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Who should judge 'American Idol'?

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We all should, really, for being so LAME. As rumored this week, Idol may shake up its entire judging panel next season in an effort to boost ratings. It’s getting beaten in the adult demo by repeats of The Big Bang Theory and a fresh-from-the-swamp ep of Duck Dynasty. Oof. Does the show even matter anymore? It’s, like, way existential.

Go right to Page 2 for our list of potential new judges, and suggest your own! I need to rant for a bit below.

Now, I am by no means a fan of this current low-chemistry judging panel. Keith Urban seems genuine, kind, and often excited to be there. He squirms in his seat and delivers pained facial expressions along with “unnnnhhh” grunts whenever he’s delighted by a performance. He seems awake and alive! He’s smart about music, and I believe him when he talks.

Not so with all three of the others. Randy Jackson hasn’t uttered an original thought in years. Mariah Carey often has some great technical music suggestions for the contestants, but they get buried under 90 seconds of rambling, 11 uses of the word “I,” and an insistence on not hurting anyone’s feelings.

I know many people enjoy Nicki Minaj’s bold opinions and the possessed energy she brings to the panel. And yes — a lot of times she’ll say the obvious, honest thing we want to hear when people mess up. That’s refreshing. It’s just that every single damn word out of her mouth strikes me as completely fake. She cycles through her own personalities even more often than she switches wigs. She’s a colorful, often convincing cloud of artifice doing what she does best: play-acting the role of Clown Car.

If you asked me what was most wrong with the show, though, I wouldn’t point to a judge. Season 12’s dated/limited songbooks and weak themes continue to disappoint. The casting was overall weak and obvious. Ryan could have just announced at the top of each show, “Welcome back. We picked these really boring guys (pleeeeeeease find them as boring as Ken and Nigel do!) and these amazing and powerful girls, and you will vote for the girls because America loves superheroes! This week’s theme is Songs We Found in a Dumpster Outside The Price Is Right in the ’70s!” At least he’d be keeping it honest.

But no, the biggest problem for me is that the agendas of producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick are so clearly and lazily filtered through these current judges! And why do they let that happen? Because they’re getting paid millions and millions of dollars to sit there and not be invested in the show! It’s The X Factor all over again. There’s just no soul.

Nicki and Randy in particular were the emptiest vessels this week, spouting out new, imaginary plots about Candice Glover and Kree Harrison needing “redemption” by the second round, Angie Miller as the undisputed winner of the night, and Amber Holcomb as the most “current,” “ready,” and “now” “superstar” of the pack after she sang corny disco song “MacArthur Park.” Earlier she’d stood still on a smoky purple staircase hitting some high notes and very few low notes on Celine Dion’s “Power of Love” and they hailed her as a “young Rihanna.” For THAT!

As I said in my recap, Wednesday’s was the most manipulative episode of the season (count the lies!). Now that the producers have their guaranteed girl winner, the next step is to make sure it’ll be one of the skinny ones. And these judges just GO WITH IT!  You can practically hear the producers furiously whispering their course-correction plots. Candice is old-fashioned and won’t come out of the church. Kree has lost her sparkle. Angie is the best now because we say so. Nicki, you want to be Amber’s best friend. Say it. Say it now. Say it five different ways so even our dumbest viewers will get it.

I say as long as the same producers are in charge, the blatantly orchestrated vibe of American Idol (and The X Factor too) is never gonna go away, no matter who the judges are. This show used to be about who was the most exciting contestant on the stage, on this TV show, here and now. (That’s Candice.) It’s turned into a strange pageant where the performances seem negligible because the judges spend all their time forecasting a contestant’s commercial marketability — read: BLOWING SMOKE — instead of critiquing what they just saw. The judges are plot-puppets programmed to equate pink lipstick with personality and leather hotpants with talent. It’s not working.

But the point of this post was supposed to be about coming up with new judges. So let’s do that!

NEXT PAGE: Who should judge?