Monday, May 13, 2013

A List of American Idol Judge Possibilities

There were rumblings that Nicki Minaj may not be back for another season of American Idol, but it turns out that AI original, Randy Jackson, won't be returning next season.

As American Idol struggles to stay relevant and remain on top of the ratings battle, they've pretty much resorted to musical chairs with their judges. First Paula ABdul was out. Then Kara Dioguardi and Ellen DeGeneres were in.

Then Ellen was out. Then Kara was out. Then Simon was out while J'Lo and Steven Tyler were in. After a very boring season with Lopez and Tyler as judges, they switched it up, signing on the level-headed Keith Urban along with the feisty Nicki Minaj and "the Diva" Mariah Carey.

That's a lot of switching around. With so many judges swapping spots, leaving and coming on board, it kind of takes the attention away from the aspiring singers. This is supposed to be the search for the next big music superstar -- so why so much focus on the judges?

If Minaj ends up leaving as well, then some of the tension won't be lingering around.

Now could be a good time to give the show an overhaul and try to refocus again. The next judge shouldn't be someone who is going to be there for a hot minute in order to promote their next album, perfume line or live tour. It should be someone who genuinely wants to help mentor a future superstar. Someone who has an opinion and doesn't think 'everyone is great' like Lopez and Tyler did. Rather than a contentious judge who stirs the pot, the new judge needs to be someone who can get along with the rest of the panel.

So who would be a good choice to fill the available seat? Here's a list of my top candidates:

Kelly Clarkson

Never before has a former American Idol winner returned to the show as a judge. The original American Idol would be a great addition to the fold. She could hopefully provide some inspiration to the show's contestants -- giving them a glimpse of how far they could go.

Clarkson has avoided much of the drama, drugs and other troubles that seem to come with fame. Instead she focuses on her music and entertaining her fans.

Clarkson's bubbly personality suggests she would get along well with the other judges. Meanwhile, there aren't many people more qualified than her to tell the contestants what it takes to win American Idol.

In most cases, it irritates me when someone who is actively promoting a product of some sort is a judge on one of these music shows. Like I said before, the show seems to become more about them than the contestants. In Kelly Clarkson's case, however, I would make an exception.

Phil Collins

Phil Collins knows how to write pop music. He has seven number one hits to his name. That’s just his solo career, not factoring hits from his time in Genesis.

He retired from music, so it's not as though he'll be using American Idol to promote any upcoming projects.

Given his own unique sound, I don't think Collins would favor hopefuls who sound generic. Given his lengthy career, I also figure Collins won't settle for choosing someone who doesn't have their heart and soul invested into the competition and the future afterward.


It's been a while since Jewel has made any kind of waves in the music industry. Perhaps her most famous work comes from her debut album: 1996's Pieces of You. She's a veteran, though, who can still, no doubt, sing with the best of them.

She's no stranger to music competitions or reality TV either. She was a co-host on the reality show competition Nashville Star. She then became a judge on Nashville Star when it moved to NBC in 2008.

Jewel appeared as a guest mentor for Christina Aguilera’s team on season 2 of The Voice. She was even a guest-judge during the season 6 premiere of American Idol in 2007.

Why not have her make a permanent return, offering advice to singers and critiquing them with more insight than some of the current judges could probably offer?

Missy Elliot

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Missy Elliot could do no wrong. She had several hits that earned her several Grammy Awards and a mantle full of Moonmen.

Since then it's been more of a struggle to nab a hit on the charts. Maybe it's because of the youthful competition like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato. Or maybe she's just lost touch with pop culture. Considering that she was once considered ahead of her time, I don't think she's lost touch. Timing just hasn't been right. A stint on American Idol could jump-start her career, so in a way I'm hesitant to include her on the list. American Idol doesn't need another one-season judge. They need someone who is willing to help revive the show for another 5 years. Maybe Missy could be that person.

She would offer an expertise that no other judge has so far. She didn't only rap on her albums, but she was heavily involved in the songwriting and record producing process. She also worked with other artists, offering the same expertise. She'd be a good candidate to do the same with a new batch of American Idol hopefuls.

Marilyn Manson

If anyone knows something about showmanship and creating a buzz, it's Manson. I honestly don't remember many of his songs (other than his "Sweet Dreams" remake), so I can't comment on his knowledge of music. However, having someone like him on the panel would surely liven things up a bit -- in a good way though.

Since he's remained relatively low-profile over the past few years, he probably wouldn't be much of a spotlight hog. Getting comments from someone with a very different musical background than the other panel of judges would surely help the singers branch out of their cookie-cutter bubble most of them seem stuck in.

Lady Gaga
So there's one more exception to the 'no judges who are current performers' rule I imposed on this list. Lady Gaga is such a character that I'd give her a spot, even if she was there in-part to promote her new music.

Just a few years ago, she rose to the top quicker than almost anyone has before. Top 40 hit after top 40 hit.

Then, it seemed her success simmered a little bit. Recently she's been spending more time out of the spotlight than in it.

Even though she cakes on the make up and face masks and feathers and glitter and accessorizes that with even crazier outfits, deep down she has a love for music. She's all about creating memorable songs. I think she'd inspire the new batch of singers to be themselves, be unique and to think outside the box -- something the show desperately needs. Too often are the typical people chosen. If Lady Gaga were a judge on the show, typical wouldn't happen.

Snoop Lion

I don't know if he makes music anymore, but he's more of a personality than an actual musician. Still, he's had several hits and he has longevity in the entertainment business. I think his judging style would be similar to Randy Jackson's -- laid back with a little bit of fun thrown in.

I think his addition would be mostly to create a fun atmosphere on the show rather than to give any serious critiques. Maybe he'd surprise us all with an educated opinion and noteworthy comments.

Eric Clapton

If the focus needs to be shifted back to the music and performances, then Eric Clapton could be just the man for the job.

He's never been one to run around the stage doing acrobatics in front of pyrotechnics and a line of booty-girls.

He's a musician who sticks to singing and playing instruments. Back to basics may be just what American Idol needs.

He could add a level of expertise that hasn't been featured. When it comes to the composition of music, Clapton knows what he's talking about. Since several of the contestants are musicians as well as singers, Clapton's advice could come in handy.

Cyndi Lauper

She's a legend in the music industry. I can't go a week and a half without hearing "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" on the radio. On top of that she's highly entertaining on television. Anyone who saw her season of Celebrity Apprentice can attest to that.

While she was kind of painted out to be an eccentric loose cannon on Celebrity Apprentice, I think American Idol would suit her just fine. She'd be a great mentor to the young aspiring singers and, with her quirky personality, she'd be entertaining to watch as well.

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