Randy Jackson Exiting American Idol: Why It's Great News for Season 14

Misstep No. 1 -- Hiring Randy Jackson as 'Mentor'
Either Idol's producers left every single bit of Jackson's specific, cogent advice on the editing room floor or The Dawg's insights were limited to "you've got to sell it"-style pablum. Either way, Jackson must shoulder the blame for the across-the-board lack of growth among Season 13's Top 13 -- and the show's producers should be looking for his head on a platter replacement immediately.

The Dawg has (once again) (finally) left the House That Kelly Clarkson Built.

Randy Jackson announced today that he will not return as a mentor (or in any other capacity) for Season 14 of American Idol — and whatever feelings of nostalgia you may or may not have about his run on Fox’s reality juggernaut, his exit is long, long overdue.

“After 13 seasons, I felt now was the perfect time to leave,” Jackson told our sister site Deadline, in a statement. “I’m proud to have been a part of a series that discovered some incredible artists and will go down in history as one of the most successful television shows ever. A true original, Idol started it all. Onto what’s next.”

Jackson served as a judge for the show’s first 12 seasons, but after announcing his intent to leave in May 2013 (along with one-season-only disasters Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey), he was chosen to replace Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine as in-house mentor for Season 13, launching a post-Hollywood Week “Boot Camp” with Idol grads Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry, and then — at least in theory — helping the Top 13 with song choice and arrangement once the live voting rounds began.

Both in terms of entertaining TV footage and artistic growth among the Season 13 crop, however, Jackson’s mentoring tenure was an unmitigated debacle.

Either Idol‘s producers left every single bit of Jackson’s specific, cogent advice on the editing room floor for the duration of Season 13 or The Dawg’s insights were limited to “you’ve got to sell it”-style pablum.

In fact, in the course of my interviews with the show’s Top 13 finalists last season, not one of them was able to offer a specific example of how Jackson helped them grow as musicians or upgrade a specific performance. When I pointed this oddity out to fourth-place finisher Jessica Meuse, and then asked “was [Randy] checked out?” she pointedly but honestly replied, “Well, I liked Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert, and then [subsequent guest mentors] David [Cook] and Jason [Mraz]. Yeah.”

Jackson’s failure to roll up his sleeves and challenge contestants’ willingness to go outside their comfort zones was especially problematic given Season 13’s emphasis on inexperienced, diamond-in-the-rough vocalists like Sam Woolf, MK Nobilette, Malaya Watson and C.J Harris — all of whom showed glimmers of brilliance but were never able to put together satisfying growth arcs in their time on the show.

The end result — rampant inconsistency among the Season 13 finalists, combined with the grim, weekly knowledge that there’d be, at best, two or three good performances per week — could not have helped the show’s continued ratings decline.

The hope now is that executive producer Per Blankens will select a mentor based not on name recognition — the last thing Idol needs is a Bold-faced Star who’ll devote nothing more than a few hours of superficial camera time to the Season 14 hopefuls — but on a willingness to embed him- or herself with the contestants. A true mentor — one who’ll be fun to watch and help improve the overall quality of performances from the truly “undiscovered” — will be present from the moment the kids learn of weekly themes, will help them explore unexepected-but-appropriate song choices and arrangements, and will be willing to stand up to producers and demand fresh songs, staging and wardrobe picks on behalf of overwhelmed singers.

If Idol wants to pick up any inspiration from its most powerful competitor The Voice, I’d suggest eyeballing a performer/producer type in the vein of the latter show’s newest (and instantly beloved) coach Pharrell Williams — a guy who’s as much talent scout as he is artist, tastemaker and cheerleader.

The companies behind the show — American Idol, Fox, Fremantle Media North America and 19 Entertainment — issued a joint farewell statement: “Randy has been such an integral part of American Idol since day one, both as a judge and as a mentor. He’s provided great advice and support, shaping the success of so many Idols we have discovered over the years. We wish him all the best in his next chapter. Randy will always be part of our Idol family and we hope he’ll visit from time to time.”

I won’t argue with their sentiments — as long as said visits are nothing more than quick flashes of The Dawg sitting in the audience. Anything more, and they’re barking up the wrong tree.

How do you feel about Jackson’s exit from Idol? Will it make you more or less likely to tune in to Season 14? Hit the comments with your thoughts — or just watch Melinda Doolittle sing “At Last” and hoot and holler and throw shoes like you’re in the front row.

