12 Famous Singers Who Would Never Make It Past the American Idol Judges Today

Katy Perry
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American Idol has been around for 20 years and is responsible for launching the careers of artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Katherine McPhee-Foster, and Jennifer Hudson. There have been many different panels of judges over the years, but there’s been one common thread.

The types of singers that make it past the judge’s round have clear, strong, conventional voices. There’s no auto-tune nor different types of singing on the whole. Because of this, there are some singers that people on an online forum agree would not make it to the second round.

1 – Bob Dylan

WASHINGTON - MAY 29: Singer Bob Dylan waits to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony at the White House May 29, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
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Bob Dylan is a rock-and-roll legend. That being said, his singing is far from the powerful and pristine vocals for which American Idol singers are known. As one person says, he’s an “Incredible songwriter, but his voice is an acquired taste.”

2 – Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez
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Jennifer Lopez does have a pleasant voice, but it does not compare to others in the pop world, such as Christina Aguilera, Adele, or Pink. One user claims, “J Lo isn’t a singer. She’s a dancer who, by way of clever marketing and editing (and a helping of auto-tune), has had a singing career.” While I think this is a little harsh, I agree that without the whole production, she could have trouble impressing the judges.

3 – Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez
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Before all the Selena Gomez fans come after me, this is not a criticism of her talent. There is no denying she has it. It’s more a note on who the judges tend to like, and Gomez likely would not measure up. Someone asserts, “I love her, but her voice is probably below average to the American general public.” On American Idol, you need that “wow” factor.

4 – Hilary Duff

Hilary Duff
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Hilary Duff is like many in her generation who became a star as a child and then attempted to transition to a singing career. But there’s a reason she had primarily stuck to acting. Her music is enjoyable, and her voice is fine. But her vocal range is limited and lacks the power the judges look for.

5 – Leonard Cohen

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Leonard Cohen is a great talent, but his voice is likely too unique and unconventional for American Idol. An amusing fan notes, “They’d be annoyed he chose Hallelujah as his audition song.”

6 – Gwen Stefani

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I love Gwen Stefani’s voice. It’s distinct and has some gusto to it. But I can understand the points some make, saying, “She’s not a traditional ‘singer’s singer.'” They also add, “Gwen is a good example of why being a successful and iconic lead singer is different than being a very talented vocalist.”

7 – Tom Waits

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Several contributors bring up Tom Waits in a highly flattering way. One fan acknowledges, “Tom Waits wouldn’t even make it past the audition stage, but he has more talent than all those hack judges combined.” That’s a commentary and criticism of the show itself.

8 – Anthony Kiedis

Napa, CA/USA - 5/29/16: Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at BottleRock 2016 in Napa, Ca.
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Numerous individuals mention the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Anthony Kiedis. This criticism is not based on the band’s recordings but on a vital way to make it on American Idol: the ability to sing well live. One listener expresses, “he is pretty average-to-poor when singing live…He sounds amazing on the records, and sometimes he can pull it off live, but that’s pretty rare.”

9 – Shakira

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Shakira is another artist I enjoy for her unique voice. So, I’m afraid I have to disagree with the person who says she “sings like a goat.” However, I agree with their assessment of her chances on the show: “Her iconic voice would be knocked down for not fitting the status quo.”

10 – Neil Young

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Neil Young is undoubtedly talented with a pleasant voice. But because he’s more of a folk singer, the lack of power in his vocal range would mean he’d likely not get past the first round. One person shares, “He might be a brilliant songwriter, but his voice is rather grating.” While I disagree, I understand their feelings.

11 – Katy Perry

Katy Perry
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Many believe that, quite ironically, Katy Perry would be quickly dismissed by the judges. This is humorous, considering she is one of the current judges on the show. Though I enjoy her music, according to several people, her live vocal abilities are lacking, and I believe she relies too heavily on auto-tune.

12 – Kurt Cobain

Viersen, Germany - March 9. 2023: Closeup of rolling stone magazin cover with portrait of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain in the 90s (focus on center)
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Can you imagine Kurt Cobain doing his typical yelling style of singing in an American Idol audition? I can’t believe a rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would go well. That’s not to say Cobain lacked talent. But a traditional pop singer, he was not. He’d surely be under-appreciated and dismissed.

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Written by Marianne Paluso

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