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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  1. Jackie says:

    I think Mary J. Blige would be an awesome judge on the panel! She’s been on the show before as a guest mentor and has always been both brilliant and funny!!!

  2. Nancy says:

    Melissa Doolittle YES YES! Ben Folds YES! (I loved the Sing Off!!!) Adam Lambert? NO! NO! NO!

  3. Kick says:

    Neil Patrick Harris would Provide a terrific fan view as a judge. While helping on the show before, he provided refreshingly honest and thoughtful commentary for the contestants. Plus he is just funny as hell.

    Gladys Knight was terrific on American Juniors and I remember her feedback for Kimberly Caldwell about being an actress more than a singer. That was perfect advice for her and I think she would be a solid contributor.

    Sean Combs would be an excellent addition as he has been in so many roles in music and performance. It would be a dramatic presence on the judging panel.

    Stephen Schwartz as the brilliant songwriter from Godspell and Wicked gem would be able to address performance and the strength of the vocals of tthe contestants (would be an excellent theme night IMHO )

    Katy Perry was an excellent contributor a couple years back…. Why not bring her on board?

  4. A says:

    Actually the three from the sing off would be excellent. Love Melinda Doolittle and Dolly & Shania Twain would be excellent. John Legend would be good too. I like Jennifer Nettles from Duets as well. No Aretha. No Adam Lambert. No NO NO MAdonna. She’s too vulgar.

  5. Joshua says:

    My Dream panel is Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, and Timbaland

  6. jamesidr says:

    mariah carey,john legend,melinda doolitle :) perfect match:)

  7. Jordan Stacey says:

    Sylvia Rhone, Pharell Williams, with either Shania or Dolly as I think they need a country representative. Or if they can’t get Shania, Faith Hill would probably be just as interesting.

  8. Gavin Rossdale – logical replacement for Simon Cowell. Not sure if he’s as acerbic, but he sure is english. Must have some wit to be married to Gwen Stefani (another dream choice). Courtney Love, hopefully she hasn’t changed too much since 2008. I’d second Cyndi Lauper. She can do zany like Paula, without the bouts of sedation. But you have to have someone in their 20s. How about the person who’d be the anti-American Idol judge, Fiona Apple. Other younguns – Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore, Nelly Furtado, Lilly Allen (feud with Katy Perry, she’s fiery).

  9. jiji33 says:

    yes, but how could u forget mary j blige??? she was a wonderful mentor!

  10. Bob Lozano says:

    If They hire Dolly Parton to be a judge on AI, I’ll never watch the show again!

  11. ck says:

    Why not really tranform Idol?

    Tom Waits
    Brian Eno

  12. new judges says:

    Adam Lambert
    Linda Perry

  13. Jacki says:

    Adam Lambert, Harry Connick, Jr. They both can sing w/o auto tune & they both have great personalities, personable & quick wits. Both were great mentors.

