American Idol: Nigel Lythgoe Reacts to the Departures of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez

American Idol Executive Producer, Nigel Lythgoe speaks! He chatted with Ryan Seacrest on his KIIS FM radio show this morning, finally commenting on the departures of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez from the judges’ panel.

“I’m really upset. I spoke to Jennifer last Friday. She called me just after she spoke to you and I have to respect both Jennifer and Steven’s decisions. They’ve got a much bigger career than just sitting judging ‘Idol.’ They’re both very talented people and you have to respect their decision to carry on and do what they were doing before ‘Idol.’ It breaks my heart, because I love them both dearly.”

Nigel believes that the judges panel may turn into a “one year tour” sort of thing in order to accommodate big stars on the panel. He thinks “It’s great to hear lots of people’s opinions.

“At the end of the day it’s chemistry,” says Nigel of choosing the judges’ panel. “It’s not easy.”

“At the moment while we’re in the spotlight of the press it’s not really helping negotiations with anybody,” he adds, “I’m sure nobody’s name will be mentioned at this time while we’re getting it together.”

Nigel went on to discuss his new E! show, “Opening Act” which airs on Mondays at 10 pm.

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  • Tiffany

    Another reason why maybe Nigel should be replaced.  He just doesn’t get it.

  • Anonymous

    I can see this attracting more people to want to be judges.    I can see Adam being considered if it is for a one year stint, which, really means just a few months, a couple of days per week.

  • Anonymous

    So he wants new judges every single year?

    For someone who once claimed that Idol is only about the contestants, this seems like anything but, lol. Looks like we’ll get vacant seat drama each year though. :D

  • Noa Naaman

    why do they need to “accommodate big stars”?! i’d rather have ‘unknowns’ (except for in the music industry) that are qualified to judge a singing competition and don’t make it all about themselves than “big stars”. seriously, Simon wasn’t a household name before Idol, and he was the best judge on that show since the start. don’t try to be like all the other shows… if AI wants to stay the best, it should go in the other direction and make sure the main event is always the talent, and not the judges.

  • Anonymous

     Get what?

    I think new judges every year would be good. When they have been judges for awhile they get too comfortable and make it all about themselves.

  • Sophia

    THIS. as long as the judges have that on air chemistry and the talent is there, i’ll be watching. it needs to be a balance of both.

  • CanadianLady

    Please, get judges who are there to help the contestants and not to promote themselves. It can be done. And no former Idols please. Just no. Except maybe Kelly at some point.

  • milwlovesadam

    So what’s the new plan? Have new judges every year that are only interested in self-promotion, give them a chance to pimp their own stuff, and , oh– by the way, judge a few contestants??  Then it’s on to a new panel of judges to self promote all over again?

    Oooh. I’ve got a better idea. One Kardashian, one pregnant 16 year old and Miley Cyrus. ( said with a sarcastic sneer ).

    Either way, Idol’s jumping the shark.

  • windmills

    TheGreatXL: For someone who once claimed that Idol is only about the contestants, this seems like anything but, lol. Looks like we’ll get vacant seat drama each year though. :D

    On the bright side, the focus on the judges isn’t taking place during the actual season (unlike The Voice and XF), and will probably be over by the time the first of this season’s alums to release an album gets that album out. 

    I can definitely see how the drama’s entertaining to a certain degree, but I hate the orchestration of it all and so little of what we hear is real and a non-deliberate leak from some source.

  • Anonymous

    Not if they work it right.  It could actually be something that changes the show.   The focus could still be on the contestants, since their story of wanting to land a record contract would be more of a constant than the judges.  There would be less fanfare around the judges, and the show wouldn’t have to pay them as much, since there would be no yearly pay raises.  

    The producers could redefine the judges’ roles, and if the producers let the judges have some control, having judges with different tastes and perspectives could shake things up.

  • Anonymous

    For better or worse, the singing competition shows want the big names now, and Idol has to compete on that level.  It’s gonna be a crazy time to get a panel together.

  • jobeob987

    “They’ve got a much bigger career than just sitting judging ‘Idol.’”

    LOL, so is that supposed to be a slight to anyone remaining on or joining the panel next year?

  • Anonymous

     Also, every single person has some type of tic that starts to grate on people after a bit. You can tell people were like that with Steven saying Beautiful and J LO saying goosies. the first season people might be aware of it, but by the second season it gets annoying. Keeping the judges fresh will help people not be annoyed so much :)

  • Anonymous

    At last!  I thought he had come down with Infectious Mute!

  • Anonymous

    For the record, I don’t mind this. Actually, depending on the judges, this could be kind of fun. I just don’t like the double standards.

  • Noa Naaman

    i’m not sure that that’s true. Idol has a loyal fan base who would appreciate the show trying to differentiate itself from the others, by choosing to NOT play the game “who has the biggest star?”.

    i think the best thing for AI is come out saying- “we want this to be about finding talent, and this list of people is the best suited for the job. we know most of you have never heard of them but these are their credentials:” (and hopefully this panel would consist of music producers, song writers, executives, whatever- in addition to at least one singer).i know i would be way more interested to see Idol go back and try to capture what made it great in the first place, instead of seeing the show become just one of many. and if they keep finding great groups of contestants (like S11), i’ll be sure to tune in. 

