Is American Idol Better Than Ever With Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez?

When Simon Cowell announced that he was leaving American Idol, it seemed like the show had finally run its course.  As much as people watched the show for the competition and to discover new singers, many tuned in just to hear what Cowell would say.

I thought that American Idol moving forward without Cowell would be like the band Daughtry going on tour with a singer other than Chris Daughtry.  After watching the first two episodes, I must admit that I was wrong.

I also thought that the show had nowhere to go but down after the season featuring Adam Lambert, whose vocal performances left jaws dropping in awe.  Even though he ended up as the controversial runner-up, Lambert will be the one that people remember from the eighth season of American Idol for years to come.

No singer was going to come close to what Lambert delivered, but last season should have been appealing because it was Cowell’s last one as a judge.  It was not!

Every season without fail, when the top 12 contestants are decided, the judges deliver the cliché sound bite…“This is the best top 12 that we have ever had!” Last season those empty words rang especially hollow.  If it was not in their contract to say so, then the judges were either incapable of judging talent or they were flat-out lying when they made that proclamation.

Even the most casual American Idol viewer knew that last year’s top 12 was not as good as the season with Lambert.  Cowell knew it, but couldn’t say it, and it showed in his judging.  When the season began he just seemed bitter.  He had always been the most direct, and sometimes harsh, which caused him to be thought of as the “mean” judge, but he would deliver his barbs with such wit that you couldn’t help but be entertained.

It’s hard to say what caused the change in Cowell.  Perhaps his mind was already on his new venture, or perhaps he knew that Lambert had set the bar so high that the show had hit its peak.  Whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is that he was no longer entertaining to watch.  And with mediocre talent hitting the stage each week, there was really no reason to tune in.

When all of the rumors started floating about who was going to replace Cowell, the most ridiculous one seemed to be Steven Tyler.  After all, why would one of the most legendary singers in rock and roll history want to take a huge chance at hurting his credibility with his fans by being a part of show which features singers who couldn’t hold a candle to him?

Another name floating around to become a judge was Jennifer Lopez, which was only slightly less surprising than Tyler.  After all, Lopez was already a tremendous success as a singer, dancer and actress.  However, because she is known as a pop artist, she didn’t face the same credibility issues as Tyler.

When Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi “quit” the show, it opened the door for both Tyler and Lopez to join Randy Jackson on the new judging panel.  DeGeneres and DioGuardi were never a very good fit, and without Cowell, the producers of American Idol couldn’t possibly go on with such a lackluster panel of judges.  They had no choice but to add judges who would immediately intrigue the viewing audience.

With a healthy dose of curiosity and skepticism, I tuned in to watch the first two episodes of American Idol.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the producers may have just saved the show with Tyler and Lopez, who are both interesting to watch and offer a breath of fresh air into the judging of the contestants.  Truth be told, things had become very stale with the same cast of characters doing the same thing year after year.

It didn’t take long for Tyler to make his mark.  After a laid-back, deep-voiced kid sang a country song, Tyler said…“Well hellfire save matches, f**k a duck and see what hatches!”

Randy Jackson shrieked…“What are we doing here? Yo man!”

Tyler innocently looked at Jackson and quizzically replied…“What, I’m not allowed to say that?”

The moment was reminiscent of George Constanza’s classic Seinfeld moment when he slept with the cleaning lady on the desk in his office, and when called out by his boss for the act, innocently replied…

“Was that wrong?  Should I not have done that?  I tell ya, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon…”

Like Constanza, who never seemed to learn his lesson on Seinfeld, Tyler continued to make statements that make you laugh out loud and sometimes cringe a little bit.

For example, when Victoria Huggins, a sugary-sweet, diminutive 16-year old from North Carolina (with a voice much bigger than her stature) finished performing “Midnight Train to Georgia,” Lopez emphatically stated “It’s a yes for me!  And I love the skirt.”

With an almost sinister look on his face and in his voice, Tyler creepily said “Oh yeah, just the right amount showing, that’s nice.”

A shocked Randy Jackson leaned back in his chair laughing, while looking up to the ceiling with his arms in the air, and bellowed… “Oh my God, what is this show?”

As much as Tyler may shock Jackson, he does it in a good way.

When Cowell was around, Jackson never seemed to be fully at ease.  He would try too hard to inject fake ghetto slang into every comment.  That might work for some, but when you consider that Jackson has played with acts such as Journey, Whitesnake, Stryper and the Charlie Daniels Band (to name a few), the “yo dawgs” seem a bit contrived.

It’s early in the season, and Jackson’s fake ghetto slang may very well return, but for the moment, it seems as though the fun that he’s having with Tyler and Lopez has allowed him to be much more relaxed and a better judge than he has ever been before.

Lopez has masterfully taken on the Paula Abdul role as the sweet one, but does so in a much more lucid way.  She is nice without being over the top, and though she has a hard time being critical, she has managed to do so in a gentle way.  People who loved the constant bewilderment that Abdul brought to the table may not find as much appeal in Lopez, but in my opinion, she is a definite improvement.  And though Lopez is a huge star, she still possesses a humble attitude that makes her very likeable.

When Jovany Barreto, a 23-year old Cuban ship builder from Louisiana, finished singing an impressive song in Spanish, he addressed the judges.  He told Steven and Randy that they were “the bomb,” and then went on to say the following to Lopez…“Jennifer, I have been watching you since I was a little kid, and you’re a goddess in my eyes.  Keep being who you are.  You’re an inspiration to all of us.” A visibly choked-up Lopez complimented him on his performance.

Once Barreto found out that he was going to Hollywood, he kept the promise that he made to his fellow ship builders and took off his shirt to show Lopez his abs.  Before he could get his shirt off, Jackson prompted Tyler to go up on stage so that they could all show their abs together.  Lopez tried in vain to stop them, but Jackson and Tyler were undeterred by her pleas.  She ended up getting more of show than she wanted, but it was all in good fun.

Based on the first two episodes of the season, it seems that there will a lot of laughs this year with the class clown, Steven Tyler, leading the way.  His lack of boundaries and disregard for social graces may very well make this the best season of American Idol yet (regardless of who the contestants are).

Who else would have thought to ask Randy Jackson’s high school football coach if he ever “paddled his ass?”

Simon Cowell was funny and inappropriate at times, but it’s doubtful that he would have ever playfully entered the building wearing a tiny hat like Tyler, turned around, looked at the camera and said…“You know what they say about a little hat…it’s good for a little head!”

Like a great athlete who elevates his teammates to another level, Steven Tyler has already made Randy Jackson better and his presence will make it easy for Jennifer Lopez to shine.  As unlikely as it may seem, American Idol may end up being more entertaining than ever with Tyler leading the way.



Posted on January 26, 2011, in American Idol and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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