Now that Dr. Luke has dropped out of American Idol, there's a vacant seat at the judges' table that's threatening to delay the upcoming 13th season of the popular singing competition. Keith Urban has already signed on again (snooze), and Jennifer Lopez is returning after a one-year hiatus (slightly better, but not much), with Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson officially becoming reality show roadkill. As producers scramble to find someone to fill the open slot before auditions begin next week, we're here to offer a few suggestions.
Yes, you heard us right. The departure of Cowell three seasons ago has left a glaring hole in the show. Mainly, there's been no voice of reason. No one you love to hate (though Nicki Minaj came close). And whether you like him or loathe him, you have to admit, Cowell made good TV – and, more importantly, he didn't mince words or pat people on the head and say, "good job," even after they gave an earsplitting performance. If a singer sucked, they knew they sucked. End of story. Think how different Season 12 might have been with Cowell on the panel – artists like Lazaro Arbos and Paul Jolley probably wouldn't have made it so far in the competition. Plus, unless some sort of miracle gets pulled off, we're guessing this season of The X Factor will be the last. So, it's a win-win for everyone involved.
Antonio "L.A." Reid
If Idol can't lure Cowell back, we'd be almost as happy with his X Factor counterpart, who follows the same curmudgeonly, no-nonsense approach to hitmaking. A straight-shooter with a knack for launching stars (see: Pink, Usher, Avril Lavigne), Reid could serve as both a fill-in for Cowell and for Randy Jackson, only he'd probably use "dawg" a whole lot less. Reid announced his departure from The X Factor after winning Season Two with country boy Tate Stevens, leaving him wide open for a new opportunity. The only downside is he's CEO of Epic Records, a division of Sony Music, and Universal Music owns the rights to all American Idol releases (which is reportedly the reason Dr. Luke dropped out).
Lambert's name has been kicking around for a couple of seasons now as a potential judge, and we're not quite sure why it hasn't happened yet. What better way to give the panel a shot in the arm than with someone who's experienced the competition from the other side? Think of the insight we'd get, not to mention the potential takeaways for contestants. Plus, he brings both pop and dance credibility to the table, and a youthful edge the panel sorely needs.
Speaking of Idol alums, Clarkson is one of the few women we could think of who probably wouldn't step on Lopez's delicate toes. (But chances are, considering how well the Lopez-Jackson-Steven Tyler triumvirate did – and the fact producers already baited Dr. Luke – the third panelist will probably be male, which is why our list skews heavily toward that gender.) Like Lambert, Clarkson would bring a new perspective to the panel, as well as appeal to younger viewers. And she's just so gosh-darn likeable; she even made that abysmal ABC singing competition Duets almost watchable. (Clarkson reportedly turned down the Idol gig a few months ago, but she could always have a change of heart.)
We'll never look at Lil Jon the same way again after his two stints on The Celebrity Apprentice – he proved to be a cool but smart cucumber with a sense of humor under pressure. Jon could add just the right amount of edge and "street cred" to the panel, especially if he drinks his Coke out of a custom pimp cup. And it would be incredibly funny if he just popped up behind Keith Urban once in a while yelling, "Yeah!" or "Whaaat?" OK, we kid. But Lil Jon would definitely inject some flavor into an otherwise vanilla panel.
OneRepublic's Tedder is a jack-of-all-trades: Singer, songwriter, producer and sometimes actor. So he'd certainly be one of the more well-rounded people to take a seat at the judges' table. (He's written and produced singles for everyone from Adele and Beyoncé to Kelly Clarkson and J.Lo, in addition to having hits like "Apologize" and "Secrets" with his own band.) But despite all of his success, he still hasn't reached "household name" status, something American Idol could provide.
A genius move, if we do say so. Osbourne would provide everything the show needs: major buzz, humor and quick-witted (although borderline unintelligible) wisdom. At 64, he'd be up there in terms of age, but his appeal has proven to be evergreen. And while he'd be a newbie to such a situation, he can get tips from his wife Sharon from her days as a panelist on America's Got Talent. Like Howard Stern on AGT, he's someone viewers would tune-in to specifically see, whether it be for nostalgia (like Tyler) or the pure spectacle and possibility that he could fly off the rails (insert "Crazy Train" joke here). Plus, having your performance called "rubbish" by Ozzy? Priceless.
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