Being 33, I of course have selfish motives as would like the opportunity to try out ;-)


I'm 35 with the gift of singing and that's all I want to do. Just give me the chance and you'll see. Tijuana


I definitely think AI should raise the age limit. I say do away with discrimination completely. Don't have an age limit. I know AI doesn't need a lot of help with ratings, but not having an age limit would really open doors and make for a much more fun to watch show as well as acknowledge that there's a lot more talent in the world than just teens and people in their twenties. Do it!! Drop the age limit, if just for one season! After all, everyone deserves a chance at being discovered, and becoming the next American Idol no matter what their age. Thank you!


I know an amazing female singer in Fort Worth who is 41. They should raise the age level to get better talent....