Despite earlier reports that Randy Jackson would be hanging up his judging cap, insiders (and Simon Cowell's Twitter feed) are now claiming that Randy Jackson will in fact join Mariah Carey on the judging panel for the 12th season of American Idol.
Why the sudden turn of events – aside from a desperate attempt to create drama and generate buzz in the off-season? Obviously producers recognized Mr. Jackson's unwavering devotion to the show, his innumerable contributions to the juggernaut that has defined a generation, his ability to astutely and succinctly provide priceless industry advice to fledgling artists, his . . wait, what's that? Randy Jackson was a last minute fill-in after negotiations with Enrique Iglesias collapsed due to his demands for an eight-figure salary?
Well, it's great that Mr. Jackson is shrewd enough to not let his pride get in the way of another lucrative year on the judging panel. You can't teach an old dawg new tricks after all . . .
And, since we're on rumor overdrive, reports are that Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban are quite close to being confirmed as the third and, completely extraneous, fourth judges on the panel. A four-judge format is a questionable choice for Idol since their previous experiments with four judges seemed to weigh down a show that has been known to struggled with time-management issues even with three judges. But many of Idol's recent decisions seem to be directly influenced by the show's main competitors, FOX's The X-Factor and NBC's The Voice. The four-judge format, the rumored addition of Nicki Minaj (a direct response to The X-Factor's addition of two young, female pop artists to their judging panel) and the token, good-looking male country artist, Keith Urban also known as Blake Shelton 2.0.
While playing musical judging chairs might be a good way to keep American Idol in the viewer's collective unconscious, especially when The X-Factor and The Voice are battling for early-season supremacy, it doesn't necessarily mean that the results will prove beneficial to the show; a show that, in some respects, has been on full tilt since the fateful decision to bring on 4th judge Kara DioGuardi in Season 8; a change that seemed to herald the beginning of the end of the Randy-Simon-Paula magic.
In fact, keeping Randy Jackson as a judge may be the best decision Idol's made in quite a while. Despite his shortcomings (and there are many) he is the only tie to the magic that once propelled American Idol into the stratosphere and while evolution is necessary if the show wishes to remain current, staying current should never come at the expense of individuality. It is troubling that Idol's producers seem to be focusing more on what makes other shows successful rather than recognizing what made/makes them special.
Will the additions of Carey, Minaj, and Urban recapture the magic of Idol's yesteryear? It seems highly unlikely, especially since the saturation of celebrity judges have shifted the focus of the entire genre. What was once a talent show about contestants has quickly become a platform for celebrities to further their careers, supplement their incomes and yes, to stroke their egos.
At least we still have our resident dawg. Who knew that someday Randy would come to embody all that was right with American Idol?