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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64 Comments
  1. Kaba says:

    “The presence of the Lord is here!”
    Yassss

  2. Stacie says:

    -I am pumped to see Randy go. Listen, I get he was around for a long time, but longevity doesn’t mean anything. Idol had it’s worst ratings ever last season, something had to change, and we knew all the judges were coming back and Ryan, but we hadn’t heard anything about Randy. It was probably time a couple years ago for him to go, but now is fine too. Last year his role on the show was laughable, he just sat there and gave staged answers. I am pretty pumped about this move
    -Moving on…I I love Harry Connick Jr as a judge, but I can’t imagine what kind of talent he would be able to produce if he was the day to day mentor. He gave a lot of great advice to the contestants last season but because he only saw each contestant once a week for a few minutes he couldn’t impact them too much. I would have preferred him stepping back into that role and maybe a Jimmy Iovine being a judge or even Adam Lambert or some other Idol alum doing the judging. I think the mentor role is an important one, at least these days and it’ll be interesting where they decide to find the best one.

    • TD says:

      I agree that Harry probably would be better as a mentor than judge. You could tell last year that he was itching to jump into more of a mentor role and didn’t like the constrictions of being a judge. His previous stints as guest mentor showed how he could really jump in and offer very specific advice (though sometimes might get a bit too intense for the contestants–but mentors need to push).

  3. Kate says:

    While I haven’t really watched Idol in years, seeing it called the House that Kelly Clarkson Built never fails to make me smile! :-)

  4. Jerry says:

    I don’t quite know what to make of that. It probably would have worked a few seasons ago, but Idol is no longer the same show with the huge hype. I think during the first 5 seasons, whether it is true or not (probably not), there is a sense that we were searching for superstars, but recently, it became just like another competition. Personally, I no longer watch current seasons of Idol, but I still check out old idol videos on youtube frequently.

  5. GuessWhat says:

    Put a fork in it — this show is done!
    (yes, I realize it still gets ok ratings)

  6. Kate says:

    I’m one of the few sad to see him go, just because I’m the queen of nostalgia and I like having an original judge still around after all these years, but this is good news just because it’s a dream come true for the delightful Michael Slezak.

  7. milwlovesadam says:

    This is excellent news. Now, for the next show improvement: can they please, for heaven sake, stop split-screening with JLo???? I want to see the contestant. NOT JLo chair dancing, JLo clapping, JLo crying. Enough already.

    As far as mentors go: Get Melinda Doolittle. ‘Nuf said.

  8. Karen C says:

    David Cook helped the contestants helped the contestants a lot the week he was on, so much more than Randy did. I think Randy was a better judge than mentor.

  9. Jan says:

    Definitely time (BEYOND). Love Melinda!!!

  10. Steve F. says:

    About damn time… now how’s about getting David Cook or Adam Lambert in as mentor/mentors?

  11. Nick says:

    I have to ask- where has Reality Check been all year?

  12. Lloyd says:

    Hopefully they don’t replace him with someone equally as bad.

    • dan says:

      Hopefully they won’t replace him with someone that makes us go, “I wish Randy was back. At least we could mock him.”

    • Sarah T. says:

      I don’t know that he needs to be replaced period (at least with someone that we see on screen). I don’t mind when they bring an artist in to give the contestants suggestions but I never thought it was needed when Jimmy or Randy was there to be a mentor. It took up unnecessary time (probably why it was done) and was more about the mentor than it was about the mentee.
      Also, I’m holding with my original theory that for season 15 (not the current upcoming season but the following) AI is going to cut a deal and get all the original judges back. Fox will let everyone think that season 15 will be the final season (and it will especially be implied by having the original judges). They’ll see if that doesn’t get ratings back up and if it does, they’ll renew for yet another season. If not, they go out how they came in, with the old judges.

  13. Debbie Griffin says:

    Does this mean that Melinda is in the running for mentor??? That would be nice. I agree with Stacie’s comments that Harry Connick Jr would be great in that roll.

  14. Demper says:

    I thought it was revealed Randy was dead the whole time and the smoke monster was impersonating him last season?

  15. Ben says:

    Yo, dawg, I don’t know man. I mean, it’s just a’ight news to me.

