Can older 'American Idol' singers find success?
By Lynn Elber
12:12 a.m. March 24, 2006
LOS ANGELES – When “American Idol” contestant Taylor
Hicks belted out Stevie Wonder's golden oldie “Living for the
City” there was scant age difference between the singer and
the 32-year-old song.
Hicks, 29, and other “Idol” finalists edging near 30 are
testing the limits of just how old an aspiring pop star can be
and still gain acceptance from the music industry and the
public – while the TV contest reaps the rewards of
showcasing older performers.
The top-rated Fox show is attracting a bigger audience than
ever in its fifth edition as it offers a wider range of talent,
which producers say is why they raised the audition age limit
from 24 to 28 last year.
This season, the change opened the door for half of the dozen
finalists: Besides Hicks, who turned 29 after making the cut, there's Mandisa, also 29; Bucky Covington, 28;
Chris Daughtry, 26; Elliott Yamin, 27, and Ace Young, 25.
“There's a lot of really good singers we were turning down because of the age limit, and we realized it was
silly,” said executive producer Ken Warwick. “You're certainly not over the hill by 28.”
Not yet, but there are uncomfortable hints the crest may be in sight, said Mandisa, a veteran performer who
dedicated her powerful voice to Christian music pre-“American Idol.”
“A lot of people say it's kind of the end of the road for me, so to be able to have this competition and be right
at the brink where I can still make it, it's a dream come true,” she told The Associated Press after being voted
a finalist. “There's really no turning back.”
That's right – and it's wrong, according to music business insiders and observers. It's certainly true that
young consumers and the artists they favor dominate the music marketplace, to an extent that makes TV
look relatively age-inclusive.
“When you talk to guys in the record industry you do hear a lot of, 'Wow, she's 30, she's 35,' as if that