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Boring 'American Idol' winners? Show exec blames the audience.

From left, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest take questions at the "American Idol" news conference at the Winter Press Tour.
From left, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest take questions at the "American Idol" news conference at the Winter Press Tour. (Frederick M. Brown/getty Images)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 11:40 PM


The folks behind "American Idol" do not think they bear any responsibility for the fact that, since they started allowing "Idolettes" to perform with instruments, the annual competition has been won by a spate of utterly forgettable, virtually indistinguishable, scruffy-but-safe white guys with big, soulful eyes who stand behind guitars.

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Most recently, ninth-season winner Lee DeWyze put out his post-"Idol" debut album, which sold just 39,000 units in its first week - the lowest first-week sales for any "Idol" winner's debut, according to Billboard. For that matter, they were lower than any runner-up's debut, too.

Before DeWyze, the winner was Kris Allen - remember him? Never do we. And before Kris, it was David Cook. Not a Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood in the bunch.

"The audience votes - there's nothing we can do," executive producer Ken Warwick copped-out here during an "Idol" session at Winter Press Tour 2011.

"Our job is to serve up the best, most diverse group of 12 kids, and then the audience [votes], and they vote for whoever they like," added another of the show's exec producers, Cecile Frot-Coutaz.

"The record has to be great. If you make a great record, the public will buy it," chimed in the show's surviving judge, Randy Jackson, in his usual empty-calorie way.

"This is a great springboard out there, but you still have to find a record that works," weighed in the show's host, Ryan Seacrest - after telling critics that he attributes his youthful, retro, Dick Clark-ish appearance to "placenta."

But Jimmy Iovine - head of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, which will record the winner - seemed to get it, so there is hope for the coming season of "Idol."

Iovine is the show's new "in-house" mentor; he said his role is to "help make sure we find an original voice - somebody with originality, rather than singing like someone else, which is not particularly attractive to a record company."

"In the past, they weren't getting the proper help to improve," Iovine said of the show's competitors, while drumming his fingers nervously on the arms of his chair and gazing around impatiently through blue-tinted glasses. We like him already.

The new judges, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and pop singer/dancer/bad actress Jennifer Lopez, lent an I'm Ready for My Close-Up air to the news conference.

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