An old saying contends house guests and fish last about three days. Swap out days for TV seasons and it appears destined to apply to singing competition judges as well.
Steven Tyler announced Thursday he would not return to "American Idol" when it resumes early next year, the news coming a day after Aerosmith confirmed that the release of its new album was moving to a November. Fourth quarters are packed with superstar releases and require extensive promotional efforts to generate sales. Assuming he's serious about working "Music From Another Dimension," Tyler needs a schedule free of "Idol" shooting days.
On Friday, Jennifer Lopez said she, too, would be leaving the show, leaving only Randy Jackson on the judges' table and who's to say the days of dawg barks and "Yo! Check it out" are not coming to a close.
"Idol" served its purpose for Tyler and Lopez. Tyler re-confirmed his Toxic Twin image with his leering looks, double entendre rhymes and piercing vocals in the upper register. It reinvigorated former fans' interest and probably brought in some new ones the way Guitar Hero and Rock Band once did, but rather than doing it musically, "Idol" gave Tyler a platform to do it with his oversized personality. Now when Aerosmith hits the road this summer, they'll be perceived less as classic rock road warriors and more a vital part of rock's timelines, firmly ensconced between the Rolling Stones and Guns N' Roses.
They hit this crossroads once before in 1987 when "Dude (Looks like Like a Lady)" and the album "Permanent Vacation" reinvigorated the band's career. Even though the set list for that tour 25 years ago was all oldies plus "Dude," "Rag Doll" and a cover of the Beatles' "I'm Down," it re-established the band as force at rock radio, on MTV and in arenas. Over the course of the next six years, with the albums "Pump" and "Get a Grip," they only became bigger.
"Idol" may well be the starting line for yet another run in Aerosmith's intriguing life.
Lopez may have a tougher go at it than Tyler. "American Idol" resuscitated her image, making her a viable spokeswoman for products, but musically her success remains song-based. "On the Floor," the first single she released after joining the show, is her lone top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 during that span, and her attempt to create a crossover competition TV show in English and Spanish failed to connect with American audiences. For all her financial success in various fields, there is no significant mainstream demand for her music, but another season of "Idol" was unlikely to remedy that.
The "Idol" stint, however, helped Lopez in a myriad of other non-music sales ways: she secured the mantle of People Magazine's Most Beautiful Person in the World, and the top position on Forbes' Celebrity 100 List last May, which ranks the most powerful names in entertainment. Lopez ousted Lady Gaga from the top slot and topped competitors Oprah Winfrey and Justin Bieber. Forbes noted in its Lopez write-up that "Idol" had helped her rack up more than $52 million in the past year, aided by 46 magazine covers. Lopez would go on to sign lucrative endorsement deals with Fiat, L'Oreal, Gillette and TOUS jewelry.
Her film career, though, has been in a kind of holding pattern during her "Idol" stint. Lopez's lone entry was this year's "What to Expect When You're Expecting," which made $40 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. (Her next movie, "Ice Age: Continental Drift," comes out today, July 13, and should do considerably better.)
Perhaps most impressive, Lopez, who has never embarked on any major touring effort, is doing just that throughout the world, and will soon hit the road with Enrique Iglesias touring the U.S. and Canada.
But it's highly likely that 19 Entertainment and Fox, who produce and air the show, were no longer convinced her compensation should be as stratospheric as it has been -- a reported $12 million in year one and $20 million for the second season. Ratings have dropped as much as 30 percent per episode and while it remains one of the most-watched shows on television, advertisers seeking the 18-49 demographic may find better deals elsewhere, which may drive down the rates on "Idol" in the coming year.
More than two new judges, "American Idol" needs an overhaul. It's gimmicky audition rounds were tired four seasons ago, the back stories redundant from season to season and the judges' love of cheerleading over critique clearly have led to audience erosion. It's time for Jackson to consider a different role, too, and perhaps Jimmy Iovine needs to take a seat at the judges' table. His commentary is generally spot on and always forceful; his voice is what every talent show could use.
"Idol" should let "X Factor" have the celebrity drama. Will Britney Spears and Demi Lovato form cohesive critical sentences when the show goes live this fall or will they be relying on catchphrases, shrieks and verbal battles with Simon Cowell? "Idol" needs a trio of judges who share a chemistry, but offer differing points of view. They need genre artists, record producers and an executive at that judges' table and guest artists who tell the contestants about the reality of the music business. "Idol" is still capable of producing acts who can have viable, if not groundbreaking, careers and the only way any of these shows will equip these contestants with tools for the future is if the experts have a grip on the present.
Additional reporting by Leila Cobo