All The American Idol Judges, Ranked By Credibility

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If you can believe it, American Idol returns for its THIRTEENTH season tonight at 8 PM on FOX. It seemed like just yesterday I was sitting on my couch feeling sad that my constant redialing on the landline hadn’t helped Clay Aiken win. Those were simpler times. It was the beginning of reality TV competitions, before we started spending approximately 57 hours a week watching people sing/dance/model/do puppet shows. We thought the show would go on forever with Simon, Paula and Randy in the judges’ chairs, but after eight seasons things started to change, and we got judge after judge after eccentric judge.

In honor of Harry Connick Jr. joining Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban on the judges’ panel, it’s time to get real and decide which of the judges deserved to be judging people’s singing and who had no place drinking out of that Coca Cola product placement cup. So here are all the judges, ranked from most to least qualified. If you’re wondering where I got the right to decide this kind of thing, I’ll have you know I have a Masters in Credibility from the School of Judging Reality Show Judges. Bet you feel silly now, don’t you?

1. Harry Connick Jr.

Harry Connick Jr Samsung Hope For Children Gala June 7 2011(Photo: Darla Khazei/Pacific Coast News)

That’s right. Harry hasn’t even started yet and I’m already putting him at the top of the list. When it was first announced that he’d be a judge, I thought, “Gee, that’s weird. Why would Idol decide to hire someone talented and professional with years of experience in the music industry? Weird.”

2. Mariah Carey

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As wacky and self-absorbed as Mariah Carey is, she’s got an AMAZING voice, as well as loads of industry experience. Even if she was a loose cannon, she totally has the qualifications to judge singing.

3. Kara DioGuardi

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I was ready to put Kara further down the list because “Huh? Why? Who?” but then I remembered that she actually does have a great singing voice, and her work as a songwriter has to have given her a good knowledge of the technical side of music. Oh, and she also made it to Broadway a few years ago. I approve.

4. Steven Tyler

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Steven Tyler isn’t the kind of guy I’d call an amazing singer, but considering how many rockers have emerged from this show, it’s good to have someone on the panel who has experience in that genre. He’s also been in the business for decades, and his dad was a music teacher. I know that because (true story) he taught my mom in high school.

5. Keith Urban

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Even though I’m not personally that familiar with his music, and even though I find him a wee bit boring, I have to admit he’s a lot more qualified to judge singing than a lot of the other people who’ve been on the show. Plus, the show gets a lot of country stars, so he brings that genre experience to the table.

6. Simon Cowell

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He doesn’t sing himself, and he’s a pretty big douchebag, but he has shown he can discover great talent, and he was on the British version of this show so he had built-in experience and had established that he could give honest criticism.

7. Randy Jackson

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Even though I spent most of my time watching him thinking “Why is this guy here again?” Randy does have a lot of experience in the music industry, as a bassist, vocalist and producer. Unfortunately it was kind of hard to tell that he had any of that experience since his vocabulary mostly consisted of the word “dawg.”

8. Paula Abdul

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I tend to think of Paula Abdul as more of a great dancer and choreographer than a great singer. Plus she cries at the drop of the hat, which can kind of get in the way of giving helpful criticism.

9. Jennifer Lopez

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J.Lo is a lot like Paula Abdul in that I think of her more as a dancer than a singer (we won’t mention actress). I just wouldn’t look at her resume and go, “You should give people advice about music!”

10. Nicki Minaj

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Nicki Minaj is a great rapper and a dynamic performer and an excellent pasty-wearer, but I wouldn’t call her a great singer or an industry vet.

11. Ellen DeGeneres

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Sorry, Ellen. I love you, but dancing to music every day on your show doesn’t make you qualified to judge it on a national television show. Just keep being funny.

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
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    • Meg Malone

      Oh wow, I completely forgot that Ellen was a judge on American Idol until I read this.

      • Jill O’Rourke

        She’d probably prefer it that way.

    • Lily Jacobsen

      Wrong. Simon Cowell is definitely the best judge. He may be mean, but he’s created so many international superstars. Even if he can’t sing, he knows talent better than anyone.

    • Brad

      The list would be pretty much perfect if Simon was at the top