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Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: What happened to my 'American Idol'?

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 5:05 p.m. MDT

"American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, center, poses with judges, from left, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson.

Michael Becker, Fox

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Over my six-week run on Season 2 of "American Idol," I received lots of feedback and advice from the judges. Some was great. Some was not.

Can you guess which "American Idol" judge said what?

"You sounded like a clown singing at a child’s birthday party … and if I were the mother of that child, I’d tell that clown to shut up!"

"Little pitchy, but you brought it home in the end."

"You really sparkled up there. I’m so proud of you."

If you guessed Simon, Randy then Paula, you’d be right. Nasty, Indifferent and Sweet were their names, although I did get some great advice and good feedback from Simon every once in awhile. And through all his sarcasm and grumpiness, he still to this day remains my favorite Idol judge.

Next year marks a decade since I appeared on the most popular show on television. Ten years. Naturally, much has changed.

A show must adapt and reinvent itself to stay fresh, interesting and exciting over the years. Some changes have been great, such as having a live band, larger stage and private celebrity mentors. We sang to karaoke tracks. Now, contestants get a budget for clothes and wardrobe stylists. We bought our own for the first few weeks.

Other changes are not as great, such as the constant judges swap. It seems the show can’t get anyone to commit now that our favorite hater is bringing his attitude to "X Factor." Paula, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara Dioguardi, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are all casualties.

It was announced this week that country singer Keith Urban, pop diva Mariah Carey and rapper/singer Nicki Minaj will join Randy on a four-judge panel this season.

For a show that has always claimed to be “family friendly,” it sure seems that standard has been stretched mighty thin over the past few years. Tyler built a career on playing sexually charged music with his band, Aerosmith. The newest judge, Minaj, packs her shows and albums with crude and blatantly sexual content and explicit lyrics.

Author and good friend of mine Jason Wright recently tweeted, “Broke news to kids that we won't be watching ‪@AmericanIdol with judge Nicki Minaj. Wonder if AI knows how many will leave?”

However, with all the objectionable material kids are seeing in media these days, maybe they don’t consider not-so-family-friendly acts like Tyler and Minaj as a threat to their viewership. Perhaps our world’s standard for “family friendly” has slipped so far that one step down from Lady Gaga is still considered safe.

But I think about the girls, the young impressionable girls who will be watching and calling in to vote for their favorites. Out of the hundreds of letters we received from fans after appearing on the show, the majority were from tween girls who “want to be just like you and sing on American Idol!” someday.

I know some people argue that singers are just like actors who portray different characters onstage. They are just being artistic, expressing themselves. What’s so wrong with that?

Well, it’s exactly that “alter ego” or whomever that singer is portraying that people see and want to be like. People aren’t going to see Nicki Minaj sitting at home reading a Jane Austen book in her jammies. They are instead seeing her characters — and will be influenced heavily by them. It’s the person they portray on stage that sells records.

Then again, "American Idol" is a pop show, grooming future pop stars. If the music industry is the kind of workplace you’d like to end up in one day, then you may not have a problem with entertainers whose acts can be considered risque.

As for me, I miss crazy, sweet, silly-clapping Paula.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.

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