Five Best/Worst Possible 'American Idol' Alumni Mentors

by Jason Hughes, posted Apr 20th 2010 11:02AM
The critics have spoken, and most seem to agree that last season's runner-up Adam Lambert did a great job as the celebrity mentor to the Top 9 on this past week's 'American Idol.' We even think he'd make a great judge. But why was Lambert the first 'Idol' alum to be invited back in the capacity of mentor?
Adam Lambert'American Idol' has created enough legitimate recording stars by now that they could have easily pulled in one of their own to mentor the latest crop of wannabes before now. In their ninth season now, early contenders like Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken have years of experience as pros.

And they have something that most celebrity mentors don't, the thing that Adam Lambert was able to bring. They know exactly what these contestants are going through. Coming through 'American Idol' has to be an experience unlike any other, and who better to help new hopefuls navigate the muddy waters than those who've come through it already. But not all former contestants would make great mentors.

FIVE WORST ALUMNI MENTORS

Jason CastroJason Castro - I loved Castro's style and his mellow stage presence. He brought a sound to season seven that was wholly unique to the show, and helped make that season one of the most musically diverse and richest in quality. Unfortunately, for all his quiet charm, Castro was a disaster in interviews and anytime he had to talk. Nervous and stammering, Castro might have good ideas for the contestants, but he'd never be able to express them.


Mikalah GordonMikalah Gordon - Never short on opinions, Gordon has a respectable singing voice buried within that nasally whine of hers. She's loud and obnoxious, and entertaining as all get-out to watch, but I don't know if she could get deep enough into what's going on with the contestants to offer any sage advice. She's almost more style than substance. She could give advice on how to express yourself, but perhaps not so much on vocal stylings.

Kellie PicklerKellie Pickler - Pickler's actually talented when it comes to vocal stylings, but far more limited when it comes to usage of the English language. Much fun was made of her small town upbringing, and lack of culture and sophistication, but even more we seem to be learning that she's sweet as all get out, but pushing that ditzy blonde stereotype to its extreme.

Sanjaya MalakarSanjaya Malakar - The only thing Sanjaya might be able to offer is how to make it deeper into 'American Idol' than your voice would seem to warrant. Teflon before Tim Urban, Malakar smiled and giggled and seemed to have no idea why anybody liked what he was doing. He didn't put as much thought into his performances as he did his hairstyles, so unless we want stage presence over talent and skill, he doesn't have much to offer.

Taylor Hicks
Taylor Hicks - Style and substance both (though some might disagree), Hicks is so comfortable with who he is as an artist, that he never really had to take the time to consider what he was going to do on the stage. He simply went with his gut, which isn't much in the way of advice for contestants who aren't so sure of themselves. He'd certainly be happy and supportive, but telling them to go with their gut isn't that constructive.


FIVE BEST ALUMNI MENTORS

Chris DaughtryChris Daughtry
- Long considered an early favorite to win season five, Daughtry went out in fourth place. He managed to bypass the strict 'Idol' control over his first release, and formed Daughtry, putting out an album of rock music he could believe in. As reward, he's the most successful season five alum. Confident in who he is as a singer, and knowing how to take risks on the stage, Daughtry can express the importance of seeing beyond the show into the career you want to have.

Arista
Carrie Underwood - Especially in the earlier seasons, the judges seemed to be determined to find a pop star, regardless of a contestant's musical preferences. Underwood came on with a definite country slant, and stuck to her guns. She's turned that into superstar success in the country music industry, and could help encourage contestants to find who they are as a singer, and be consistent.

Clay AikenClay Aiken - In the closest finale in 'American Idol' history, Aiken stood as the most transformed singer. From awkward geek to suave crooner, Aiken could talk to the contestants about reaching outside of their comfort zone and gaining confidence in themselves. By pushing themselves vocally and in every other way, they can find those rare "moments" that make 'American Idol' so spectacular to watch.

Jennifer HudsonJennifer Hudson - Not only did she get shockingly eliminated early, but Hudson had to endure criticism about her full figure while on 'Idol.' That she was able to forge ahead through the criticism and naysayers to land an Oscar-winning role on 'Dreamgirls' is a testament to her tenacity and drive. No matter the obstacles, Hudson can encourage contestants to pick themselves up and forge ahead, believing that they are deserving of everything they ever wanted.

