Over the weekend American Idol, struggling to remain relevant in the face of the televised singing-competition series it spawned like The Voice and X Factor, announced its final judges' panel for the upcoming 12th season that begins in January. According to Entertainment Weekly, joining the previously announced Mariah Carey and lone original holdover Randy Jackson -- in the place of Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler -- are flamboyant rapper Nicki Minaj, reported to be pulling down about $8 million, and country superstar Keith Urban, a relative steal at $4 million.
The announcement was enough for someone like Rocks Off, who lost almost all interest in the show sometime after Carrie Underwood won in 2005, to perk up one eyebrow. Minaj seems like a no-brainer - she's young, has a wardrobe like Phyllis Diller meets Lil' Kim, and will surely have the Fox censors with their hands on the delay button.
Urban, though, seems like a dud. We love "You'll Think of Me" and even his recent single "Long Hot Summer," but personality-wise... well, we know he's a fantastic guitar player. (So is John Mayer, and that doesn't mean we want to watch him on TV every week; see below.) Surely Nicole Kidman must see something in him, but we found five other musicians we think adding to the judge's panel will make Idol a much better show. Ryan Seacrest, you can thank us later, dawg.
5. Frank Ocean: Even before he wandered off to play Pac-Man during John Mayer's guitar solo on "Pyramids," his second song of the Saturday Night Live season premiere, Frank Ocean was a star. R&B talents this conflicted and carnal, who can also sing like an angel, only come along once in a generation -- like Marvin Gaye and R. Kelly. (If you haven't picked up Ocean's Def Jam debut Channel Orange, do so immediately.) The only drawback to adding Ocean to Idol might be too much studio shoptalk between him and Randy Jackson.
4. Billy Joe Shaver: Honky-tonk hero of heroes or wacko from Waco? Doesn't matter. Whether cantankerous or avuncular, Shaver could keep Idol viewers in stitches and the producers on pins and needles making sure the Fox studio's metal detector is functioning properly. It's easy to imagine Shaver striking up a kind of grandfather/granddaughter rapport with Minaj, and his homespun Hill County homilies constantly driving high-maintenance diva Carey up the wall. Ratings gold, we tell you. Would also be a perfect match for Idol's much-sought-after "eccenctric septuagenarian Texan" demographic, and guarantee at least one Willie Nelson/Kris Kristofferson guest appearance.
3. Billy Idol: Steven Tyler's exit from Idol, welcome though it was among Aerosmith fans, left a gaping hole for whatever rock fans are interested in the show. Billy Idol has a sharp wit and legit punk attitude to go with that camera-ready sneer, and certainly seems a lot likelier than Urban to get a word in edgewise with the uber-chatty Carey and Minaj. Besides, the show has been called American Idol for 11 years now, so it's about time it truly lives up to its name.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
2. Britt Daniel: If there was any doubt that Spoon's Britt Daniel is a master of the abrasive three-minute pop symphony, it's gone with the advent of Divine Fits, his new trio with Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs' Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown. Their brand-new album A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge) is so good it helps take some of the sting out of the fact that we may not be seeing Spoon again for a while. In the meantime, adding Daniel to Idol would give the show a much-needed dose of both indie-rock cred and heavy-lidded sarcasm.
1. Skrillex: If there's one musician who could help Idol stave off irrelevance (if not outright decrepitude), it has to be Skrillex. No one musician this century has done more to subvert pop music's dominant paradigm than the screamo vocalist turned floor-bending dubstep icon. Given the cornucopia of mediocrity the show has been for several years, we're sure Skrillex has all kinds of thoughts on how to improve it -- or else just do away with it altogether. (Coming soon: DJ Idol.) Even a previously less-than-casual viewer like ourselves might be hanging on every word.