American Idol is getting a facelift and then some.
While the series clearly knows it’s dead in the water without host Ryan Seacrest, who signed a deal in April to stay on for two more seasons, the judges’ table is a whole other matter. When word circulated that Jennifer Lopez had no plans to return to the judging table for Season 12, the mystery of her replacement was the next hot topic. And now, sources reveal to E! that Fox has got Idol alum Adam Lambert in its crosshairs and that the fate of both Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler is still in question. (A rep from Fox could not be reached for comment.)
While rumors swirl of vacant seats and former Idols as judges, something is stirred in an Idol fan. If the series is changing and former contestants are being looked to as experts, who else could fill those illustrious, Coke-sponsored seats?
The Shoe-In: Kelly Clarkson
Clarkson already became a traitor when she took a judging post on ABC’s low-rated singing competition Duets, but she may have a chance to make it right by taking a seat at the Idol table. And whose advice are you really going to listen to? The girl who actually made it through every round on the series or a guy whose feedback consists of made-up words and colorful variations on the phrase “you’re beautiful”? (Sorry, Steven.)
The Reassurance: Jennifer Hudson
When it comes time to watch those top 10 contestants sing for their lives, it seems like everything depends on staying on that stage as long as possible. The cut feels like a severed tether to each contestants’ dreams, but one woman in particular knows that’s not true. J.Hud. famously became a 7th place finisher during Season 3, but the woman went on to win an Oscar and was chosen to deliver a heartfelt tribute to the late Whitney Houston at the 2012 Grammys. She knows that Idol is a launching pad, but it’s not the end of the world. It might be refreshing to have that sort of perspective for once.
The Fork in ‘er: Heejun Han
In recent years, the judging panel has become more like a table of sparkly yahoos, doing their best to utter the most quotable quote, regardless of how knowledgeable said commentary was. Was it helpful? Hell to the no. Did it make me laugh so hard that my beer came out of my nose? Absolutely. If Idol decides to throw in the towel and give into the fact that the judges are increasingly used as entertaining bookends instead of actual help an commentary (that’s what Jimmy Iovine is for), they may as well throw Season 11’s class clown up there. His musical numbers may have been snoozeville, but that kid gave Chris Sligh a run for his money.
The Jessica Simpson Effect: Kellie Pickler
It worked for Newlyweds so perhaps it could work for Idol too. Pickler’s “sal-mon” heard ‘round the world wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as Simpson’s Chicken of the Sea debacle (did she ever learn if it was chicken or fish?). But you have to bet there’s a lot more where that came from. Appointing Pickler would be a move along the lines of placing Heejun Han on the panel, and while her ditzy moments are entertaining, exploiting her… let’s call them “tendencies” for such purposes could bring about the decline of civilization. Just sayin’.
The Heart-warmer: Jordin Sparks
Jordin Sparks isn’t the colossal success that your Kelly Clarksons and Carrie Underwoods are, but the Season 6 winner has certainly found her place in the music industry. She struggled with her body image as well as the ability to stay on the charts after her mega hit “No Air” with Chris Brown became (at the time) the best-selling post-Idol single ever. Her genuine manner is what won her America’s hearts in the first place, and as a judge, she can occupy that space of kindness and tough love because she understands what feels like to be at each point of the process.
The Loose and Wacky Jazz Man: Casey Abrams
If we lose Steven Tyler and his scatting, meandering commentary, it might behoove Idol to find a real jazz man (or at least a younger model) who might be able to handle the more free-spirited side of the commentary. Casey was often chastised, by judges and fans alike, for going too off the rails, so he might have some perspective on how to better channel that creative energy to avoid getting the axe.
The Cautionary Tale: Lee DeWyze
Can we all just agree that Season 9 was the worst? Okay. Now that we’ve got that sorted, who’d be better to scare these green contestants with tales of the cruelty of the music industry than that season’s winner Lee Dwyze? He could perhaps impart a little humility on these kids and remind them that a glitter shower during the finale does not equal instant success. Dads everywhere will appreciate the no-nonsense tone and the message that success is earned, not given like a shiny, little present. Realism: that’s definitely what Idol needs.
What former contestant would you choose to judge?
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