    (Translation: How are we going to survive without Randy’s lucid, in depth, and on point critical analyses? Oh, that’s right. There weren’t any. Carry on, then.)

  16. Tran says:

    Time to end American Idol. It hasn’t been the same since the Randy, Paula and Simon days.

  17. Ginger Snap says:

    Shocker?

    How about it was long overdue.

  18. Liz says:

    Melinda – OMG!!! Thanks Michael, now I have no shoes to wear to work tomorrow!

  19. Alana says:

    even Taylor swift managed to give specific advice during her appearances on the voice! it really does seem like it is beneficial to the contestants. maybe LA Reid can come out of singing show retirement to take on the job? it certainly seems like it’d be up his alley with his vast experience, and he’s already got some name recognition thanks to the stars he’s made and his time on X factor.

  20. ME says:

    This article makes it seem like American Idol has flopped in recent years because of Randy, which is not true. Even though I have not been completely loyal to the show these past years, Randy was certainly not the reason I stopped watching. I loved Randy and he was a treasure to that show along with Simon Cowell…the rest of the judges they’ve had have been joke esp Nicki and Mariah – what a disaster that was. If anything Randy made the show more relevant during these past years. So IMO it is sad to see him leave and he will be missed.

    • Shawn says:

      In the original lineup of Randy, Paula, and Simon. Simon was the one judge that everyone wanted to hear from due to his honesty. Paula was of course the “nice” judge or the judge that was more prone to break it gently to the contestants if she didn’t like a performance. Randy however was Randy. He was just kind of there. The chemistry was more between Paula and Simon. Paula left after season 8 and Simon left after season 9. As the now lead judge Randy was now sitting in Simon’s seat and it was his turn to step up and he didn’t.
      Season 10 new judge JLo always had “goosies” and everything was “beautiful” to new judge Steven Tyler. Was Randy the one who kept it real and said what needed to be said? Was Randy the one who would say if a performance was not good? No he basically just said that everybody was “in it to win it” except for Haley who for some reason he was unfairly mean to. (I’m not a Haley fan by any stretch of the imagination she wasn’t even my favorite that season but she got treated like crap by Randy where others who probably needed some constructive criticism were “in it to win it”).
      Season 11 he was sort of there. And for seasons 10 and 11 I need to point out that the real critiques came from the in house mentor Jimmy Iovine who did give the critiques that should have been given at the judges panel and also Mr. Iovine’s comments were always aired on the results nights after the voting had taken place.
      Season 12 is the season of “Gendergate” “Lazaro Gate” and “Nikkigate” ect. Once again Randy was sharing the table with new judges. Was Randy the judge that kept it real while he was sitting inbetween two bubbleheads? Nope everything was “in it to win it” that season and he would get into an argument with guest mentor Harry Connick Jr. I admit that Keith Urban was trying to be a decent judge that season he just wasn’t the guy to take the lead at the table that judge would come in season 13. At the end of the season Randy announced that he’d be stepping down as a judge and we thought that would be the last we’d see of him but it was not to be so.
      Season 13 Randy is brought back to be the new in house mentor this time since Jimmy Iovine decided to step down from that post. Nobody was on the edge of their seat to see Randy again. When season 13 premiered there was talk of the new judging panel that consisted of returning judge from season 12 Keith Urban, returning judge from seasons 10 and 11 JLo and new judge Harry Connick, Jr the very man that Randy had gotten into a heated argument with the previous season. Once the live shows started and Randy had to start his new duties as mentor, Harry kept pointing out the disappointment in some of the performances(just look some of them up on youtube and you’ll see what I mean) as some front runners like Majesty Rose, and Sam Woolf weren’t doing too hot and were suddenly being overtaken by people like Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson. Randy made a comment on a results show that Harry was being too hard on the contestants but Harry responded with a bit of truth that first he was hired to be a judge and not a mentor and second if he were a mentor he’d be up with the contestants until 5 am working with them to get the best performance that he could out of them. A good part of the problem with the season 13 top 10 was the mentoring. When a lot of the people on the Voice who couldn’t get a chair to turn were sounding better than those that made the live shows on Idol then there was something wrong. Randy can’t be entirely blamed for that as the judges decided who made it to the live shows and not the mentor, but there was clearly a lack of mentoring in season 13 of Idol and a good mentor could have made a difference.
      So I am not sad to see Randy go.