  • lisa

    the 1yr.thing kinda bothers me,what if somebody is really good at judging then the rule says sorry only 1yr.I wish idol people would put a list of possibilities on here and let the people vote for the judges.we can’t do any worse than they have done

  • Anonymous


    If this was X-Factor that came up with this idea of rotating judges,
    everyone would hate it. Just because King Nigel wants to do it, it’s
    okay. Makes no sense to me.

    I would like it on both shows :)

  • fuzzywuzzy

    I’m not sure that Nigel is entirely in the loop these days regarding the search for judges for Idol.

  • Larc

    For better or worse, the singing competition shows want the big names now, and Idol has to compete on that level.

    That’s the lemming syndrome.  The most outstanding success usually comes from setting standards, not following those set by others.

  • Anonymous

    All Idol ever needed to do was clear more songs and limit the power voting. Instead it is as if Idol went in with a broken arm and they performed triple-bypass surgery.

    Wonder what they would do if they weren’t the most valuable non-sports property on TV? Execute Seacrest?

  • revcat

    I am very confused with the talk about judges, aren’t they already judging auditions this summer or am I mixing AI up with one of the other singing competitions, x, y or z Factor? :)

  • Sue

    Nope, auditions are still in the cattle call stage, the producers judge those. The TV judges only start in the fall.

  • Amy Beth

    The judging panel needs a mix. If they want one big star, so be it. But the others should not be stars, they should be “starmakers”. I don’t love Jimmy Iovine, but I’d rather have him be a real judge, than some random popular singer. 

    What about one of those mysterious music industry fixers, like Dr. Luke or Max Martin? These guys are supposed to work miracles with established stars. Let them loose on wannabes.

    And I still say they should have a different set of judges through the live shows so that they aren’t biased by anything that happened off-camera that the voting audience doesn’t get to see.

  • Bobbi

    I think every year is too often to change the judging panel, but I do like the idea of not allowing people to last like Randy has! Maybe two or three year stints?

  • Tess

    I really could care less about who judges Idol…they can fill the panel with whomever they wish for what ever reason they wish and pay them whatever they wish and keep them around as long as they wish…none of it will affect me or my enjoyment of the show and no judge will ever be the reason I like Idol A over Idol B.

    I’ll just stick with choosing to back whomever I like…and if the show gets to judge-centric or the contestants are too boring for me I’ll just move on and wait until the next season.

    I watch and enjoy all my scripted TV dramas…miss actors I like who leave, tolerate the newbies who come in, think the story for the week is great and watch it or turn it off if the episode is lame.

    TV shows are either enjoyable or not, for me…and even with all its ups and downs and changes I still like me some Idol.

  • Anonymous

    Well, let’s see what Idol does.  I think at least two of the judges will be “big names.” 

    Going back to 2004 isn’t gonna work.  There was essentially no competition at that point.

    The one real advantage to contestants is the actual contract for an album with real promotion.  Some of the other shows have basically nothing after the show is over.

  • Sassycatz

    I’m thinking the message is, we can’t expect these big name judges to stay on for years on end. However, I can’t see them kicking somebody off or not negotiating with someone for additional years who is doing great on the panel and who the audience is enjoying. What sense does that make?

  • Larc

    I very much like your idea of having a different set of judges for the audition phases and the live shows.  One of my pet wishes has long been having a highly qualified third party handle auditions and ultimately present Idol with a Top 24.  That way, TPTB at Idol couldn’t “cast” the season, which I think deprives us of some superior talent in favor of some who can’t sing as well, but maybe have better back stories.  Also, I think Idol tends to pick favorites early on and sometimes eliminates those they think would be particularly strong competition.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! That’s exactly what they need, more songs cleared and no power votes!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Question did idol”jump the shark” 2 years ago…or is that just about to happen?

  • Anonymous

    Nigel is right. At the end of the  day, it’s chemistry. It’s not easy!

    I hope Jennifer Lopez will at least do the auditions! She’s a good judge and very lovely.

  • Anonymous

    I think Nigel is downplaying the judges role, in saying ah! they only give their subjective opinion. But the role of judge, is very important to the contestants who are being critiqued by these judges, because they know, that what the judges have to say,  influences the voting of viewers!! 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think that there will be a one year “rule”, per se, but a hiring policy change according to which they’ll make only one year contracts for the judges. That is very smart thing to do. With one year contracts, the judges are kept on their toes (no years long gravy trains) and if the judges aren’t good (see: Ellen Degenes) or the chemistry isn’t working (See: Kara DioCardi), it’s easier to boot them. 

    On the other hand, if they’ll find someone that they really want to keep, one year contracts subjects them to yearly pay rise negotiations. They also can’t keep those judges that want out, even if Idol wouldn’t be ready to let them go (see: Simon). 

    But no, no matter what they say, there won’t be a self-imposed rule that would prevent them keeping a judge longer than a year if they find a great one that doesn’t ask too much pay. That would just be stupid. 

