Jennifer Lopez on 'American Idol': Why she needs to be the new Simon Cowell

Simon-Cowell-Jennifer-LopezImage Credit: Michael Tran/; Jamie McCarthy/“Concentrate on the moment and just live,” declared Jennifer Lopez, looking out on a crowd of American Idol wannabes, moments after Ryan Seacrest announced the “Get Right” singer would be part of the show’s season 10 judging panel at a press conference in Los Angeles earlier today. To which I say, “Oh. No.”

Yeah, I realize you can’t judge a judge on a seven-word sound bite, but J.Lo’s new-agey, everyone-gets-a-gold-star first impression left me wondering if she understands the role she should be playing as Fox’s venerable-but-vulnerable ratings powerhouse enters the post-Simon Cowell era. (“I believe in tough love, but I don’t think I can ever be cruel to another artist. There are definitely better ways to say things,” Lopez later told reporters; read my colleague Lynette Rice’s rundown of the proceedings here.)

As we learned from Ellen DeGeneres’ disastrous stint on Idol last season, it can be tough for a well-established, well-liked celebrity (especially one with an active career) to sit down at the judges’ table and give negative feedback to contestants. “It was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings,” Ellen said when announcing her exit from the show in late July. Perhaps even harder, though, was the idea that viewers might not absolve her of the “sin” of crushing the dreams of so many wannabe music stars in front of 20 million viewers.

But in the words of Kara DioGuardi, “Here’s the thing”: In the Idolverse, it’s not only okay to be unflinchingly tough and brutally honest, it’s absolutely necessary. And that’s why I always laughed when Idol producers referred to Ellen as “the voice of the people.” Didn’t they realize they already had Cowell fulfilling that role? “The People” don’t sit around at home and say “Oh, Andrew Garcia’s version of ‘Hound Dog’ was pleasant enough!” They hurl throw-pillows at the television and say “That dude sounds like he’s getting his limbs ripped off by farm equipment!”*

So J.Lo, if you’re reading this — or if one of your minions is reading this, and would be kind enough to forward it to you — please head into Idol‘s audition rounds knowing that there’s nothing “mean” about telling a kid he’s never going to make a living as a singer. Look, just because I baked a pie for my family’s Labor Day picnic and everyone told me they loved it doesn’t mean I should quit my day job and open a pastry shop. Chances are, I’d be out on the streets by New Year’s. The same can be said for Idol contestants: Someone has to do the hard work of detonating their wayward dreams — or rather, their delusions. Otherwise, they’re gonna wind up homeless!

Yes, Jennifer Lopez, every time you give tough feedback, you are saving a child from the streets!

We already know Randy Jackson is not the man for the job. (After nine seasons, he can barely get out of the way of his own “for me, for yous” to step up and be “the Simon.”) And based on his loopy, hippy public persona, Steven Tyler is going to end up being “the Paula.” (“I wanted to bring some rock to this roller coaster!” he told the crowd today, signifying his willingness to use his words for the power of nonsense.) True, Idol is bringing in music exec Jimmy Iovine as a permanent mentor who’ll run the singers through their paces, but during the live shows, someone on the judges’ panel has to be willing to keep it real. And so I’ll repeat a lyric from “Jenny From the Block”:

Love my life and my public
Put God first
Then can’t forget to stay real
To me it’s like breathing

Jennifer, I won’t be fooled by the rocks that you got, whenever you start doubting whether you can or should be the tough judge, remember those words. If that doesn’t work, pretend you’re required to invest $1 million of your own money in the eventual winner’s post-Idol career.

What do you think, Idoloonies? Can J.Lo be the Simon? Should she even try? And how are you feeling about the Randy-Jennifer-Steven panel? Sound off below, and for all my Idol news and commentary, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak!

* A paraphrase of my all-time favorite Idolatry put down from the esteemed Kristen Baldwin

Comments (162 total) Add your comment
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  • detroitrocks

    there can be no “new simon” but j.lo is bitchy enough to be the voice of reason. she’ll have to dish out the critique or else people will be tuning out of a.i. by the millions.

    • LOL

      Do you really want people to call her a diva even more? She can be honest, but Simon? I don’t think anyone could pull off Simon. You have to be very smart to get away with that…because if you screw up-then it just turns out wrong. She could be honest like Mary J Blige was, but not Simon.

      • LOL

        By the way…my comment was to the website writer, not to Larry or anyone else.

      • yep

        @LOL-I think the website writer does want more people to end up calling JLo a diva in the future. He’s probably mad that Kara is gone so he wants JLo to be gone too. Don’t do it JLo. You can’t pull off a Simon because that is impossible.

    • steve

      That’s so strange… I though you had to have talent to judge the talent of others. J-Lo can’t act and can’t sing without the help of voice synthesizers. Go figure…

      • WTF?

        Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t sing, judge Idol.

      • B-

        Simon couldn’t sing either.

      • Tay

        … um … Paula was a judge for 8 years. So the answer to your question is no.

      • meeee

        LMAO.. dude who can really sing now a days! nobody really sings… most singers use that box thing to sound their voice… and i like J.lo she’ll be cool shes pretty bitchy can have a bad attitude at times shes beat up on her stylist before… soo im sure she’ll do just fine>>> :P

      • soooo funny

        LMAO^^^^ I love you meeee!!!! You crack me up :)

    • oh wow

      Oh brother now he’s talking like Kara too. lol the guy is heart broken!

    • Musica

      The judges should be very honest and very helpful-BUT-I don’t think they should try to be at Simon’s personality level. He did it his way and he was good at it, but anyone that tries to be him will end up making a fool out of themselves. Yes I think they should be mean and sarcastic, but not at the level that Simon is on. Maybe someone like a record producer could kind of pull it off, but a star NO WAY because they will probably end up getting hated by their fans for looking stupid for trying.

    • Jersey Jeff

      I miss Kristen Baldwin, she would have made a great Judge.

  • Andrew

    J-Lo could never be honest like Simon. She thought that Sanjaya was incredibly talented while she was a mentor on season six and he could barely sing a note.

    • MoTown Gal

      OMG…that’s right! Wer’e doomed

      • Uh

        Compared to Lee Dewyze, Sanjaya was brilliant.

      • tofstl

        You got that right. At least Sanjaya had a personality.

      • OUCH

        Burn!!!!!!!!! I guess ya since Sanjaya did a better job on knowing how to smile. ;)

    • B-

      And she helped him sing his only good performance of that season.

      • kahuna

        I just posted the same thing. Sanjaya did a very good job with Besame Mucho. Maybe thanks to J-Lo? If she could pull that performance out of Sanjaya, she’s surely a magician.

    • BA

      I thought she barely held back contempt for Sanjaya. In her interview I remember her looking skeptical and saying “we’ll see” or something like that. Then he went on to give a good performance of Bessame Mucho and I remember people giving JLo credit for it. Does anyone else remember it this way? I think this bodes well for AI, I really do.

  • lala

    I hope she can be critical and honest. Even with Simon, there was too much nonsense spewing from the panel. I can’t imagine sitting through even half a season if everyone is Ellen Degeneres.

  • Jonathan

    It could be worse…I still wish Harry Connick, Jr. had signed on to replace Randy or instead of Steven but whatever, I’ll still watch cuz it’s about the talent, not the judges.

    • MoTown Gal

      It could be worse? How?

      • yep

        @Mo…Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, Flava Flav, Ozzy-that’s how! Get a clue Mo!

    • davey

      “…cuz it’s about the talent, not the judges”…Really…when did it start becoming about the “talent” and NOT the judges?

      • @yep

        You joke. But wait a couple years. That WILL be their line-up of judges. They’re headed in that direction.

      • tofstl

        The new season is suppose to be about the contestants will see.

      • Jamie

        Sorry, you don’t hire J-Lo and Steven Tyler in an attempt to make it “about the talent”. #LAME I am officially out of the Idoloonie bin.

  • dj

    This season will be a grand and glorious trainwreck and the final season of a show that jumped the shark years ago.

    • ES


  • Vicky

    I’m afraid Idols days are numbered. I want to see some “Simon” critiques from somebody!

  • Tina

    I think J. Lo can do it….She will add a flare that no one else can. You go J. Lo!

    • asmiralda

      @Tina, really????? I doubt it!!!! One thing for sure, I’m not going to watch AI this coming season.

    • Topper

      I really want to believe she can do it. BUT when the crowd starts to booooo, I don’t think there’s an entertainer in the world who can stand up to that. Their job is to make the crowd happy. Going against the tide is something a strong-willed, nasty A&R guy with a huge ego and sense of righteousness could pull off. They should have looked for a behind the scenes person. No entertainer can stand to be booed, even if it means they’ll be loved later on. So I think we viewers will drown in mealy mouthed euphemisms and silly talk. BUT thank God there are only 3. Maybe it can be about the contestants this season, but that’s probably unlikely with the incredible egos involved.

    • kahuna

      I agree. I’m pulling for her. Plus, she’s gorgeous and will cancel out the crypt-keeper looks of S. Tyler.

  • Frances

    Why is everyone insisting we need another Simon? Simon was Simon, no one will ever live up to that and they shouldn’t try.

    • elr

      I agree and sometimes what Simon said needed to be taken with a grain of salt, especially if he didn’t like the genre or if the contestant sang a song he didn’t like.

    • daisyj

      We don’t really need “another Simon” (especially toward the end, his critiques tended to be self-serving and off point instead of helpful), but without someone who is willing to say, “that was terrible and here’s why” the good singers aren’t going to be able to course-correct and the bad ones are going to skate through on sympathy and false compliments. Plus, it’ll be boring.

