Nigel Lythgoe clarifies David Archuleta's dad's 'American Idol' banning
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 05/14/2008
American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe has confirmed recent reports that David Archuleta's father Jeff has been barred from providing his son with any more musical input as David continues his quest to claim Idol's seventh-season title.
"[Jeff] has been asked not to participate in the choice of music with David or be in the room when David is working out his routines that he wants to sing," Lythgoe toldEntertainment Weekly in a Tuesday interview. "He's fine to be in the studio -- nothing wrong with that. We just want David to be able to be free like everybody else to get on and do what they want to do."
Lythgoe was responding to Friday reports that Jeff had been informed by Idol producers that he could no longer join his 17-year-old as he prepared for the show.
While Jeff had previously been criticized for being an overbearing stage dad, The Associated Press had reported the final straw with producers came when Jeff insisted on -- despite a warning -- adding a verse from Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" to David's rendition of "Stand By Me" during last Tuesday night's live performance episode. By adding the lyrics, it reportedly incurred Idol additional costs for the song's rights.
"There was a lyric change that happened that was a total misunderstanding," Lythgoe told EW. "Just another, um, step along the way of us saying, 'Okay, this is what we want to happen from now on.'"
In addition, Lythgoe also denied David's vocal coach Dean Kaelin's recent claims that Idol's decision to restrict Jeff's behind-the-scenes participation was more of a "fairness issue." According to Kaelin -- a staunch defender of Jeff, who has billed himself as David's "musical consultant" -- the producers had simply decided that fellow Top 3 finalists David Cook and Syesha Mercado don't have anyone holding helping them choose their songs or arrangements therefore David shouldn't either.
"No, no, no. It has nothing to do with fairness," Lythgoe told EW. "We just want everyone to have an equal opportunity, and if that's fairness, fine. But this is more of just the fact of let's take some pressure away here, you know? It's like anybody appearing in front of their mom and dad. Let's just open up the pressure cooker, release the pressure, and you just get on and do what you gotta do."
David was a Star Search contestant in 2003 and since he's become an Idol seventh-season finalist, Jeff's demeanor when his son was a Star Search contestant has been questioned and included reports that he was banned from the show's set for attempting to intimidate another contestant.
Kaelin -- who said he has worked with David and his family for six years -- also refuted that Jeff was ever banned from Star Search.
"I was actually working back then with David -- I went to a couple of tapings of Star Search -- and Jeff sat right where all the other parents did. There was never any problems. He wasn't put in a security box or banned or something like that," Kaelin said during an appearance on Monday morning's broadcast of The Early Show.
"There were some unfortunate things that happened when David was winning on Star Search. We bombed Iraq, so they kept cutting away from the show so there was some confusion and other things. David didn't get a chance to meet some of the judges he was promised, so I know there were some problems. But Jeff was never banned from the show."
Naomi Judd has previously stated she encountered Jeff and David when she was serving as a Star Search judge and commented that Jeff "is like the worst stage dad." In addition, Jeff reportedly brought David to tears after yelling at him about his son's arrangement of "We Can Work Out" during an Idol recording session.
"I've never seen [Jeff] be anything but a concerned, caring parent. I've never seen him raise his voice to David or berate him," Kaelin told The Early Show. "So a lot of these rumors that have been flying around these last several weeks just seem totally ludicrous to me. He's not this out-of-control dad that everybody imagines. He's really a great guy, and I've never had any problems with him."
David also defended his father in TV Guide's May 19 issue.
"I've heard some of the weird things that people have been saying, and it's kind of a bummer," David told TV Guide. "I think I, of all people, would know what's going on, and he's been great. he's given me a lot of good advice and helped me from making any dumb decisions. He understands more than anyone what I want in music, and I've felt really blessed to have someone like that."