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Idol Watch: The New Judges, Judged

At least for one night, it seemed like the judging panel is once again willing--and encouraged--to offer specific, substantive feedback. You know: to judge.

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Michael Becker / FOX

I haven’t been watching much American Idol so far this season, particularly the audition rounds, because of a general sense of life’s-too-short-itis. Also, past Idol judge transitions have taught me that you can’t really get a sense of the new judging panel from the heavily edited audition and Hollywood rounds; you need to see them assessing singers one-by-one.

Last night I watched the first Las Vegas semifinal round to get some first impressions of this year’s new panel. And I was… kind of impressed? Cautiously? At least for one night, it seemed like the end of the Steven Tyler / Jennifer Lopez era means that the judging panel is again willing and encouraged to offer specific, substantive feedback on performances. You know: to judge.

In that spirit, a few very preliminary judgments, going right down the line:

Keith Urban: I didn’t have much of an impression of him before he joined Idol, other than his being Mr. Nicole Kidman. I still don’t have that much of an impression of him, but I became guardedly hopeful for him when critiqued Brandy for not connecting emotionally with the Travis Tritt ballad “Anymore,” smiling at odds with the song’s lyrics. Smiley-itis is a longtime Idol pet peeve of mine, so this was bound to appeal to me, but it’s also the kind of specific, intangible-but-important feedback that the show has been short on since Simon left.

Nicki Minaj: If Keith is there for laid-back critiques, Nicki has clearly realized she’s there to stand out like a pink dye job. Some people will love and some will hate it, but so far I’m loving how she’s owning her judginess: “Get ready to boo again!” she taunted the crowd at one point. But she didn’t seem critical for nastiness’ sake last night; she was also attentive and specific in her praise. OK, Nicki also told nearly every girl she looked pretty, a longtime Idol-judge tic. But it meant something a little different every time—sometimes consolation, sometimes part of her judgment of the singer’s presentation and sometimes, basically, just one final kick in the ass.

Randy Jackson: OK, Randy’s the one element on the judge panel who hasn’t changed. Except he has, a little. No longer obligated to be the only one behind the table willing to say anything negative, he can be more frank than he seemed in the Steven Tyler / J-Lo era, while he’s also free to push back against negative reviews. He at least seems to be having a better time so far.

Mariah Carey: Mariah, you look really pretty, but so far this isn’t working for me. There’s no doubting the musical cred she brings to the panel, but last night she was the new panelist most clearly in the mealy-mouthed Tyler/J-Lo mode, with all the evasive generalities and stalling tactics. (Note to every Idol judge ever: you don’t need to tell us how amazing the artist who originally recorded the song was. We already know! Aretha Franklin is not competing here!) I have no problem with a judge who’s positive because she simply likes more things than the rest of the panel, but if you can’t back it up with specifics, it seems like you’re just trying to win a popularity contest.

I don’t need every reality competition show to involve harsh judgment; The Voice pretty much avoids it like poison, and I watched the last season with pleasure. But that’s what The Voice does and what works in its structure. Idol is a show with judges, not coaches, and I’m hoping that this season, Idol will be comfortable being itself.

I reserve the right to change my opinion within the week, of course—and we still need to see how the panel works in the live-finals weeks of Idol. In the meantime, are you on anyone’s team yet?


I've been a loyal American idol fan for years!!  I usually sit on the phone and vote until I get the busy signal but this year I'd rather tape it and maybe watch it later because the new judges really piss me off Nicki is so annoying I fast forward thru everything she says If I wanted to listen to her nasal voice listen to her call everybody ladybug I would listen to her music!!! I don't know how she got to be a judge but the person that hired her needs to be shot!!!!!! And don't get me started on Mariah Carey I thought she was American not British if she calls someone else darling I think I'm going to throw up I had some of her CDs but I through them out because if she has to act to good for the show and can't talk like the American like SHE IS she don't need to be on a show called AMERICAN IDOL!!!!! And whats with her texting during and after the show she has her head down not paying attention so much Why did she agree to be a judge if she can't pay attention. She acts like its the Mariah Carey show and not having any feedback for the singers. How are they supposed to get better if she never says anything helpful!!!!!! Keith is a good guy but hes quite nobody can hear a word he says over Nicki's annoying voice butting in but hes not an American so how did he get this jig he must have friends in high places. I love Randy thats the only good thing about idol this season!!!! I hope he don't get pushed upstairs like thy tried to do before this season started then I will never watch or tape it again. Maybe they need to call it quits and everybody can focus on X-factor And Randy can be on that show with Simone Cowell.. 


So true Jacke,  the show has lost it's lustre.....

JackKehoe like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Changing Nick's clothing apparel  and getting her to stop talking through her nose has helped her visual appearance, but little can be done to stop her from talking street talk and acting like a product of the ghetto.  Open remarks with sexual content; such has she has done consistently since the show has started, is why people our calling out for the producers to haul out the trash.  Mariah is a nice lady, very talented in her own field, but not judge material.....where is a female Jimmy to be found?  Simon's efforts and success made IDOL a classy show for family and kids, the show has lost that without him or a like and credible replacement.

RobinClark like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I haven't watched Idol this year because of Nicki, her image shouldn't be what Idol wants.  I believe they've lost alot of viewers because of her. I've been a fan of American Idol since the beginning, this is the first year I have had absolutely no interest.  Sad.

nickiilir like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Nicki is acting like a street tramp, she is far from being and a disgrace as a judge " . No  comparison to Maria, Randy or Keith, Nicki should go Asap.....

