Here Come The Judges: J.Lo & The Latest ‘Idol’ Replacement Contenders
Ever since Simon Cowell announced his resignation from “American Idol” earlier this year, speculation has run rampant regarding who might fill his seat in Season 10. Katy Perry, Howard Stern, Madonna…it seemed every day a new rumored replacement’s name has been tossed and tweeted around.Â And with several “Idol” bombshell announcements this week–that Ellen DeGeneres will not be returning and that the one and only Jennifer Lopez will be replacing her (whaaaa?); that Kara DioGuardi has probably been fired; that former producer Nigel Lythgoe, who recently stated a desire to replace the entire judging panel, will return to “Idol”; and that Fox will likely announce Simon’s replacement this coming Monday at its Television Critics Association presentation–the rumor mill has lurched into overdrive.
Yes, J.Lo is the latest name added to the mix; mere hours after Ellen’s departure was confirmed, “Access Hollywood,” People, and TMZ were reporting that JennyÂ had joined the “Idol” block. I suppose she has the pop-girl background of Paula Abdul and the grouchy attitude of Simon Cowell, and she was a mentor on the show once (I vaguely recall her giving Sanjaya dancing tips), but honestly, I LOATHE this idea. Simon was a likable villain, and Paula was just plain likable. Jennifer Lopez, on the other hand, seems like a one-note ice queen (but then again,Â at least according to Deadline Hollywood and TMZ, “Idol” no longer has Kara DioGuardi to fill that role). And besides, with her tissue-paper-thin voice that makes Paula sound like Maria Callas, I’m not so sure J.Lo is qualified to dole out singing advice.
But anyway, there’s still at least one judging seat up for grabs, of course, so hopefully Fox will choose that replacement wisely. While it should be noted that Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi weren’t exactly household names in the U.S. until “Idol” made them stars, and the show really could use another actual genuine music business expert like Simon, with “Idol” ratings and record sales tanking recently, I don’t think there’s any way the folks at Fox will cast a behind-the-scenes relative unknown. They’re going to want another superstar, like J.Lo,Â with a marquee-worthy moniker and built-in fanbase. So I’m taking a look at the other latest contenders whose well-known names have come up in the press. Which ones have the music biz background and expertise to discover and shape a future singing sensation? Which are tough enough to tell it like it is? And which will make for good TV?
Here’s the breakdown, in alphabetical order…
Harry Connick Jr. – Harry singlehandedly salvaged the otherwise boring Sinatra Night episode of Season 9. He was in fact the best mentor of that entire season, giving some solid advice, showing way more personality than most of the contestants, and taking a much more hands-on approach. He even played with the band and orchestrated all the arrangements, which more than proved he possesses enough musical expertise to know a good singer when he hears one. His successful “Idol” appearance established him as a real contender for a full-time gig on the show, and I do think he’d be good…except I don’t know if he has it in him to be, well, mean enough. He would probably be a better replacement for Ellen, in the “nice judge” role originated by Paula Abdul, than for villain judge Simon.
Diddy – The Artist Formerly Known As Puffy is one of the celebrities who’s aggressively, proactively courted “Idol.” He recently told George Lopez, “Once I heard what Simon makes–I would love the job. I’ve got six kids. If I would get the same check Simon gets, we would have a ball.” Well, duh. Who wouldn’t want a cool $36 million a year? But is Diddy worth that much? I say no. I haven’t found him to be very entertaining on his several reality shows–“Making The Band,” “I Wanna Work For Diddy,” and his own attempt at an “Idol”-style talent competition, “StarMaker.” Basically, I don’t wanna see Diddy work for “Idol.” (Then again, if Jennifer Lopez replaced Ellen and her ex Diddy replaced Simon, well then, that might be interesting…)
Jamie Foxx – The man does have “Idol” experience–he mentored Rat Pack Night in Season 8, and Movies Night in Season 9. But he was surprisingly unfunny on both of those episodes (the unintentional comedy came later, when he performed a horrifically off-key rendition of “Alcohol” on a results show). And his recent method of coaching singers consisted of simply dispensing T-shirts emblazoned with either the word “CONTESTANT” or “ARTIST.” So I don’t think this guy reallyÂ deserves to wear a T-shirt marked “JUDGE.”
