Let's face it: Hiring Jennifer Lopez to judge a singing contest is a joke.
Mostly because she's being considered an authority in a competition she could never win.
Maybe none of the many judges could win. But Simon Cowell is a record exec; Randy Jackson is a Grammy award-winning producer; Ellen Degeneres is a music enthusiast with good taste; Steven Tyler paid his dues on the road.
Jennifer Lopez can't sing.
Okay, maybe she can carry a tune, but her voice would be best described as thin.
Of course, Lakers Girl-turned-"singer" Paula Abdul can't sing either. But when American Idol debuted, Paula hadn't done anything in years. The general feeling was that she got that gig because no one else wanted it, and because she was available. As a judge, Paula was loopy, lenient and not to be taken seriously — but her goofy, humble, materteral vibe was, at the very least, entertaining. But if the show is evolving and growing, why not let someone who is skilled at rhythm, tempo and key changes be a judge?
What does La Lopez bring to the table beyond hauteur and divadom? She is talented, to be sure. But her skillset consists of being photogenic, fashionable, good at self-promotion, marketing, picking good producers and stylists and being in the right place in the right time. Her talent is not singing. And she knows it! Consider this, from a 2002 profile:
[Lopez has] a savvy awareness of her own limitations. "The first thing she admits to is, 'Look, I don't have a strong voice like Mary J. Blige or someone like that,'" says her record producer Cory Rooney. "She just comes out saying, 'I'm here to entertain you, and I'm going to try and do my best.'" Producer Irv Gotti, who remixed Lopez's hit "I'm Real," put it more bluntly. Lopez "can't make a record like Whitney or Mariah cause she ain't got a big voice," he recently told Elle magazine, adding that she had to rely on "guys like me who can...enhance that voice."
Actually, what he said was "She's gotta fuck with guys like me who can hide or enhance that voice." He also claimed that her singing was so bad that his friends "in the projects" usually "[hit] the mute button and [just look] at her ass."
The point is, American Idol's premise involves scouring the country to find raw singing talent. The competitors audition a capella, and throughout the show, they are put through a rigorous vocal workout in which they tackle many genres: pop, soul, R&B, country and standards. Jennifer Lopez would never be able to make it, week after week, up against the fresh-faced choir girls, glee-club boys and future divas-in-training.
Does J.Lo have the ability to sniff out the next Kelly Clarkson or Jennifer Hudson? Probably. Most of us know an excellent singer when we hear one. So why does Jennifer Lopez deserve to weigh in? Why should the young people on the show, full of hope, promise and lung power, be criticized by someone with limited range and vocal ability? By placing Lopez on a pedestal, American Idol is at odds with its own message; her presence as a judge simultaneously illustrates how ridiculously manufactured the music industry is and diminishes the importance of natural ability. Of course, since the audition process itself is faked, what do we really expect?