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

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Simon-Cowell-Jennifer-LopezImage Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic.com; Jamie McCarthy/WireImage.com“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

Originally posted September 22 2010 — 4:59 PM EDT

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