Steven Tyler has seen it all. The famously loud and proud singer of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Aerosmith has experienced the highest highs of the music business, as well as the deepest depths of career (and personal) misery.
In other words, he’s perfectly qualified to be a judge on “American Idol.” Though his selection as part of the new three-judge panel on America’s favorite reality singing show was somewhat of a left-field surprise to his bandmates, the program’s fans and many critics, Tyler seems excited and enthusiastic about the gig as season 10 gets under way Wednesday night.
He recently admitted that he hadn’t really watched the show before because of his busy schedule with the Boston-bred hard rock icons (and, ahem, the occasional trip to rehab), but Tyler told The Daily Beast that he sees his “Idol” run as a new wrinkle in his four-decade-plus career.
“Television is just an extension of what I’ve always done,” he said. “I don’t think people have seen that Italian side of me, the side of me that can work a room like nobody’s business. It’s what I am. It’s something that people haven’t seen unless there was a party backstage after a show because that ominous person that’s out of his mind onstage is not the same guy that’s sitting in front of cameras.”
He’s been everywhere, seen everything and lived to tell about it. Clearly, if there’s anyone who knows what it takes to be a star — and to have enduring success — it’s Tyler. He formed Aerosmith in Boston in 1970, along with guitarist and longtime foil Joe Perry, winning over a loyal fanbase thanks to their white-hot, blues-drenched live sets and Tyler’s magnetic stage presence. The band signed with Columbia Records in 1972 and began an ultra-successful run that spanned the remainder of the decade, releasing classics albums like Toys in the Attic and Rocks, along with iconic singles like “Dream On,” “Same Old Song and Dance,” “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way.”
Long story short, the success led to excess and the band limped into the ’80s without Perry. A career resurgence in the late ’80s and early ’90s put Aerosmith back on top of their game with a new generation of radio-friendly hits and the bandmates’ newfound sobriety.
In the 2000s, Aerosmith were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and continued to tour and release albums. But in 2009, during an Aerosmith gig at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, Tyler fell off the stage into the crowd, leading to the cancellation of their summer tour and then a string of rumors that he’d left the band to pursue a solo career.
Yet, despite all of that, Aerosmith still hit the road again this past summer, with Tyler very much onboard after another stint in rehab. So, why, after one of the most successful runs in rock history, would the frontman head to “American Idol”?
Sirius satellite radio host Howard Stern asked his old friend that question on Tuesday morning (January 18), and Tyler said it made perfect sense to him.
“It was just taking something else other than Aerosmith, it doesn’t mean the band’s over,” said Tyler, 62, noting that last summer’s tour was one of the best he could remember, but that he needed a bit of a break to help him heal from his chronic foot condition. “I needed a rest for [my foot] and it was just something else I could get into. I wanted to see if this would be a good fit.”
Setting aside his belief that no one can really be a star without paying their dues in a million dingy clubs (though his wording was much more colorful on Stern’s show), Tyler said he realized it’s a new day in the music biz and, after whittling down 700 contestants to 20, he finally gets the show. “It’s something that I’ve never got into because I never caught the rhythm of the show. When you watch it, you kind of fall in love with this guy … there’s some people who sing their ass off.”
After seeing a couple dozen singers who blew him away, Tyler admitted that he’s looking for the whole package: vocals, songwriting ability and the originality that marks a star. “I just thought, ’What the f—? I get to sit next to J. Lo? … I’m looking for the [Janis] Joplin, the Christina Aguilera. Someone that’s not being Vocoded and trimmed and primped and done up. I’m looking for that natural person that can go in and sing … and the times that I found one, I teared up out there.”
As for whether the show will break up the band, which has endured epic battles with drugs, jealousy and managerial interference, Tyler said, simply, hell no. ” ’Idol’ ’s gonna take this band up 10 notches!” he promised.
Don’t miss our “American Idol” live stream “Judging the Judges: An ’Idol’ Without Simon,” featuring post-show analysis from Jim Cantiello and special guests, on MTV.com this Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET. Tweet your “Idol” commentary with the hashtag #IdolWithoutSimon and we could quote you on the show!
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page , where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.