Read more: http://entertainment.time.com/2013/02/21/idol-watch-the-new-judges-judged/#ixzz2LknQxt1y

jacklynspector like.author.displayName 1 Like

@nickiilir I definitely agree about Nicki. Can't stand looking at her...nothing between the ears. Shame on the producers for falling to such a low level, scraping the trash can by having Nicki as a judge!


JackKehoe like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Pretty obvious by the comments the past few weeks, Nicki is a detriment and taking the show down to its lowest point since it started.  Nicki isn't right for the show and the producer should find a way to replace her rather than ruining the whole season.  Her sexual actions are not acceptable on a talent show with so many young people looking for an idol, not a disgusting person like Nicki trying to steal the lime light from the performers and the judges.  Nicki be gone!  Nothing you do adds to the show, you act like a nymph on weed or a frustrated clown.

Ricker like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

American Idol sinks down to a no longer valid talent search with last nights male elimination round. Was a joke and I would be embarrassed to be part of that show. The judges must be given direction as to who moves on because they did not go with all talent last night. For me I'll tune to another station now, maybe find a show with integrity.

JackKehoe like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

To me Nicki has been a thorn in the shoe for Idol.  Last night she acted like a street tramp, looks like one and was disgusting  offering to have contestants babies and acting like she was horny and need laid by the way she spoke to some of the contestants.  A large part of the listeners are teens and her behavior isn't I want my kids to  see.  I change the channel rather than watch her or listen to her talk through her nose, roll her eyes and attempt to be cute....that she is far from being and a disgrace as a talent show judge.   Thankfully Randy is there to give the show some professionalism.  Keith is okay, Mariah is predictable 

JenniferMcintire like.author.displayName 1 Like

Boring boring boring done watching X factor is so much more interesting poor randy Jackson the show is blah

JenniferMcintire like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I believe they suck and so do all the contestants very uninteresting boring songs etc terrible year again

TVHog like.author.displayName 1 Like

Pretty much in agreement with you, Jim. While they aren't perfect, this group of judges is far better than last year's. Plenty of room for improvement, though, especially for Ms. Carey...

bingobag like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

I think they better pick some better judges.  Nicki is so annoying!!!  Her nasally voice, psycho eye movement, stupid pink lips, retarded dye jobs and wigs and fake boobs, big ass and lousy opinions, of contestants is really annoying that I mute or change the channel every time the freak speaks.

Mariah should stick to singing and stop repeating herself with her comments to contestants.

Keith Urban is great to look at and I think he is rather good at giving constructive criticism to the contestants.

Randy, ah Randy!!  He knows his stuff.  He knows good voices and gives good criticism, however, he should try to give great criticism.

I might wait until the final show to watch.  It is annoying to watch since the beginning.

JudyCorbisiero like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

I agree with Gwen...not liking the judging talents of Niki M.  Have been yelling at the TV with every stupid remark and unwarranted put down of good talent.  Then she praises some of the worst singers I have heard.  What happened to having to know the words to your song..not making it up as you go....If you don't know the words you should go home because you are not showing how much you want this.

Hope Niki is not asked back next year...she is terrible and just is trying to steal lime light all the time..and her flirting is unprofessional.

GwenJohnson like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

If this is the path for American idol, I'm done!! What a joke!! Niki go home

JohnBornstein like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

angelgoboy, I could not AGREE with you more.Nikki is totaly ruining Americna Idol this year, especially tonight.

Devin had a great vocal - and she barely compliemented him cause she wasn't attracted to him. Nikki trhought Elijah was fantastic - and he just didn't have a great performance, unfortunately. At its heart, IDOL is a singing contest, it's not about performance, outfits, or looks.  Vocals needs to come first. It doesn't matter if someone is unique as heck and creative, if they can't sing. May be it's because Niki herself  is more of a performer than a singer. 

She's so focused on he guys looked and having their babies, she doesn't had a clue about critiquing their vocals.  PRODUCERS....Nigel:  shes making a joke of the show!!

Mariah and Randy are spot on tonight, but it's like Nikiki is listening to a different show than everyone else.

I hope the Producers school her on what the show is all about before we get to the top 20.

Steven and JLo.....where are you!!!!!?????


#american idol

angelgoboy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

thank you thank you thank YOU!!....she seems to be tone deaf....her critque is childess and thoughtless....I dont know if she is sitiing in the same room with the other judges......its not about bubble gum drops and lolly pops!....this show has always been ablut vocals....something NIki is not familiar with.......Im sorry but she is ruining the show and I MISS MISS MISS JOLO!!!   Steven too!!.....

there are so many other artist out there that understand and have a better connection with true music....and not just whats on a top 40 radio station........boom baboom baboom bo boom bo boom YEAH!...come on REALLY!....sorry Nicki Sucks!

angelgoboy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

Niki Manage is a horrible judge.....she needs to stick with speed talking singing.....she has no clue when it comes to holding a note!!


I thought last night elimination was pretty spot on. The not so good singers on that night got chopped. Have a feeling the producers have line up 5 they want and 5 they don't want in the same group. Like seeded players in a tennis tournament. You don't want the joker with the Fed in the first round!


I love Nicki Minaj as a judge.  I didn't think I would, but her comments are right long with my thinking.  Keith Urban is doing well too.

angelgoboy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Nicki is horrible....she has no clue when it comes to holding a note....she needs to stick to speed rapping or bubble gum rapping.....