’Idols SA’ judges Randall Abrahams, Unathi Nkayi, Somizi Mhlongo and guest judge, Ntokozo Mbambo. Picture: Mzansi Magic
’Idols SA’ judges Randall Abrahams, Unathi Nkayi, Somizi Mhlongo and guest judge, Ntokozo Mbambo. Picture: Mzansi Magic

'Idols SA' would do well to change its tune

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published Jul 25, 2021

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It’s the 17th season of “Idols SA” and I, once again, decided to give it a chance and tune in.

Part of me did it to understand why, after so many years, the show is remains so popular and ranks as one of the most watched on Mzansi Magic.

Other times it’s to remind myself why I should check out – permanently.

I always go in with a clean slate, ready to dine on what the producers, Gavin Wratten and Proverb (who also hosts the show) have served make the show feel fresh.

With the pandemic making shows like “Idols SA” challenging, I wanted to see how they would tackle the limitations when it came to the auditions.

This year’s entries were uploaded online, with only the chosen singers being asked to come audition before the judges, Randall Abrahams, Unathi Nkayi, Somizi Mhlongo and a weekly guest judge.

They have had Prince Kaybee and Ntokozo Mbambo on the guest chair, with singer and EFF MP Ringo Madlingozi helping with the judging on Sunday’s episode.

I’ve watched the two episodes of the season and I am bored. Bored because the show keeps falling on the same, tired trope of bringing out “singers” who are so terrible that they should never ever try to sing again.

The judges burst out laughing, clearly having fun at the contestants’ expense. It’s enough to make one turn off the TV.

While the “Golden Mic” contestants know they are going to bear the brunt of the jokes, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth because it is unnecessary.

I wish “Idols” would pay more attention to the talented singers who come on the show searching for stardom.

I wish the judges would give valid critique that would help them onto the next stage of the competition.

Handing them the hallowed “Golden Ticket”, which is their entry to theatre week, means nothing if they are not arming them with adequate information of what they are looking for.

I like what Simon Cowell, who was one of the original judges of the “Idols” franchise and was the reason the mean style of judging became popular, does when he judges “Britain’s Got Talent”.

When a contestant picks the wrong song for their voice, he stops them and asks them to sing another.

This is to allow him and his fellow judges to properly judge the singer and to gauge whether they really can’t sing or they don’t understand their voice.

I get the impression that he cares about the contestants’ psyches and how they are going to perceived after their five minutes on national TV.

There are so many missed opportunities to bring out more from the singers, many who do have potential, but sadly many pick the songs that don’t showcase their voices at their best.

The show is a success and their model is one they are comfortable with, but why wait until Theatre Week to show us the potential contenders for the title?

And we don’t want to have to tune in to the extraIdols” channel to see the quality auditions. We want to see them on the episode.

We want to build a rapport with the singers from the time they audition.

“Idols” is a necessary show. It makes the dreams of many young musicians come true, albeit a shortcut into the music industry, with everybody watching you make mistakes on national TV.

It finds talent that otherwise would have been overlooked. But sometimes giving the show a fresh coat of paint would introduce something new and interesting.

I suggested in a similar column in 2019, that they need to add another element.

Have the competition until the top 5 phase and change the format by showing us what it takes to make a star – styling, performing, the importance of contracts, building a brand and songwriting.

We want to see them build a star from scratch.

You have seasoned performers in Somizi and Unathi and a record label veteran in Randall as judges. Use their skills beyond judging who can sing or who can’t.

We all know it takes more than a voice to be anIdols” winner.

And for us to be entertained these days, it takes a lot more than just serving us leftovers.

“Idols SA” airs Sundays on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) at 5pm.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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