New ‘American Idol’ Judges: What Does Jim Cantiello Think?

Today, the heavens parted and Nigel Lythgoe descended upon a Los Angeles press room to share with the world his plan for “American Idol” season 10. Or, as Randy Jackson kept calling it, “American Idol: The Remix.” (Yo, dawg, stop saying that. It’s lame with a capital NO.)

Yep, we have confirmed, new judges. (Nice to meet you Jennifer Lopez and the Madame puppet, I mean Steven Tyler.) But in a somewhat surprising twist, Nigel and Ken Warwick also announced a host of format changes that made “Idol” freaks giddy with excitement. And dread.

As is always the case with “Idol,” everything comes with a good and a bad. So here’s my take on all the announced changes, including the new judging panel.


The Judges
The good: Producers did a good job finding celebs who are crazy enough (and desperate enough) to take the gig. The problem with Ellen was that “Idol” was merely a side job for her. What else is Steven Tyler going to be doing on Tuesday and Wednesday nights next year now that he stopped drinking? (His frank discussion of a recent trip to Betty Ford made me drool with anticipation over what other “TMI” live-TV moments we can anticipate.) Plus, Jennifer Lopez isn’t afraid to show her emotions on camera. If she’s pissed, she’ll let you know. I can only imagine what will happen if a contestant talks back to her. [Grabs popcorn.]
The bad: Randy’s still there. If the original “Idol” panel was akin to the Three Stooges, Randy was Shemp. He has offered little-to-no helpful constructive criticism in his nine seasons on the show. Oddly enough, when I interviewed him, he was articulate and well-versed in the music industry. What gives, dawg? Perhaps he’ll step up and show that side of his personality now that he’s the OG on the panel. (Fingers crossed. Toes too.)

The Addition of an In-House Mentor
The good: An industry-vet in-house mentor might be just the voice to help guide the fresh-faced talent to superstardom. The judges only give the singers brief comments, and previous contestants only had vocal coaches to rely on. It’s difficult to transition from “winner of a glorified karaoke contest” to world-renowned pop star (true of everyone not named Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood). Having an industry heavyweight in your ear for 12-plus weeks has to help. (Hey, isn’t that what Simon Cowell’s “X Factor” is all about?)
The bad: The music industry is uglier than a three-headed goat. If Jimmy Iovine’s there to give his honest opinion on what it takes to become a top pop star, prepare to hear some sad-but-true “you need to lose weight” industry bons mots.

Theme Weeks Will Be Decades, Not Genres
The good: Contestants will be able to hone their craft without gimmicky reality-show twists. Fans won’t feel like their fave got eliminated because they were simply out of their element on an oddball theme week.
The bad: More often than not, it was fun seeing how well the singers adapted to curve balls. Remember how cool Kris Allen seemed when he turned a disco song into a frat-guy acoustic jam? Or what about Kelly Clarkson’s next-level big-band performance of “Stuff Like That There”? Without that inherent “how the hell will Adam Lambert sing a country song?” suspense, what extra incentive do viewers have to tune in live?

The good: As the press conference panel reiterated today, change is good and necessary. Simon’s exit stings, so giving the entire franchise a makeover minimizes the fallout. We’re a baby who just toppled over and producers are our parents, shaking shiny keys in our faces to distract us. “Don’t pay attention to your bleeding knee. Look! Jimmy Iovine’s here!” Not to mention that “Idol” is entering its 10th cycle, coming off a season that lost a lot of eyeballs. They needed to do something — anything — to jazz it up.
The bad: Are they changing too much too soon? Nigel Lythgoe revamped “So You Think You Can Dance” this summer and lost a massive audience. (He’s even said on record that his changes were too extreme.) One has to wonder if he’s repeating the same mistakes.

What do you think of the “Idol” reboot? Will you watch without Simon? Are you pro- or anti- the new judges? And do you think producers will butt heads with the music-industry experts now on the “Idol” payroll? Sound off in the comments below! And if you’re digging my words and my videos, you best be following me on Twitter @jambajim.