The competition is closing in and the viewers are jumping ship, so "American Idol" was in desperate need of a change. Well, it got one, when Steven Tyler announced his exit Thursday and Jennifer Lopez hinted that she isn't far behind. That (possibly) leaves Randy Jackson to man the fort. Yikes.
So what now? MTV News hit up our favorite "American Idol" experts to get their thoughts on the exodus and see what can be done to get the O.G. singing competition back on track.
"In the spirit of Steven Tyler's 'American Idol' judging style, I think his departure is 'beautiful' and 'perfect,' " MTV News contributor and "Idol" superfan Jim Cantiello said, mocking Tyler's "everyone's awesome!" critiques. "I'm giving a standing ovation to the resignation, as well as Jennifer Lopez's hinted-at departure. And unlike the dozens of standing O's Tyler and Lopez handed out in their two seasons of 'Idol,' the one I'm giving is actually deserved.
"Lopez and Tyler — especially Tyler — were more 'cheerleaders' than judges," Cantiello continued. "The group-hug mentality hurt 'Idol' 's momentum, making the show feel like an endless three-month-long lovefest. There was a clear disconnect between what viewers were thinking and what the judges were saying. Regardless of whether a contestant's offering was brilliant or subpar, Tyler, Lopez and Jackson fawned over them like they had just witnessed Michael Jackson debut the Moonwalk. What used to be one of the best parts of the show — the drama of whether the industry experts deemed your favorite 'worthy' — had the suspense of a Pee Wee Soccer League where everyone received a trophy."
MJ Santilli of "Idol" fan site MJsBigBlog.com said what started out as a match made in heaven quickly devolved.
"Initially, the buzz around the hiring of Steven and Jennifer was fantastic for the show," Santilli said. "It generated curiosity. Viewers not only wanted to see what a post-Simon 'Idol' would be like, but they were interested in this new panel. Jennifer and Steven brought badly needed new energy to the audition and Hollywood phases of season 10, and they proved that 'Idol' could move on from Simon. But things went downhill after the live shows began. The new judges weren't quite as luminous in front of a live crowd. Randy was as lame as ever. And once the panel began pulling their punches, 'Idol' became boring.
"Over the hiatus, with no planned changes, therefore nothing to buzz about, coupled with the introduction of competitors like 'X Factor' and 'The Voice,' 'Idol' season 11 was poised to fail," she added. "Now, it's time to shake things up again before the start of season 12. 'Idol' is back to the place it found itself in after a disastrous season nine. Time for a brand-new panel to once again bring some badly needed buzz. If 'Idol' honchos choose the new panel wisely, they'll have viewers tuning in once again to see what happens."
But what should that new panel look like? Our experts are looking at Simon Cowell for inspiration, hoping for at least one judge who isn't afraid to express an opinion.
" 'Idol' producers need to figure out how to find big stars who have bigger opinions," Cantiello offered. "As the ratings slide of 'Idol' 's past season taught us, a marquee name will guarantee you some curious viewers at first, but the audience won't stay long unless your judges have something — anything — interesting to say."
Santilli also wants someone who speaks his or her mind, but that person doesn't need to be a household name. " 'Idol' needs to get someone on the panel who is not afraid to tell the truth," she said. "Simon Cowell was popular for a reason. Fans loved his bluntness, even as they complained about him. The trouble with a panel full of pop stars is that they're all selling product and are afraid to make people angry. Get a record executive on the panel who will tell it like it is. If 'Idol' honchos feel it's necessary to hire big stars for the panel, don't do it at the expense of the kids. The focus on the dreams and aspirations of the hopeful and 'Idol' 's ability to create true superstars are what has made 'Idol' a 12-year-old powerhouse. Don't lose sight of what has made 'Idol' an American institution."
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