This fall, NBC’s a cappella tournament The Sing-Off will be premiering earlier than usual — and, as the network announced at their upfront presentation today, it’s also being reworked into a full-blown reality series. But those aren’t the only major changes in store for The Sing-Off. Apparently, NBC is also in the process of adding a new judge to a panel that already includes piano virtuoso Ben Folds, Pussycat Doll (and soon-to-be X Factor co-host) Nicole Scherzinger, and boy-turned-man Shawn Stockman.
As a true Sing-Off fan — I’m so fond of the show that I don’t even feel guilty about how much I like it — I’m a little wary of this news. This competition’s judging panel is already unusually strong; though Nicole rarely has anything critical (or constructive to say), Ben and Shawn have both mastered the art of giving incisive critiques without coming across as unlikable. That’s so difficult to do that some singing contests have done away with useful criticism altogether. In order to prevent the level of criticism from slipping, then, NBC is going to have to find a new judge who knows a lot about music, is well-spoken, and isn’t afraid to say something negative. It couldn’t hurt for this judge to be female as well, since that’d split the panel evenly along gender lines. Oh, and since Shawn is all about R&B, Nicole knows pop, and Ben has the indie scene covered, New Judge should probably have a background in another musical genre altogether. Who could possibly fill all of these criteria?
Here’s one suggestion: Alanis Morissette. The jagged little Canadian is a songwriter as well as a singer, like Ben and Shawn. Her brand of alt-rock is fairly different from Mr. Folds’ piano rock. She’s clearly not afraid to get nasty if the occasion demands it. Plus, like recent reality converts Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera before her, Alanis was majorly famous in the ’90s and the ’00s but has faded from the public eye by now. Being a judge on The Sing-Off would thrust her back into the spotlight — which would be especially helpful since she’s reportedly releasing a new album in October of this year.
If Alanis isn’t available, maybe her fellow Canadian Sarah McLachlan or the more gentle Jewel would be interested in the gig. Or, if my wish list of new judge qualities is totally off-base, Jessica Simpson would be a pretty fun choice; I’d love to see her match wits with Sing-Off-host-slash-ex-husband Nick Lachey again. Finally, if NBC wants to take a risk by choosing someone who doesn’t have enormous mainstream name recognition, I’d like to suggest they go with Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of TV on the Radio. His band’s song “Ambulance” is one of the most beautiful, haunting pieces of a cappella music I’ve ever heard.
Your turn, PopWatchers: Who do you think would make a good Sing-Off judge?