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'American Idol' judges meet the press: Why their answers should (and shouldn't) worry us

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Image Credit: Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup/FoxIt was news to the cabbie who drove me to and from today’s American Idol press conference in Jersey City, NJ, that Simon Cowell had left the show.

“Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler — the guy from Aerosmith — are taking his place,” I told him.

“Really?

“Yup. What do you think of that?”

“I don’t know. I like her music and stuff. But I’ve never seen her do that, and I don’t know what her personality is like, you know? So I can’t judge.”

To be fair, none of us really can. And after the press’ first meet-and-greet with the new judges on the scene at Day Two of the New York-area callback auditions, the outlook is still a little cloudy, dawgs. This is why:

REASONS TO BE WORRIED:

Steven Tyler may already be channeling Ellen DeGeneres. “I take my cues from you,” Tyler replied to Jennifer Lopez when she asked what his judging style was. And that’s troubling. He needs to form his own opinions — and fast.

Randy Jackson appears to be taking on the de facto role of Head Dawg. Positions have shifted at the judge’s table, and Randy  now occupies the seat at the right-hand side of the screen. Yeah, the one that was previously occupied  by Simon. And though he was easily the most zingy and talkative person at today’s press conference, let’s hope all three judges get equal camera time when live telecasts begin. Unless the elder statesman of the judging panel brings his comments to a heretofore succinct (and more grammatically varied) level, does anyone really want him having the final word?

J.Lo doesn’t seem particularly excited to crush deluded contestants’ dreams. The decisions the judges are making now will have a big effect on the season as a whole, which is why Paula’s Lopez’s sweet nature has me worried that talented contestants with no performance ability will make it further than they deserve. “I don’t want anyone completely great to not go through because they’re nervous or whatever and not get to see what they could have been,” she said. “We work with them a little more, I think, than you’ve seen in the past, give them more of a chance.”

REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC:

Everybody loves a remix, right? Randy has previously used the term “remix” to describe what viewers should expect from season 10, but he actually got a chance to explain himself today, saying, “[The new judges] can put themselves in the kids’ shoes and say, ‘I know what it’s like, and I know what it’s going to take because I have actually done it, and I’m still doing it.'” Gross run-on sentence aside, could he be right? Are celebrities more fit to spot a future success? If you ask Jay-Z, yes. (He’s often credited for discovering Rihanna.) But for every Rihanna, there’s another celebrity protégé that falls by the wayside. For now, I’ll give our new judges the benefit of the doubt.

JLo is keeping it (meaning her expectations) real. Lopez said her favorite former Idol winner is Kelly Clarkson. If that’s the goal, then she’s clearly got her talent-hunting priorities straight.

The new judges’ panel isn’t ignoring style. Count me among the Idoloonies who say that contestants don’t have to be couture crazy to be vote-worthy, but after season 9’s complete and utter absence of fashion flair, a little effort to look nice would be appreciated. Between Tyler and Lopez, this could be the year that contestants are challenged to define their look. “That’s definitely part of the package if you’re going to be an artist. You have to have an image,” said Lopez. Testify!

Your turn, PopWatchers. Now that the season 10 judges are in place, and talking about their priorities, how are you feeling about the upcoming season?

For more: @EWSandraG on Twitter

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