      • Stacie says:

        Shawn that was a perfect description of Randy on Idol. His biggest time to step up was when Simon left and he was the lone remaining original judge. He didn’t. Yet got chance after chance. He blew them all. It took him 13 years to finally be “fired”, though they will say he resigned/quit/moving on. I give the many credit, because who can suck at a job pretty consistently for most parts of 13 years and still continue on and not get fired. That’s pretty darn impressive.

      • Mary says:

        Shawn I do agree with some of your statements but I do not think it is fair to blame Randy solely because he was a bad mentor. Half of those kids the judges or producers put through had no chance in H..l I don’t care who mentor them. Also I would bet my last dollar Harry would not have been with the contestants until 5 am. Do I think it is time for Randy to go, yes, but because his stick is getting old. He is not to blame why AI is failing. Personally I believe they lost many viewers the season of Mariah and Nikki. The old folks refused to watch Nikki wouldn’t even give her a chance, then the drama made it intolerable for the rest of us. I cannot hate on Randy when I hear several contestants praise him and say that He has helped them past there time on AI. No other judge has done that. As much as I love AI the show is old and I don’t think there is any going back for them. Season 15 should be the last season and go out with a bang. Bring back past contestants winners and losers not just who AI believes to be stars, Maybe the top 4 from each season. If possible bring back original judges,make it memorable as to why people loved AI in the first place.

      • Tom22 says:

        I never liked the judges including Simon. Simon at least would give a useful quip about 35% of the time but was generally unhelpful in nurturing talent.
        .
        Yeah. I guess the word “judge” means something other than “helping” but “judge” in my book would also including a numerical scoring in technically defined areas and a tabulation of an over all score. including presence, pitch, emotional connection, song choice and over-all impression weighted with those other five.
        .
        I don’t think Idol wants that kind of judge.. so what they do need is a panel of “commentators/advisers” … which they’ve sort of had but are working towards the more important second part of that combo.

        • safado says:

          A “panel if advisors” is what The Voice has now. Adam, Gwen, Pharrell and Blake do nothing but compliment the contestants, and it’s boring as hell–even though they can be funny.

  21. Shawn says:

    Darn I was looking forward to a season of “Yo dawgs” lol! No seriously this is the best news for Idol in a while. It was apparent that the last few seasons Randy was only there to collect a check nothing more.

  22. webly3 says:

    I still have faith in American Idol and I hope it will do better in ratings this year.

  23. RhondaC says:

    A revamping of the show is clearly needed as the rating have shown. They need someone who has been successful & clearly knows how to coach the contestants in all ways. Bring in someone with knowledge of music,stage performance & presence. Some past performers who have made successful careers since their time from Idol. There’s been 4 or 5 that’s been mentioned in the comments. I would love to suggest Adam Lambert who has all the qualities that this show needs. He’s successful & touring with Queen. What more do you need?

    • Lyn says:

      I could do without Harry Connick Jr. He’s kind of a prat. Talented, sure, but condescending in the extreme. Switch him out for Babyface, Jon Bon Jovi, Dianne Warren, John Legend or Adam Lambert.

      • Pam Smith says:

        I totally agree. I love Harry, but NOT as an AI judge!

      • Great choices. I have always thought Bon Jovi would be great. I guess simon tried to get him for x factor and bon jovi said no! John Legend would be great too! What is that guys name in train? He was a guest mentor one season on the voice. He was really, really good. i just looked it up Pat Monahan! He is funny, likeable and extremely smart!

  24. Et al says:

    Thank. God.

  25. Angie_Overrated says:

    Now that is how you sing At Last! I just got a chill down my spine watching that.
    It’s crazy to think that this was the quality of contestants the show used to get.

  26. aw says:

    I would like to see Gene Summons or Barry Manilow as mentors. They just know how to teach, mentor and coach. Their comments to the contestants are still memorable to me!

    • Lyn says:

      There’s a problem with Gene Simmons though. He’s a master at promotion for sure, but he’s a crap singer and musician. And he can’t put aside the fact that he started out as a teacher and feels he needs to “school” everyone. Love him as the demon in KISS, but he’d drag down the show. JMO

    • If we are going to go a rocker judge, how about NikKi Six. He is really damn good on his radio show “The Sixx Sense” and loves all types of music. He quit drugs and even quit smoking cigs! He is likable and smart! After all they had several rock judges on that “rock star” idol type show that was on! I think one of the judges was Tommy Lee!

