With the “American Idol” revival definitely happening at ABC (and ya’ll know how I feel about that) and auditions set to begin August 17 in Florida, rumors are beginning to swirl about who will join the previously announced Katy Perry (and her reported $25 million paycheck) at the judges table.
“American Idol’s” success as a show is largely defined by the quality of its judges panel. Just look at the doomed from the start season 13, with its distracting Nicki Minaj/Mariah Carey feud or the season that Ellen Degeneres was inexplicably a judge. A healthy dynamic between the judges means that they will focus less on themselves and what they have to promote/gripe about and more on finding people who could actually have a successful music career if they were to be voted to the top. As a result, the viewers at home will pay more attention to the contestants and will be more inclined to follow their post-“Idol” paths. It’s why you probably can’t name any winners of “The Voice,” but you can describe in detail the relationship dynamics between whoever was a mentor that season. The focus there is on the mentors/judges, not the contestants and it’s reflected in the winner’s success after.
I still believe that the best group of “Idol” judges were the original three: Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell. Sure, they had their tiffs and attention-grabbing moments, but at the end of the day they were still the B-story to the contestants’ A-story. You liked them as a group, you liked how they interacted with one another, but they didn’t take away from what we were all actually there to see. Later judges groups didn’t always have that quality (see Nicki/Mariah, any group that included Kara DioGuardi), but I would say that the last trio on Fox, Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban, got the closest to the original group’s quality. They were all bigger and more current stars than the original three judges, but they didn’t pull too much focus from the contestants. (Other when they all just had to perform during the once-believed series finale. Still don’t get that.)
So with all of that in mind, let’s look at who The Hollywood Reporter is claiming could be in talks to join that oh so illustrious group of “Idol” judges past and present, starting with Lionel Richie. Richie, according to the THR piece, is most likely to join the panel, as he is liked by all of the producing parties involved. I imagine him fitting into the Randy Jackson/Keith Urban slot as the judge that is largely chill and complementary, but could give a thoughtful piece of criticism from time to time. Also, given his longevity in the industry, he might be able to look more objectively at whether or not a contestant could really have a long and successful career post-“Idol,” a challenge that many more recent “Idol” winners have faced. I actually don’t think I’d mind him being a judge.
Another rumored judge is country singer Luke Bryan. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about country music or the people who sing it (I tend to avoid it like the plague), but I fear that this is ABC trying to find their own Blake Shelton-esque figure, since Shelton has become such a star outside of the country world from his time on “The Voice.” If he would fit anywhere on the judges panel, I feel like it would also be in the Randy/Keith slot, but since I’ve already put Richie there I kind of hope this one just remains a rumor.
The third possible judge according to THR is singer Charlie Puth. I also don’t really know much about him other than that he was on that song from “Furious 7” that everyone was obsessed with for a summer and that he really awkwardly made out with Meghan Trainor at the AMAs, but I think I read somewhere at some point that he went to the Berkeley College of Music? If that’s true, then he could fit into the Simon Cowell/Harry Connick Jr. slot as the judge who can give educated criticism on the actual musicality of a performance (not that Simon Cowell really did that, he just fits into the “criticism” part of “educated criticism”). That’s a valuable tool when trying to explain to a contestant why they didn’t sound that great in a performance, although it can veer into pretentious territory somewhat quickly. He also isn’t a giant household name, so he hopefully wouldn’t pull too much focus from the contestants themselves.
As for Katy Perry, who is already fully on board, I see her fitting into the Paula Abdul/Jennifer Lopez slot of being largely kind and benevolent, but maybe a little more critical like Lopez was as opposed to Abdul. She might also have insight into how marketable a contestant would be in the current, social media-fueled music industry, since she clearly knows how to self market on social media.
(TMZ is also reporting that Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue is also in talks to judge, but I have a really hard time believing that to be true. If it is, I imagine him in the Steven Tyler slot of someone who’s just there to say weird stuff and make everyone laugh uncomfortably.)
We’ll probably find out who officially gets the other “Idol” judges gigs within the next week or two, and it could be all or none of the people above (except Perry, she is a definite). Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how the latest iteration of the “American Idol” judges panel stacks up against the others. I know I’ll be (begrudgingly) watching.
What do you think of the latest rumored “Idol” judges? Have any other people you think could join the panel? Are you also going to watch the premiere of “Siesta Key” tonight because much like Jennifer Hudson’s character on “Smash,” you “can’t let go” of “Laguna Beach“? (More on that next week, probably.) Let me know (Or don’t, haha more “Smash” jokes!) in the comments. And, of course…