American Idol: 14 Dream Candidates to Replace Steven, J.Lo and Randy as Judges

“Steven, J.Lo, and Randy, your journey ends this summer.” That’s been the phrase — delivered in the voice of Ryan Seacrest — percolating in the minds of American Idol fans over the last few weeks as the grandaddy of TV singing competitions prepares to reboot its judging panel once again.

Okay, okay…so only Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler have confirmed their exits from the Idol table, but after 11 seasons of barely intelligible feedback, insufferable name-dropping, incorrect use of air quotes, and an overwillingness to serve as a mouthpiece for producer manipulation, Fox isn’t going to reward Jackson with a twelfth season, right? (Please answer that in the affirmative.)

Whatever the case may be, Idol’s producers will have to hurry up and get a trio of judges in place before audition callback rounds start filming later this summer. And to help them with the hiring process, I’ve cooked up a list of a dozen dream candidates they should at least consider as replacements for Tweedle-Huh?, Tweedle-Abs, and Tweedle-Yo!

Click through my gallery of suggestions below, then hit the comments with your own brainstorming sessions. And for all my Idol news, interviews, and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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176 Comments
  1. Bartleby says:

    Madonna would be the worst idea in the history of Idol. All she has done in the last several years is try and be relevant by flashing skin during concerts in Europe. She’s weird, old, and creepy. Enough said.

  2. Em says:

    Loved all the suggestions, especially Ben Folds, Linda Perry, Adam Lambert, Shania Twain, and Dolly Parton. The only reason I would hold back on Melinda is that I love her so much on Idology that I wouldn’t want her to not be able to do that, but I will admit it would be awesome to see her on the judges panel saying, “Oh sing it heifer!”

  3. Jk says:

    Debbie Harry

  4. Nancy says:

    I say Shania and David Foster. And…someone else.

  5. JASon says:

    Madonna would never do it!!! WHere’s Katy Perry on your list. Remember when she almost gave KAra the Smackdown on Idol!! She’s funny, sexy, smart. kooky, and quite possibly the biggest female star on the planet!! I’d roll up the brinks truck to get her!!! Also Courtney Love. She can’t be any more drug addled then Paula and would love to see an edgy rocker chick presence on the show. ANd she NEEEEDs the money! THey might have to replace her halfway through but that could be the scandal they need to get attention!! And LAmbert is a cheap no brainer!!! Probably could get him for less than a million and the audience already loves him!!!

  6. Ron says:

    I put your suggestions into four categories: 1. ABSOLUTELY NOT, 2. NO, 3. Maybe, and 4. Yes, Great Choice.

    ABSOLUTELY NOT: Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton
    No: Pharrell Williams, John Legend, (Not that good on Duets),
    Mariah Carey (Love her, but no)
    Maybe: Adam Lambert, Sylvia Rhone, Ben Folds (Was good on The Sing-
    Off), Jody Watley, Melinda Doolittle (Love her, but too nice and
    too emotional)
    Yes, Great Choices: Shania Twain, Linda Perry, Lukasz Gottwald

    My ideal panel would be Twain (Singer/Song Writer), Perry (Singer/Song Writer/Producer) and Gottwald (Writer/Producer) IF he’s got decent live TV skills.

    No Divas, no conflicting egos, no Has-Beens, no one needing a career boost, and all intelligent and well spoken. All are talented in two, or more of the critical criteria: Singing, Song Writing and Producing. And, I think all three would judge, and critique, without bias. Lambert, Watley and Doolitle would be popular additions, but I’m not sure they would be as good as judges as my three choices. Rhone might be a good judge, since she headed three major studios, but she might not be excepted too well on live TV.

    My Absolutely Not’s would be a disaster, and my No’s would be big mistakes, for various reasons.

  7. Matt says:

    I think Idol should resort back to its original 4 judge format… I think Randy will stay. The following dream 4 are…

    1. Randy Jackson
    2. Justin Timberlake
    3. Mariah Carey
    4. Aretha Franklin
    *5. Madonna

    I think if Aretha shall choose not too, or either Mariah, I think Madonna would also be a great choice. If there would only be 3, I think it could be Justin, Randy, and Mariah.

    I would also be interested in seeing maybe someone like Joe Jonas, Shakira, Beyonce, or Michael Buble in it.. But not sure if anyone Of them is interested.

    • Brady says:

      …The original format had 3 judges: Simon, Paula and Randy. Out of 11 seasons only two of them had 4 judges.

  8. Jackal says:

    BEN FOLDS. Actually, scratch that, just bring back the Sing Off.

