Well, at least one part of the dire Season 12 prediction my friends at What Not to Sing won’t be coming true: both Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are gone from the judging panel. The rumor mill is even saying that they may make it a clean sweep and remove Randy as well.
Frankly, few serious Idol watchers will miss them. Both of them rendered valuable service to the Idol franchise by providing a healthy change of pace early in Season Ten. However, by the end of Season Eleven, just about everyone had had enough. The judging all season long was an abominable travesty, Steven Tyler seemed determined to outdo Paula in the “he said what?” department, J-Lo was shaking what God gave her, and Randy… was Randy.
Final judgment on whether this is a good or bad thing will, of course, depend on who replaces them. I’m not thrilled with any of the names coming out so far. Mariah Carey is potentially interesting, but I’m not particularly interested in seeing another A-list star who could use the good publicity who will eventually leave when she’s not paid a year or so down the road. (However, Randy leaving would make a Mariah judgeship more likely. See my reasoning below.)
Adam Lambert… no. Has anyone forgotten where and what the Idol audience is made up of nowadays? He has his (very) vocal fans, and there are quite a few Idol pundits who adore him. But let’s face it: the Idol viewing and voting audience is disproportionately socially conservative. I cannot imagine a worse fit for that audience than Adam Lambert. I’m not passing any moral judgment on either group, but merely stating the obvious: they won’t get along. Idol would be stupid to court a controversy like this. I could go on with names floating around, but I suspect that almost all of those rumors have been planted by PR people, just to get the name of their charges in the media. But that’s just the cynical me at work.
I think the Idolsphere is going to be surprised with who ends up in the panel next year. If Randy goes, an A-lister is going to be necessary – and Mariah Carey fits the bill. If Randy goes, Mariah’s probably in. (I have a hard time seeing them both on the Idol panel.) I fully expect, however, that one of the remaining slots – and maybe both – are going to go to Kara DioGuardi types – people who may be well known within the industry but not outside of it. (Fox would also approve of the lower pay those types would get.) Ultimately, though, what matters is whether the new crop of Idol judges can actually do their jobs – i.e., give tough, but fair criticism when needed, but fulsome praise if it is deserved. And in that department, well… there’s no other way to go but up.