  14. IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

    Okay, everybody, I know this has nothing to do with new judge selection, and I apologize because it’s painfully long, but it does demonstrate why this show needs another kind of shake-up, and soon. Please bear with me. Here is a list of all the songs (that I know of) that have been performed on American Idol more than once.
    “Across the Universe” by The Beatles
    “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins
    “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
    “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
    “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Temptations
    “All In Love Is Fair” by Stevie Wonder
    “Alone” by Heart
    “Always On My Mind” by Willie Nelson
    “Angels” by Robbie Williams
    “Any Man of Mine” by Shania Twain
    “Anyway” by Martina McBride
    “Apologize” by OneRepublic
    “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall
    “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles
    “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
    “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson
    “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkle
    “A Broken Wing” by Martina McBride
    “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley
    “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
    “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
    “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
    “Come Together” by The Beatles
    “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen
    “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross
    “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” by Elton John
    “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt
    “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
    “Dream On” by Aerosmith
    “Drops of Jupiter” by Train
    “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles
    “Endless Love” by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross
    “Every Breath You Take” by the Police
    “Fallin'” by Alicia Keys
    “Falling Slowly” from the musical “Once”
    “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen
    “Fever” by Peggy Lee
    “For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder
    “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles
    “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman
    “God Bless the Child” by Diana Ross
    “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood
    “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert
    “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
    “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” by Brian Adams
    “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Credence Clearwater Revival
    “Heaven” by Brian Adams
    “Hello” by Lionel Richie
    “Hero” by Mariah Carey
    “A House Is Not A Home” by Dionne Warwick
    “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals
    “How Sweet It Is to be Loved by You” by Marvin Gaye
    “I Believe” by Fantasia
    “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly
    “I Believe in You and Me” by Whitney Houston
    “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt
    “I Don’t Want to Be” by Gavin DeGraw
    “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith
    “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King
    “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” by Elton John
    “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston
    “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
    “I Who Have Nothing” by Lieber and Stoller (writers)
    “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston
    “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys
    “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain
    “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
    “I’ll Stand By You” by the Pretenders
    “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan
    “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston
    “If You Don’t Know Me By Know” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
    “Imagine” by John Lennon
    “Independence Day” by Martina McBride
    “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
    “In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett
    “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion
    “It’s a Man Man Man’s World” by James Brown
    “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley
    “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood
    “Jolene” by Dolly Parton
    “Last Dance” by Donna Summer
    “Lately” by Stevie Wonder
    “Let It Be” by The Beatles
    “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
    “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
    “The Letter” by the Box Tops
    “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley
    “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder
    “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles
    “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas
    “Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne
    “Man In the Mirror” by Michael Jackson
    “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney
    “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight
    “My Funny Valentine” from the musical “Babes in Arms”
    “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
    “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel
    “(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland/Israel Kahalewai
    “Paint it Black” by The Rolling Stones
    “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations
    “Part-Time Lover” by Stevie Wonder
    “Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin
    “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner
    “Ready for Love” by India Arie
    “Renegade” by Styx
    “Ribbon in the Sky” by Stevie Wonder
    “River Deep Mountain High” by Tina Turner
    “Rolling In the Deep” by Adele
    “Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston
    “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire
    “She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summer
    “The Show Must Go On” by Queen
    “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin
    “Someone to Watch Over Me” by George Gershwin (writer)
    “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt
    “A Song For You” by Donnie Hathaway
    “Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield
    “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” by Elton John
    “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King
    “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees
    “Summertime” from the musical “Porgy and Bess”
    “Superstar” by the Carpenters
    “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder
    “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley
    “Think” by Aretha Franklin
    “This Love” by Maroon 5
    “Time of the Season” by the Zombies
    “To Love Somebody” by The Bee Gees
    “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
    “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson
    “Trouble” by Elvis Presley
    “Trouble” by Ray Lamontagne
    “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper
    “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding
    “Turn the Beat Around” by Gloria Estefan
    “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay
    “Walkin’ After Midnight” by Patsy Cline
    “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi
    “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra
    “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
    “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner
    “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge
    “When You Believe” by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey
    “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” by Diana Ross
    “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by Whitney Houston
    “Who’s Lovin’ You” by the Jackson 5
    “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
    “Without You” by Harry Nilsson/Mariah Carey
    “You and I” by Lady Gaga
    “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker
    “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes
    “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield
    “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by the Supremes
    “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King
    Mind you, this does not include songs that were used as part of mash-ups or medleys. Also, this only includes the final and semi-final rounds. If we were to delve further into the records…oh boy. So, of all these songs, which ones need most to be banned from Idol?

  15. Ron says:

    BIG MISTAKE if Mariah Carey is added to judges panel. I love her as a singer and performer, BUT, Idol needs people on the panel have experience in evaluating and creating talent. The one big red flag in the description of Mariah Carey is “Diva”. Idol needs “Experts”, not “Divas”, “Frontmen”, “Studio Musicians” or “Comics” on their panel of “Judges”. They need people that can fairly and honestly evaluate the contestants, without bias or favoritism, and offer constructive criticism, and encouragement, across the board, to all contestants, to assist them in achieving their goals of becoming successful in the music business.

    The show should be about the contestants and their talent and growth, NOT about the “judges panel” and how big of a star they are, and how their careers can be promoted and flaunted.

    AMERICAN IDOL PRODUCERS, do the right thing, and pick the right people.

    There’s a reason why your only truly successful winners were in your early years, Kelly and Carrie, because your show in the past several years, especially the last two, has become more about the people on the “judges panel”, than it has been about developing the talent and seeing that the “best” actually wins the contest. After all, it is supposed to be a Talent Contest, isn’t it?

    • Ron says:

      AND, change the damn, stupid, voting system!

      • Steve says:

        That could make a big change in the winner but Ryan loves announcing that we’ve had over 100 million votes, implying that a third of the country voted for Idol when its just a bunch of teen girls with their free texting… I wonder if they’ve ever done a survey as to what percentage of the actual viewers vote

  16. Kim OQuinn says:

    Dolly Parton, Shania Twain and Harry Connick, Jr.

  17. Steve says:



    But I would’ve thought Cher could’ve been a real possibility – She’s an Oscar winning actress and has had hit songs for the last 5 decades and could use this as a springboard for yet another. She’s done and seen it all, and if you read her Twitter account, you can see that she is a bit craycray at times and is not afraid to speak her mind or offend anyone. She also has a very unique sound so she might be able to tell these kids that its not always who can reach the highest note – like Mariah – but its what you do…You want a winner that when you hear their song on the radio, you immediately go THATS SO AND SO versus so many of todays auto tuned popstars that are interchangeable.

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