  • mmb

    A lot of these “mysterious music industry fixers” are people who prefer to be in the studio, not in front of an audience.  Max Martin is notably reclusive.  A lot of these big producers and industry execs just would not be good on camera, at all.  The Simon Cowell’s and LA Reid’s are the anomalies in the industry wrt being camera ready.  Kara Dioguardi was a well respected songwriter and A&R exec, beautiful, camera ready, but people seemed to dislike her.  It just isn’t that easy to find a non-performer who is appropriate for this setting. Bear in mind, when you are a judge you are “performing” live in front of a studio audience, and in front of tens of millions twice a week — that is nervewracking for someone without experience being in front of a camera.

  • Cathy Knott

    Sorry, I thought she was horrible.  I always liked her as an actress but now I can’t watch a movie that she stars in. 

  • Larc

    Simon was the only truly good judge Idol ever had, IMO.  Except for Paula, I couldn’t grade any of the others above “C” even on their best nights.  I thought Paula had a few “B” nights, but not many.  Then Simon faded out.  The wind seemed to go out of his sails when Kris was announced winner in S8, and he wasn’t much better than anybody else in S9.  Well, he was better than Ellen, but even Randy was better than Ellen.

    I think what Idol needs is a panel of judges who are all as good as Simon was at his best.  They shouldn’t stop until they’ve found them.  And to hell with whether they are celebrities or not.  If they do a great job, they will become celebrities.  Better to have a show that adds viewers due to quality as the season progresses than one with a heavy front end generated by superstars who don’t do a good enough job to keep those new viewers on board.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not a fan of the new-judges-every-year thing.  The problem with judges like Steven is that they don’t understand the history of the show.  This season the judges at least knew what happened the season before.  (But then again, Randy has been there from the beginning, and I’m pretty sure he can recall about 5 contestants, tops).

  • Pam

    I’m not sure that Nigel is entirely in the loop these days regarding the search for judges for Idol.

    After listening to the interview, it made me wonder, was he really that in the dark about J-Lo and Steven’s departures or was he just making like he was surprised.  We had been discussing this info for what 2-3 days prior to Friday?  lol  I don’t like the idea rotating judges once every year.  That is just too much change all at once, and as someone else said earlier, what if you get two judges who actually know what they are doing and then dump them the next year and end up worse off than you were before.  I’m all for a change with the current lineup, just don’t continue playing musical chairs once every year.  lol

  • OffLeash

    I’m having this uneasy feeling that JLo will be back as a judge. She must be stunned they rejected her raise demand, but she realizes she won’t benefit from the sales boost and free promo she’s been accustomed to since she was on Idol. She had a great thing going career and money wise, and she must be aware of what she’s losing. I hope I’m wrong and she’s really out.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like the one year judge idea. I think that going through this frenzy every year is distracting. Even here every thread about judges has so much activity while the ones for this years tour are lifeless. There are only so many hours most devote to this and I for one think the show within a show that all of these shows have become is a detriment to the show. Every minute spent talking about judges is now one too many. Hire three competent, articulate people, all who have experience in the recording industry, let them be free of any producers agenda, let them be free enough and fearless enough to tell the truth. Let them be humane enough to not use the contestants for a punchline or punching bag. Have them be comfortable and respectful with each other. It’s a tall order but that’s what I would like from this show I’ve invested so much time in.

  • nancy

    As long as they have NO FORMER IDOLS as judges, I’ll be happy & continue to watch (and I have a feeling many other fans will be happy too – far less fan wars that way)!

  • Leandro

    It seems that everyone is lost and period.

  • Kariann Hart

    abbysee I really do like your message here!  It sound so simple, but obviously finding those judges and hoping they have chemistry is no easy task.  I would  never want a judge like Simon.  Being cruel and making fun of young people just doesn’t work in my world.

    There are a few former Idols who might work out as a judge, but I think that’s too much pressure on them.

  • ZsusK

    Do you have any clue what the real world of show business is like? Have you ever auditioned for a college play? Have you ever performed in a bar in front of a batch of drunk patrons? Simon was a pussycat compared to what you deal with in the real world. So annoying to me that people want these kids coddled. Cripes! Let’s give them all a trophy and an A for effort! Let’s not harm their delicate psyches. After all, they only desire to be superstars. *eyeroll* How about this? How about we quit with the nicey-nicey “beautiful” bullshit, and get back to making these kids earn their right to aspire to be stars? That’s the Idol I signed on for.  (And get off my lawn, you young folk! ;) )

  • Kariann Hart

    I could go along with one judge=one year; one judge=two years; one judge=three year contract.  This revolving door concept for 3 judges just doesn’t appeal to me!

    Or get two long term judges and change a “Guest Judge” once a year.  Too much change takes away attention from the contestants.

    When Ryan’s contract is up, I hope he renews  If not, Cat Deeley would be the only one to replace him (for me).  If SYTYCD gets canceled, does anyone think the X-Factor would hire her?

  • Anonymous

    Lythgoe is a big fat LIAR.
    He pushed JLo and Steven off Idol in order to keep the axe from falling on him.
    Idol has lost 5 million + viewers since Lythgoe took control of the show.
    The one who should be fired is Nigel!