American Idol: My Take On The New Judges’ Panel (Dish Of Salt)

“American Idol” announced its new Season 13 judges’ panel on Tuesday and weighing in is Access Hollywood’s “Idol” expert, Laura Saltman…

One thing is for sure – “American Idol” made a huge stumble last season with its four person judging panel of Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson. It was a chemistry experiment gone horribly wrong because the producers failed to actually do a chemistry test before throwing those four together. We all know what happens when you mix chemicals that don’t belong together – explosion!

Now that the new judging panel has been officially named — Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. — the question is… will the chemistry be right? Can the behemoth musical competition return to its former glory?

The answer is, I really don’t know. Audiences were so turned off by the Mariah/Nicki bickering that they tuned out in droves and it’s hard to imagine after 13 seasons anyone will tune back in. My guess is that the loyal watchers such as myself will continue their loyalty because at least the producers realized they made a mistake last season. The show deserves a second chance. The other issue, of course, is that right now, with “The Voice,” “The X Factor” and “American Idol” all in the marketplace audiences are tiring of looking for the next singing superstar.

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Back to the question at hand – Did “American Idol” get the judging panel right? I’m going to have to say yes on this one.

Let’s start first with Jennifer Lopez.

First of all, she never should have left “American Idol” in the first place. That was her stage to own, her own fashion runway.

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While the younger audiences cared about the contestants, the adults were fascinated by her clothes, her shoes, her makeup and her hair. Being on “American Idol” catapulted her back to the very top of the A-list and kept all eyes on her. Once she left, though, that spotlight, for the most part, went away as I could have told her it would. If I was her manager I would have made sure she stayed put.

“The Voice” seems to have ushered in a new era of less critical judging and Jennifer’s style fits right in with that. I loved her nurturing side (minus the kookiness of Paula Abdul) and the obviousness of how much she cared about each contestant. So for that, I’m glad to see her back.

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I was a huge fan of Keith Urban last season and I’m glad to see the producers were smart enough to bring him back. He was the peace and quiet in the storm of last season — kind and caring, knowledgeable and totally down to earth. Just a cool guy you would have to hang with at a bar one night.

The last spot will be filled by Harry Connick Jr. and for that I say, “What took so long?!” Steven Tyler should have never made the cut and Harry should have been brought on long ago. He was by the far the best mentor the show ever had.

Harry’s funny and self-deprecating, besides knowing the music business, and this show certainly needs an infusion of humor. In fact, when I spoke to him backstage when he mentored during Season 12 he revealed he had been asked to be a judge prior to this season.

“They talked about it when I mentored last time and [it] didn’t work out for 8 zillion reasons. The idea of it is really appealing. It’s just the matter of the 8 million reasons why or why not.”

When I jokingly asked if those “8 zillion reasons” might be more about 8 million dollars he chuckled and said, “could be.”

Lastly, I can’t end without saying something about the “surprise” return of Randy Jackson. I remember the day it was announced he was leaving, someone backstage who works at the show saying to me, “He may not really be gone though.” It stuck in my mind and now, it all makes sense. I think it was the plan all along for Randy to step down as a judge and become a mentor behind the scenes. He needed to save face after last season’s mess and leaving was the best way to do it. It’s why I think his goodbye segment on the finale was so lackluster. They knew all along he would be back. The dawg lives on and so hopefully will “American Idol.”

-- Laura Saltman

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