    Idol always tries to follow trends, it’s all about demographics and money. I see your Britney, Demi, and LA Reid, X-Factor, and raise you a Miley Cyrus, Will.I.Am, and Bret Michaels. (Not a huge fan, but that’s my prediction)

  9. kim says:

    DOLLY PARTON WOULD BE AMAZING. I did think John Legend was good on duets. I’m sorry but I just don’t agree with Adam Lambert. I think Paula Abdul should return especially if Randy is not coming back — you need some sense of continuity — i don’t want to see a massive change.

  10. karenb says:

    Justin Timberlake, please!!! He’s both funny and crazy talented.

    Then I’d go for Kelly. She’s Idol royalty. And she won! That’s the idea, right -to win. So, no to Lambert. And I need Melinda Do to remain on Idology. She and Michael are great together.

    Finally, I’d go for Usher. Yeah that’s my Dream Team. JT, Kelly and Usher. They’re all class acts and know their stuff.

    If one of them couldn’t do it, then Harry Connick, Jr. He was hilarious and insightful when he mentored.

  11. Snsetblaze says:

    I love Melinda Doolittle. She’s funny on Slezak’s show. But I don’t think she has a shot in heck because she’s only had moderate success after the show. She’s not a big name. She’d be good as one of the vocal coaches they feature in the audition episodes (I always wondered how they get chosen – just what qualifies them to coach others?)

    Adam Lambert is in the grey area as far as success. He’s not as big as Clarkson or Underwood or Daughtry (the biggest of the nonwinners) but could be soon. However, he’d be an excellent judge.

    I also like Jimmy Iovine but realize there might be a problem with that since he works for the record company.

    I love the idea of Linda Perry. Shania Twain would be good for the country role.
    I don’t want to see Mariah Carey.

    As far as other suggestions, how about someone like Mellencamp, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, or Ann Wilson from Heart? (It would be nice to have a female on the panel that did not need autotune.)

  12. Tim says:

    I would add Kelly Clarkson to the list.

  13. Pattygale says:

    Five of the judge ideas were great, the others, not so much. Not just personal preference but what it takes to watch, evaluate, be realistic, be entertaining, not have it be all about YOU and not the contestant, be able to recognize what these kids can do to improve as opposed to what you’d like them to do but is outside their skill set, etc. I’d love to see Linda Perry, Dr.Luke, Adam Lambert, Pharrell, can’t remember who else, but much as I love Dolly and Mariah, don’t think they’d be good at this particular gig. Madonna is always about Madonna, so can’t see that working Don’t know enough about John Legend or Jody’s personalities to know if they are a fit. Just being a star or very talented doesn’t cut it in this circumstance.
    None of the powers that be give a flying fig what we think, but it’s fun to have an opinion anyway.

  14. Beth says:

    Shania Twain and Adam Lambert

  15. Adam Lambert, Pharrell Williams and Madonna!!!

  16. DMan says:

    Where’s Manilow??

  17. ES says:

    Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, and Gene Simmons

  18. My vote is for David Cook. He’s an AI winner, an incredible singer, a songwriter, a musician. He’s been performing since he was 15 so he knows what its like to be a young performer. Remember the rearrangement of covers that he did/does. Understands how to pick the right song, the right key, the right arrangement. He’s a gifted speaker. A big issue – it wouldn’t be all about him. He’s got the right heart to give meaningful advice in a helpful way. He cares about people.

  19. Olive says:

    I’d go with Linda Perry, Dolly, and Ben Folds.

  20. Some of the namedrops are great but I doubt they would accept the position without asking for a hefty salary. Adam Lambert would make the most ideal judge as he came from Idol. He had been through the whole process and he’s the best man to help out the contestants. His input would be invaluable to them. Besides, his candor, wit, cheekiness and outspokenness would be refreshing and I daresay, entertaining as well, not to mention, he’s easy on the eyes.

  21. Ally says:

    I think it would be a good mix having two former Idol contestants–namely Adam Lambert and Kelly Clarkson-)with two older more-seasoned judges such as Dolly Parton and some male star (can’t think of who). I think it would kind of be cool to have Ryan Seacrest judge. Maybe the show could have three regular judges and a guest judge every week. I love the idea of putting Dolly in the judge’s seat.

    • Lisa (@KittyKay3) says:

      I like the idea of a guest judge every week as long as it isn’t someone just doing promo. Would you have them also mentor the kids for the week?

  22. lalunafour says:

    Agree 100% with Linda Perry.

    What about Cher?

  23. marygrace says:

    I would love to see Melinda, Dolly and Adam but know this male world will not like that big of a flip of 2 women and one guy. Also like John Legend and while not a big Shania music fan, enjoyed her as a guest judge.

