Chris Daughtry: "American Idol" Is "in a State of Decline"

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On the eve of the premiere of the seventh season of American Idol, one of the show's most famous losers, Chris Daughtry, says that the Idol franchise is starting to lose its luster. "I feel like it's definitely lacking some credibility at this point," says Daughtry, who came in fourth place on the 2006 season but went on to sell 3.6 million copies of his debut record and be named one of Nielsen's top ten selling artists of 2007. "It's in a state of decline and if they don't do something about it, it's probably not gonna last too much longer. I'm sure that'll be used against me, but that's the truth, you know?"

Daughtry has some numbers on his side: last year's "American Idols Live" tour played to 68 percent capacity crowds, while the 2006 version was 96 percent sold out. Three top Idols — Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee — have recently lost their record contracts due to poor sales. Ratings also went down one percent last year, marking the first decline in the show's history. Daughtry blames the show's woes partially on its emphasis on untalented singers. "People get tired of seeing people that suck," he says. "It's funny at first, but come on. They spend three weeks on people that can't sing, and that's what they're banking it on. [They should] find some people that you can really invest in."

Idol plans on making some minor adjustments this season: contestants will be able to play an instrument in the early rounds and celebrity mentors will be de-emphasized to create more time to tell the contestants back stories. Still, Daughtry, who is currently recording his band's second album, worries the show faces a more fundamental problem: "After going for so long, who else is out there that still wants to get on the show?" That question, and a host of others, will be answered when the show's seventh season premieres tomorrow night amid the ongoing Writers Guild strike — it's a TV climate that experts predict will give Idol a ratings bump.

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