Chris Isaak – He’s been making music for more than 25 years, so the guy knows his stuff. His reality TV experience is limited to one 2008 guest mentor stint on “Australian Idol,” but anyone who’s ever had the privilege of watching his Showtime Network sitcom in the early 2000s, his talk show on the Biography Channel, or any of his interviews over the years knows Chris is hilarious on camera. Seriously, the dude is funny. Plus, his sequined Nudie suits would be a welcome wardrobe change of pace after Simon’s nine seasons of identical tight black T-shirts. So I wholeheartedly endorse this choice…but I wonder if Chris has a real chance up against some of the other, bigger names on this list.
Elton John – It’s too bad that, according to recent reports, Elton has turned down Fox, because he’d be perfect for this gig. He’s grouchy (if you’ve ever seen his day-in-the-life documentary “Tantrums & Tiaras,” directed with an unflinching eye by his husband David Furnish, then you know Elton makes Simon look like a pussycat), he’s mouthy, he’s British, and he’s a living legend with decades of experience. He’s also in touch with modern music, performing duets recently with Eminem and Lady Gaga. Sadly, he’s apparently already rejected the job twice. But I’m still hoping the third time’s the charm.
Courtney Love – In some ways, Courtney would be an amazing “Idol” judge. She’d certainly make for good viewing–her “Behind The Music” special was must-see TV, and her Twitter feed alone is pure entertainment. I’m actually surprised she’s never starred in a reality show before. Plus, the woman is tough as nails, knows a thing or two about surviving in this business, isn’t shy about telling people off or speaking her mind, and doesn’t seem to mind being hated by millions. But on the flipside, she swears way too much for Fox to risk putting her on live television, she babbles way too much to keep her critiques under two minutes, she rarely makes sense (her tweets have actually inspired a spinoff Twitter, “Courtney Translated”), and, well, she’s kind of nuts. She might be better off on “Celebrity Rehab,” or maybe a dating show called “Courtney Of Love,” than on “Idol.”
Bret Michaels – Since his near-death experience after suffering an aneurism earlier this year, this Poison bad boy has amassed a massive amount of goodwill and has suddenly become a national treasure. Seriously, Bret could probably run for President right now and he’d win. But apparently he can’t run for “Idol” judge. Despite his serious lobbying for the job, his impressive reality rÃ©sumÃ© (including an enjoyable judging stint on “Nashville Star”), and the fact that his duet with Casey James was arguably the best moment of the Season 9 “Idol” finale, he seems to be out of the running as of this writing. It’s probably just as well–Bret is too nice and laid-back to replace Simon, and frankly, contestants might not want to take advice from a man who once sang “Unskinny Bop.”
Jessica Simpson – I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, Jessica has showbiz experience, she’s a somewhat decent singer, and she’s had success in the reality world (“Newlyweds” was one of MTV’s biggest shows for years, and her VH1 series “The Price Of Beauty” just got renewed for a second season). And with J.Simp’s ability to deliver a memorably ditzy soundbite (her “chicken or fish” line is still the stuff of TV legend), she’d probably fill the gaping void left by the lovably kookoo Paula. But really, does any aspiring singer actually want to take advice from Jessica Simpson, a woman whose two last albums were unmitigated flops? Really, Jessica’s 15 minutes ticked away long ago. She needs “Idol” way more than the show needs her, I think.
Justin Timberlake – This would be amazing. This, also, would never happen. Sure, JT likes discovering new talent (he signed YouTube discovery Esmee Denters to his record label, and sang with “My Grammy Moment” contest winner Robyn Troup at the 2007 Grammys), and he makes for fabulous TV (even his Sony commercials are compulsively watchable). But he’s got too much going on, and is still too much in the prime of his career, to take on a gig like this. (According to recent reports, he also turned the job down.) Â And honestly, if Justin was going sign on for a steady TV gig, I’d rather see him become the permanent host of “Saturday Night Live.”
Steven Tyler – The on again/off again Aerosmith frontman has supposedly met withÂ show reps on “several occasions,” according to “Access Hollywood.” I think he’d be a hoot, and would add some much-needed rock ‘n’ roll flair to the show, especially if he tied gypsy scarves to his judging-table microphone and wore leather catsuits at all times. TMZ reports he’s actually signed on, but until he quits Aerosmith again and bails on their current tour, I’ll just assume he’s got other plans for now. Maybe he’ll quit the band again and be free in time for Season 11.
If there is a Season 11, that is…
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