Scott Borchetta with 'American Idol' judge Keith Urban (photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
Universal Music honcho Jimmy Iovine was a savvy in-house mentor on American Idol, guiding champs Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips to platinum success during his tenure. But then he backed off — initially during Season 12, the first year that the runner-up (Kree Harrison, if you've forgotten) didn't also automatically receive a record deal, and then completely in Season 13, when ex-judge Randy Jackson took over as mentor and was largely useless in the role. The careers of those seasons' respective winners, Candice Glover and Caleb Johnson, greatly suffered as a result.
So it's fantastic news for whoever wins Season 14, and for the Idol franchise in general, that Scott Borchetta, the CEO and president of the Big Machine Label Group, will be the show's new mentor — and will release the next winner's music.
Big Machine, it should be noted, is the label that made Taylor Swift a megastar; other big, big Big Machine acts include Florida Georgia Line, the Band Perry, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, and Rascal Flatts. Big Machine is also the record company behind the only two Voice winners to have any sort of post-show success, Cassadee Pope and Danielle Bradbery. Additionally, Borchetta served as a judge on two seasons of the CMT talent show Can You Duet? (produced by the Idol-affiliated FremantleMedia), which spawned the hit country duo Steel Magnolia.
So if there's anyone in the business that can help restore Idol to its former platinum luster, Borchetta seems like the man for the job.
"There's only one reason I'm doing this: American Idol has proven again and again that it can launch superstars," Borchetta said in a statement Wednesday. "I believe that working with these young artists the same way we work with new artists at the Big Machine Label Group will help the next American Idol be as prepared as possible to continue the tradition of creating new superstars. The entire label group will be invested and we look forward to bringing our energy, focus, and know-how to help develop this young talent at the highest levels."
"The greatest legacy of American Idol is that we produce legitimate stars," added the series' creator and executive producer, Simon Fuller. "We are thrilled to have one of the music industry's shining lights take on the role of mentor for our talent, overseeing their journey right through to the recording and release of the winner's album. Scott Borchetta is enjoying unparalleled success right now. Not only did he mastermind the incredible career of Taylor Swift, but also countless other incredible artists."
While it's unlikely (though not impossible) that Idol will ever yield another superstar of a Clarkson/Underwood level, Borchetta's track record (in country music, at least) is truly impressive. His artists have sold a combined 400 million albums, and thanks to Taylor Swift's shift to pop with 1989, he's conquered that world as well. He's an invaluable ally for any aspiring singer to have in his or her corner — and he's likely to be much more effective than the old Dawg.
But whatever happens with the next Idol winner, career-wise, the recruitment of Borchetta indicates that 19 Entertainment and Fox have not entirely given up on this franchise, and that's good news for longtime Idol fans.
Season 14 of American Idol kicks off January 7.