In a move certain to delight fans of eloquent, carefully considered critique, but likely to shatter admirers of the adjective “beautiful,” Steven Tyler has announced his decision to exit the American Idol judges’ table.
Tyler’s announcement comes the same day that Jennifer Lopez hinted at her own Idol exit, during an appearance on NBC’s Today.
Tyler’s statement, as cheekily phrased and punctuated as it is, reads as follows:
After some long…hard…thoughts… I’ve decided it’s time for me to let go of my mistress American Idol before she boils my rabbit. I strayed from my first love, Aerosmith, and I’m back – but instead of begging on my hands and knees, I’ve got two fists in the air and I’m kicking the door open with my band. The next few years are going to be dedicated to kicking some serious ass – the ultimate in auditory takeover.
On Nov. 6, we are unleashing our new album, Music from Another Dimension on the Earth, Moon, Mars, and way beyond the stars.
Idol was over-the-top fun, and I loved every minute of it. Now it’s time to bring Rock Back. ERMAHGERD.
As an Idol fan who’s desperately missed Simon Cowell’s bracing unwillingness to sugarcoat his feedback when a performance is dreadful, or even Kara DioGuardi’s Season 9 penchant for trying to provide some actionable advice to wayward contestants, Tyler’s departure is fantastic news. Sure, he stumbled into a couple of chuckles during the audition rounds, but so did Gen. Larry Platt. And once the pressure of the live voting rounds began, Tyler could no longer hide his lack of insight — or, perhaps, his lack of interest in offering insight — under the cover of Nigel Lythgoe’s helpful editing. As such, Tyler’s exit should be viewed by Fox brass as a chance to invigorate the Idol judges’ panel with a person (or three) who won’t prompt audiences to heed the siren call of the ‘Mute’ button — or even worse, fast-forward the network’s main ratings juggernaut into a 20-minute viewing experience.
As the search for a replacement begins, here are five must-have characteristics that any applicant should be required to have:
HONESTY | The Idol audience isn’t stupid, nor is it deaf. Hearing the judges tell Season 10’s Jacob Lusk, for example, that he was “emotionally perfect” after using a butter knife to remove yet another a song’s vital organs made for a terrible viewing experience. Here’s hoping for a Season 12 panel that doesn’t leave viewers asking: “Is there something wrong with my audio feed? My ears? Or is there some strange reason these foolios are lie-telling?” Sometimes, brutal honesty is merely killing a delusion, not a dream.
INTEGRITY | We all know Uncle Nigel and His Evil Genius Minions have their agendas, and too often over the last few Idol seasons, the judges have felt less like invested observers/shapers of the proceedings, and more like mouthpieces for whatever demographically approved outcome the powers-that-be wanted to have. (Exhibit A: The repeated evisceration of Haley Reinhart.) Tyler’s replacement must have the courage of his or her convictions, the willingness to praise the best performances and criticize the worst — regardless of whether or not said performers are among the season’s “chosen” vocalists.
QUICK WIT | Hey, it’s a TV show, and the ability to spontaneously cook up clever critiques and funny asides certainly makes the 120-minute running time go by a little faster. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d settle for anybody with a dozen or more adjectives at his or her disposal. (Insert sound of pessimistic trombone here.)
CREDIBILITY | Some knowledge of music — singing, writing, producing, reviewing — is a must, including golden oldies, current hits, and everything in between. (Side note: A soothing woman’s voice just whispered into my subconscious, “the hits of the ’80s, ’90s, and today.” Close, chica, but no cigar.) And what’s more, if Idol band leader Ray Chew continues his trend of Tweeting each week’s set list several hours before the live show, then there’s no excuse for a judge ever again to utter the words “I don’t know that song.” Methinks anyone who lands the gig can afford $1.29 for an iTunes download.
A GENUINE INTEREST IN THE CONTESTANTS/THE OUTCOME/THE LONG-TERM HEALTH OF THE FRANCHISE | An Idol judging position shouldn’t merely be a forum to shill clothing/music/movies/fragrances/shiny objects. When the judges are clearly invested in the process, it makes everything — the contestants, the broadcast, sometimes even the voting — better.
And while we’re at it, here are three traits Tyler’s replacement need not be:
MALE | Is there a judging panel on TV — aside from Project Runway‘s — where lady judges outnumber dudes? Given Idol‘s difficulties in crowning a female winner the last five seasons, maybe an estrogen shot to the panel is just what the doctor ordered. Just please, no tired, mired-in-a-past-era sense that two women can’t get along, okay?
A TWEEN-MARKET FAVORITE | I’m sorry, but I’m still grappling with the idea of Demi Lovato at the X Factor table. There’s only so much this Oldie Olsen can handle in a TV season.
A HOUSEHOLD NAME | Consider the following folks: Linda Perry, Pharrell Williams, Ben Folds, Max Martin, and Sylvia Rhone. They might only be known by a fraction of the audience, but the same could’ve been said about Simon Cowell before Idol launched stateside in 2002. I have no clue if any of these folks would excel in a live TV setting, but it might be worth testing their skill sets. After all, remember that over the course of the five-months-a-year grind that is Idol, the ability to provide insightful, incisive feedback is infinitely more valuable than the ability to land on the cover of Us or Star magazine.
Idoloonies, what’s your reaction to Tyler’s exit? Good riddance to bad come-ons? Or will you miss the unique “flair” that he brought to the table? And let’s start brainstorming replacements in the comments!