  24. zob says:

    You left off a major force from your list who would make an awesome judge… and be entertaining as well. Ameircan Idol “Vocal Coach From Hell” Peggy Blu!

  25. Melissa says:

    Or Stevie Nicks? All of the Season 11 contestants loved her as a mentor. She bothered to learn the songs the contestants were singing and was able to give good feedback.

  26. Tiff613 says:

    put Celine Dion on the list and it’ll be perfact!

  27. Peggy says:

    I would like to see Adam, Pharrel and Shaina.

  28. Tara says:

    Maybe if they actually get Mariah Carey, then that takes all of her songs (all the seriously overd

  29. Tara says:

    Ugh stupid phone. Anyway, hopefully that would take all of the seriously overdone songs from her catalog away.

    I think Adam Lambert would be a wonderful choice, and I do absolutely LOVE the idea of Harry Connick, Jr!!

  30. tewence says:

    YES to pharell, dolly, mariah, sylvia, john legend, melinda (all for obvious reasons)

    NO to adam (too green), madonna (no talent), ben folds (boring as a judge), aretha (i know i know, she is freaking amazing…just from what i have seen from her when she isn’t singing she seems too aloof), luksz (wrote some of the dumbest, more unfortunate songs out there right now)

    MAYBE to shania, jody, linda

    YES to the suggestion of harry connick, jr!

  31. Joe Smith says:

    My absolute “never gonna happen” wish is for Steve Van Zandt to judge. He was a great mentor and his music knowledge is unsurpassed – he is an encyclopedia.

  32. Hannah says:

    Out of all of them only Malinda Doolittle!!
    They sould also get Mandisa or Carrie Underwood!

  33. gmrbama says:

    Shania Twain, John Legend, and Olivia Newton-John

  34. Ruthanne says:

    I like Adam lambert, dolly Parton, Melinda Doolittle, and even Ben folds. Why not 4 judges?

  35. Jenn says:

    Adam Lambert!!!!!!

  36. Melinda Doolittle Dolly Parton Ben Folds I think they all seem quick and insightful and articulate, kind but willing to give helpful criticism

  37. Ben Folds, Harry Connick, Jr., Melinda Doolittle (if you’re going to dredge up a past contestant). I’m also OK with Dolly Parton or Linda Perry.

  38. J says:

    My dream panel would be Adam, Ben, and Aretha. I mean, come on.

  39. JasPer says:

    Oh you hysterical Idolberts! You’re not fooling anyone! Adam would be terrific…sorry your guy isn’t even in consideration!

  40. Templar says:

    I’m fine with Adam and Shania, the rest not so much. My dream panel would consist of Jon Bon Jovi, Cher and Babyface [Kenny Edmonds]. That gives us singer/songwriter/chart topper/producer. And since Bon Jovi crosses generations and Cher has broad appeal, ratings would hold. I’d like to see a column about how destructive the unlimited voting is to the ratings.

  41. Tony says:

    They would never get him but i would say Justin Timberlake would be a great choice.

  42. Boss says:

    Michael Slezak would be a good choice…. just sayin’! Then I would actually watch AI instead of just watching Idology :)

  43. Artemis says:

    Adam Lambert, Dolly Parton, and Pharell. They would pretty well cover a lot of genres, and i think they’re all talented and intelligent enough to make insightful comments on genres they’re not personally involved in.

  44. ERc says:

    I vote for Harry Connick and Ben Folds. If it’s Lambert, I’ll never watch the show again.

  45. Nadia says:

    Out of given choices i would pick Adam Lambert & Pharrel, i also would like to see Justin Timberlake or P!nk on judge panel. if they really want to shake up the show these are great choices.

  46. American Idol judges need 2 B people who Rn’t trying to win friends. They need to be opinionated yet helpful, w/o apologizing 4 honesty. A producer is a must, someone young (go Adam) and a veteran who does not care what anyone thinks. Madonna would B a gr8 choice

  47. Rusty says:

    Harry Connick Jr (kudos to the person who mentioned him first), Dolly Parton, and Melinda Doolittle would do it for me.

    But that means Slezak needs a new sidekick on Idology. How about Randy Jackson for that? We’d only have one episode of Idology, but it would make for a couple of REALLY interesting minutes of web video before the police would be called in.

  48. MSnc says:

    One great option that you left out and might actually work is Seal. His appearance as a judge in the voice of Australia was great, I loved him.
    A bonus is that he might actually cause a female winner.

  49. frank says:

    Billy Joel? Huey Lewis? Elton John? Bryan Adams?

  50. Loni says:

    As long as Will.I.Am is not a judge, I’m good.

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