In its tenth season now, FOX’s American Idol behemoth franchise has undeniably mastered the tricks of emotionally manipulating the audience. (See: this season’s contestant Chris Medina, the Detroit singer who has a fiancee in a wheelchair.)
Not all of the show’s tricks are apparent to the audience. And yet surprisingly few wannabe American Idols have dished about the behind the scenes happenings of auditioning to be on FOX’s hit show. But an anonymous blogger who calls herself “Maria Saint” has written a very interesting behind the scenes explanation of what goes down at an American Idol cattle call.
For starters, contestants are pre-sorted by talent before they even audition, there’s a fake Ryan Seacrest who does exit interviews, and the judges don’t actually see most of the wannabe singers perform.
Everyone knows reality TV is mostly a sham. But it’s interesting to learn that when American Idol producers sort contestants to try out for the show, they include a letter system that tips off the judges about how they should react. According to Maria:
“The first mark is a letter, either an N, a K, or a Y. The Y means that you are a good singer, a yes, and will likely make it all the way to the final round if you play your cards right. K I call Keeper, and it is also a mark of a good singer. K’s are not as impressive as Y’s but is good nonetheless, and anything good is good, right? N’s are another story. N’s are no’s and it basically means you are bad. You’re not a bad person and you may not even be a bad singer but in the idol world you are a bad singer to them and that’s what you’re going to be made to be.”
There’s a lot more, including the fact that a fake Ryan Seacrest interviews many of the contestants, and they are all taught a song and filmed screwing up for the blooper reel that FOX airs. As RealityBlurred puts it:
“the show gathers footage of auditions that are not in front of the judges or Ryan Seacrest but has the ability to edit them to make it look like those people sang in front of the judges (combined with reaction shots from the judges) and then said something to Seacrest, when in fact, none of that happened.”