If you have been online for a long time Friday, then you have probably already heard some of the news — Randy Jackson is looking to step down from his role as “American Idol” judge, and become more of a mentor instead for the new season similar to the role Jimmy Iovine has played in the past. With that, we now have at least two positions open alongside Mariah Carey on the new panel, and probably three given the rumored desire for the show to return to the lineup it last had during seasons 8 and 9.
First things first, let’s get two things out of the way:
-One of these judges will almost surely be Nicki Minaj. She has done just about everything but sign on the dotted line, and her presence will be great to boost the show with the hip-hop community as well as to attract young people in the much-coveted 18-49 demographic.
-There will also be a country star (probably Keith Urban) designed to appeal to middle America and the sort of contestants that the show is accustomed to getting. Is he the best choice? We would have preferred Brad Paisley, but Keith is a good guy and a bit of a money-saver for the show given that they have already spent $26 million in between Carey and Minaj.
Now, we turn to the final position. We know that Enrique Iglesias has been rumored to be the favorite for the spot, and that Nick Jonas is another name that has circulated. TMZ is claiming that both Diddy and Kanye West are out as possibilities, but one name still at least in part remains — Adam Lambert. He’s sort of fallen off the rumor mill since being one of the first people to join it earlier this summer … but yet, he may be the right person still for the job. Why? It’s really a combination of a number of factors.
1. Continuing the brand – We know that there are going to be those who accuse us of pandering with this article, so we want to take that on right away. If Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood were the “American Idol” alum being rumored, we’d be advocating them in the same way. Why? Because with the massive turnaround with the judges’ panel, you need something more than just mercenary judges who have made a name for themselves somewhere else. You need an artist who viewers will identify with the brand — and although Adam has done plenty to distance his career from the show, it is still the reason that so many of us know he exists.
In our mind, the reason Randy was around for so long is because they wanted to make sure the show still screamed “American Idol.” Adam can fill that role, and would do so in a way that still pushes it forward.
2. Experience – It’s great to have a successful artist on the judges’ panel — but it’s even better to have someone who has been through this experience before and knows what it takes to be succeed. We’re not just talking about the performances, but what the contestants need to do in order to best prepare themselves for their brief moment on stage. It would immediately give contestants a judge who was sympathetic, but could also call them out on being complacent if they were just doing a karaoke arrangement of “Superstition.”
3. Honesty – After the bore-fest that was last year’s judging panel, you need someone who will actually say a performance is not good — and then explain why. Adam would not be the next Simon Cowell, but his mentoring session back in season 9 showed that he is great at working with contestants and telling them what works in a kind, respectful manner.
4. Entertainment – Fashion-wise, Nicki needs a partner-in-crime — and also someone willing to have plenty of fun. Adam has already given some of the most impressive performances in the history of the show, and he would be more of a known commodity in the world of reality TV than even Enrique.
5. Diversity – While it would be cool for “American Idol” to have its first full time judge who is GLBT, what we are really talking about here is musical diversity. While Mariah and Nicki have some pop leanings, they also work well within R&B and rap. The country judge will obviously know county, and Adam would cover some other bases — in particular the worlds of rock music and dance.
We don’t really need to fight the battles for a fan base that is already campaigning heavily for this to happen, but the final reason really that Adam should become the judge is simple — he wants the job. We know that no final decision has been made on this spot yet, but expect one soon — the auditions start filming with the judges in a number of weeks, and you have to believe that Nigel Lythgoe would at least want to get this assembled in enough time to build chemistry.
Do you think that Adam really is the best judge out of the remaining candidates? While we will be watching the show regardless, the important thing to remember for “American Idol” moving forward is that it has to still be “American Idol.” It’s great to incorporate some new faces, but you also have to keep a certain part of it in the family.
Photo: RCA Press / Lee Cherry