  • Tara

    Get over it Slezak. You’re mad because they got rid of Kara. You’ve really lost touch with Idoloonie reality if you thought she should stick around. She single handedly destroyed Idol for me. I’m willing to give Jlo a shot, should be interesting.

    • davey

      Whether you want to believe it or not – Kara WAS the voice of reason last season. She was the only member of that judges panel who tried to help the contestants and give them some sort of critique to improve.

      • jen

        Last season had NO reason at all! Kara said words but none of them helped the contestants, in trying to help them all she did was tell them what SHE thought they should be doing or what SHE thought they should be. She wouldn’t like anyone unless she molded them herself like that one dude they bought on the show that Kara had “created”

      • cookie love

        Kara ruined Siobhan’s chances. Her continual unfair criticism of last season’s best talent is not one I can forget.

      • kahuna

        Tried to help the contestants. Really? By encouraging that awful scream of Siobhan week after week?? Or maybe by never calling Lee out for his out of tune renderings. Or maybe by critizing Crystal and Katie for not singing the styles SHE WANTED them to sing. I don’t think she did a good job at all. She followed the script just like the rest of them.

      • @cookie love

        Excuse me, sweetheart, but Simon and Randy were not big on Sioban either…in fact, no one I know thought she was anything more than a “character.” We don’t need any more of those.

      • Kim

        Kara was all about her self, it got old fast….blah blah blah! She sounded like a broken record…

      • tatar69x

        On Siobhan Magnus – Kara DID NOT help her. Magnus was a teen when she started with a background in amateur stage and some part-time metal-alt rock singing. But she was not yet “together” as an artist. Rather than help her get better, Dioguardi undercut her and encouraged Magnus to overuse the wailing.
        Cowell was mostly phoning it in, self-serving and only cared that Crystal and his pet Lee got in the Final.
        Jackson was still the only honest judge…extremely positive on the potential of Bowersox, Magnus, Katie Stevens, and Casey.
        As for Magnus – word from Usher, Keyes, two Broadway producers is Siobhan is a very appealing, unique gem in the rough that may have the whole package and one day be a significant artist. But who needs development.

      • 100% AGREE

        LMAO…Kara said the most craziest crap! I don’t know what she was thinking…but there is no way that Katie’s voice was R&B. Pop and some other genres yes.

  • anibundel

    So do we think that Iovine is up to the Tim Gunn role? I think that should be the real question.

  • kevcogator

    J.Lo cannot be Simon. But she is a good pick for the panel. The flaw in the ointment is either Steven Perry or Randy Jackson. And since I don’t wanna put my dawg on the street – I have to say Mr. Tyler is the true miscue. They should’ve gone with a prominent music producer who is less known to the public. Cred and the ability to crush errant dreams.

    • coalby

      I’ll second that, although I assume you mean Steven Tyler. He’ll be entertaining to watch, and I like him as an artist, but as a judge, forget it….can’t take him seriously. Maybe he’ll surprise me.

    • Rhi

      I agree…They should have gone with someone like L.A. or Tommy Mottola. When people are judging this it really should be like “Would I invest the money and my time on you? Here is why or why not.”

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    AI is just going to be a shadow of a shadow of it’s former self, no one can replace Simon

  • B

    I’m very turned off by the addition of Steven Tyler. Why on earth did they go with him?

    • Tarzan Clarkson

      Because he’s a rock legend with personality.

      • Really

        If you think a spaced out addict is personality, then there is no hope for the contestants. It should be a real interesting season. Unfortunately I think it might be end, but I will give it a shot. I just think the show will be about the judges still instead of the contestants, time will tell.

    • Rhi

      Because the man has been around since the day the first guitar was carved lol.

    • daisyj

      Because he’s the most famous person who would return their calls.

      • Uh

        Steven Tyler is an ego on legs who will make JLO seem humble by comparison. God, I hope he only has a one year contract.

  • Kristin

    I think Kara would have been a better Simon than any of the 3 judges that are now sitting on their undeserved panel. What’s going to happen after this season when they realized they didn’t pick the judges they should have (Harry Conick Jr. etc.) and went with the obvious celebrity. Are we going to have a new panel of judges once everyone realizes this one is not worth of this television show (and DEFINITELY NOT WORTH enough to fill Simon’s shoes)

    • Margaret

      I completely agree. Kara was well on her way to developing the smart, no-nonsense commentary that Simon was so great at. I guess people didn’t like her but she did know what she was talking about most of the time. Now the panel is a joke.

  • Brooke

    If they wanted someone to be supremely bitchy, they might as well have gone with Katy Perry.

    • Deedee

      Hahaha! Agree…


      i agree. why not katy perry. she would have been a great addition to Ai.

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