RCA RecordsKelly Clarkson - The first 'Idol' winner is still one of the most down-to-earth. Clarkson remains the small-town waitress 'American Idol' discovered in 2002, which means she can still appreciate everything she's accomplished. She had to fight for her first breakthrough post-'Idol,' so she knows a thing or two about tenacity as well. Since then, her career has had ups and downs, but through it all she's maintained that powerful voice. Clarkson knows that it's the voice, and she knows how to wring every bit of "awesome" out of almost any song.

Who would you like to see come back to the show that made them and mentor the contestants?

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Sara

I'd agree with all that's listed in the article, plus I'd add David Cook and Kris Allen for Best. Bo Bice might be good too.
While Adam was a better mentor than I thought he would be, it was completely wrong to choose him as the 1st former contestant to mentor. Kelly Clarkson or Clay Aiken have much more experience and know what the contestants are going through. Though many would argue, I think they're both better singers than Adam and could give good technical advise too.

May 17 2010 at 8:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hanna

I think Adam was asked back to help the show's sagging ratings. He was very popular last year and the producers probably thought some of his fans would watch. He did well.

I like your list of potential idol alumni mentors. I'd especially like to see Kelly and/or Clay as mentors and also as guest judges.

April 23 2010 at 2:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob

OK,.. I'm just going to say it.

I hate Adam Lambert and don't know how his screeching is considered "singing".

Yeah, he did ok as a mentor, but I would have rather seen anyone else up there.

April 21 2010 at 12:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Emily Pray

I would definitely add DAvid Cook: because of his experience both on and off Idol and his song choice abilities.

Kris Allen: because he COULD work with someone like Siobhan. It's widely known that he helped out with last year's top 13, and that he and Adam bounced ideas off each other, plus I think he has a deep knowledge of music that would help.

also I think Blake Lewis would make an interesting mentor, because he was really good at finding songs that worked around his limited vocal abilities.

April 20 2010 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Emily Pray's comment
Misha

Great list of mentors that you put together, but definitely you should include David Cook, who set the bar for taking a song totally out of his genre and fitting it to his style. No other contestant has done that as well. Add to that his non-threatening demeanour but expertise and years of experience as a musician and performer (even before AI) and his ability to be articulate and expressive....you'll have one of the best mentors ever.

April 21 2010 at 4:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ryan

Thank you Emily for reminding us that Kris Allen is a bit of a music geek/genius. He plays like a bazillion instruments and knows a lot of its history which is why he DID help his fellow contestants last year. The judges and his fellow contestants always made a note of that, and so did America most likely.

IMO Kris and Adam together was what made last season so wonderful. Without the other, it wouldn't have been the same.

April 23 2010 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin C.

A key feature for any alumnus/a invited back to mentor on Idol is versatility and diversity and performance.

Remember, the same person has be able to mentor and give advice to fit the different performing styles of Siobhan, Tim, Crystal, Lee, etc.

In this sense I find it easier to see Adam as mentor than Kris or many of the "best possible" you listed. Kris is an amazing performer in his own style, but I can't imagine him working with, say, Siobhan.

April 20 2010 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kta

I would love to see Clay as a mentor I really think he would give some good advice. Kelly would be great also. I think I disagree about Kelly Pickler though. She has so much personality that maybe it might rub off on some of this years group.

April 20 2010 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Deal

Well you're half right about Kellie Pickler. Yes she's a great vocalist. She's not limited when it comes to usage of the English language, in fact she's an excellent speaker. That's why many major TV shows have asked her to host or be a guest several times and she's been asked to represent country music and host or speak at large events like CMA Music Festival and Keep the Music Playing. She's one of the most popular hosts and guests on radio and TV. So she doesn't belong on the worst list and she'd be a far better mentor than the likes of some that have already mentored. On Idol she knew how to pick and sang actual country songs every week possible and she loves and knows more about country music than all other Idols so she'd be the best to mentor country night.

April 20 2010 at 6:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carolle

Taylor, the one and only true entertainer and idol would be fabulous, he is REAL. Just watched his DVD, Whomp at the Warfield, and I miss him soooooo much.

April 20 2010 at 4:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JND

I disagree about Taylor Hicks. He could be a great mentor. He knocked around the clubs before Idol and has managed to put together a nice little niche for himself in the business. He is proof that even though you aren't on the cover of a magazine on a daily basis that you can have a career in show business doing what you love.

Also- I think Bo Bice would do a wonderful job as a mentor.

April 20 2010 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lglymph

I think Tamyra would be a great mentor. She was so versatile and adapted so well to each genre without losing who she was.

April 20 2010 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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