It is season 10 and Idols SA keeps getting better, with the meteoric rise of alumni contestants of the likes of Elvis Blue and Graeme Watkins Project. So a lot of wannabes who made the cut in the national auditions had to go through hell in Sun City last week.

The biggest problem most of the contestants faced was that they came through with preconceived ideas on how the entire show would work out.

But who could blame them? The theatre stage has had a normal format for years, so people were bound to assume that things would unfold in much the same way.

We caught up with one of the longest-running judges of the show, Gareth Cliff, who shed some light on what to expect.

“Every year we switch it up a little – and that’s what keeps Idols SA alive. We try to confuse people as much as we can,” he said.

“Just as soon as the contestants think that they know what is going on we switch it up a bit.

“This show is growing and that it mainly because it is now available to a market that it was once unavailable to.

“We have done all the auditions all over the country and there is a lot of talent that I had forgotten from the first auditions. Then there are a lot of people I can’t believe made it through the auditions.

“I have to be perfectly honest, I love how the show has evolved over the years. It started off as a white and coloured only kind of show. So every time I would meet old white people at the mall they would tell me how much they love me.

“Then the show went through a stage where coloured people were now also telling me how much they loved what I had to offer on Idols.

“But in the past two or so years I’ve now been getting black people coming up to me to applaud my contribution to the show.”

For Cliff the show has now come full circle, with people from all walks of life coming together to share talent. And race, religion or background have no place.

“You need to understand that these are not the fancy premium subscribers,” said Cliff.

“Instead of the old white ladies in the shopping mall telling me how much they enjoyed the one comment I made on the show, I am getting the guy who’s filling my tank saying he watches the show, and that’s the market I am interested in.”

Coming back as a judge for the ninth time in a row, Cliff did not hide the fact that he rejoined Idols SA this time for selfish reasons.

“I believe that there are more people in the petrol guy’s market than in the white lady’s.

“I believe the people I am trying to market my new endeavour (his WeChat radio show) to are actually watching Idols SA, and so my reasons of returning are selfish.

“If I can get the massive black audience who haven’t seen me on TV before, or haven’t heard me on radio, to just recognise me, that would give me enormous pulling power.”

Another reason for Cliff’s return is his love for the people he gets to work with, including fellow judges Unathi Msengana and Randall Abrahams.

“The second thing is that we are like a dysfunctional family and I love how we all get along.

“The show’s ratings are going up and up. Why would I want to leave a successful formula like that? If something is that successful, don’t jump ship until it reaches its peak, and right now the show is still growing,” said Cliff.