  27. Brandy says:

    Please please bring in guest alumni mentors each week and maybe have them sit at the judges table. Remind viewers that idols can actually have post-show success.

  28. I actually really enjoyed your shout outs to last years cast…a year later the cast really doesn’t seem half as bad as they did during the show.

  29. Tom22 says:

    Well written and on point. Idol needs to find a way to incorporate more of the behind the scenes preparation work into the show but needs to do it their own way.
    .
    Iovine often with his friend Will.I.Am and also Tony Nix was seen giving specific advice to Scotty McCreery and Haley Reinhart and others in season 10. Down to the emphasis on the word “get’.
    .
    I’m more inclined to see a panel of 2 or 3 mentor’s that rotated through the contestants each getting a few of them each week (that would be different from “The Voice” … can’t do “coaches” ) AND.. I really think the JUDGES should also get some one on one time every other week to just teach the singers LESSONS .. not necessarily help with individual songs which they won’t have had enough time for.
    .
    I think maybe the Judges could give lessons based on the singers previous week’s performance . “remember I said this about it? try it like this.. let me hear you”. That way the “judges” could still be more impartial in judging comments on a specific peformance while having given coaching in general to correct things they hear each week.
    .
    Idol needs to embrace (or re-embrace?) that the goal is to make every single performance by every singer as good as possible and do all they can to imrpove each and everysingers abilities including having them work on rough spots, each week.
    .

    • Lyn says:

      Agreed. I’d add that they need to either fix the sound system or rein in the band which frequently overwhelms the singer. Sometimes it’s like watching a Hallmark movie when that infernal piano overplays the dialog. Enough with overproduction, just let the singer carry the song. A good vocalist doesn’t need bells and whistles.

  30. Cheryl Dixon says:

    Rather listen to Melinda than talk about Randy…

  31. Hayder B. Hayden says:

    This should make me happy, but instead I’m feeling “meh”. Randy should have been cut loose years ago. He hasn’t contributed anything useful since Dunkelman left. I think it’s too little too late. The last four or five seasons have driven me to the point where I just don’t care any more. I probably won’t even bother to watch this year. They’ve milked that cow for all they could, but she’s run dry. I predict this will be the final season.

  32. Terry says:

    Good riddance! Wish JHo was going with him!

  33. vistadiva says:

    Well, AI..you missed the boat. Adam Lambert is way too busy to be bothered. He’s fronting the Iconic Queen… Band Of The Year and about to release his 3rd solo album . Maybe he’ll consider doing a show or 2 for you, but he’s long past American Idol. Too Bad. He’s a ratings juggernaut.

  34. matty says:

    Long overdue! I hope they pick a replacement that is competent to mentor others.

  35. Inmypjs says:

    Taylor Swift was amazeballs as a mentor on the Voice. Idol should snatch him while she’s hot!

  36. Tracy says:

    AI should find mentors who have music industry experience but it should all be behind the scenes! Look at Simon Cowell; no one knew who he was when Idol started but he had an eye for talent and it showed! They need someone who can add value not someone who is worried about their public image!

  37. Tracy says:

    When AI ends they should do the final season with Randy, Paula and Simon as judges and Kelly Clarkson as the mentor! It would be a fitting end!

  38. Janet says:

    As much as I hate to say it, I think it’s probably time for American Idol to fade away. It really wasn’t bad last season, but not definitely not the quality it used to be. As for Randy being gone… love him, but it’s time. I’m guessing 2015 is AI’s final season. I’ve been a dedicated fan, and admit to not watching or having any interest in the Voice or any other talent-seeking shows. So I will miss American Idol.

  39. What wrecked season 13 was not Randy Jackson’s lack of good advice – it was the general dearth of talent and the endless pandering over “M.K.” who in fact sucked, but was fawned over constantly because she was “gay”. It’s just more of the endless agenda of the people who produce TV shows – they themselves are gay, and they are – consciously or not – doing everything they can to convince the 95% of us who are in fact normal, that same-sex couples and the like are “normal”. No – they’re not. 5% of the population is still 5% of the population, and i for one am sick and tired of having the LGBT agenda constantly shoved down my throat – pun intended.