News Column

'American Idol' Suffering Without Steven Tyler

Jan 24, 2013

Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald

Steven Tyler

I miss Steven Tyler.

Not Steven Tyler, the coked-up and crazy frontman of the sleaziest rock band of the '70s -- well, OK, I do miss that maniac a little -- but Steven Tyler, the awesome "American Idol" judge.

I applaud Tyler and Joe Perry for making up and releasing an Aerosmith reunion record -- even if the record was supremely average -- and I'll happily see the demon of screamin' on the band's next trip to Boston. But the 64-year-old Tyler should have kept the day job he was so good at.

When "Idol" (tonight at 8 p.m. on WFXT, Ch. 25) introduced Tyler as a judge ahead of its 2011 season, cynics pointed out he was filling a seat still warm from Ellen DeGeneres. Not the coolest gig for a rock god.

As one half of the Toxic Twins, the singer spent decades rocking and pillaging his way through packed stadiums, depraved groupies, powders and pills. But by 2011, Aeromsmith hadn't had a hit in 10 years.

Tyler bet on a second act with "Idol."

Man, did he crush it.

Teamed with Jennifer Lopez, Tyler gave the world's most popular singing contest a much-needed infusion of heart. Simon Cowell's dumb sniping was out, Tyler's humorous, outrageous humanity was in.

Tyler will be remembered for his antics -- mooning America (and making J. Lo squeal) before an impromptu dip in a pool was damn fun to watch. But it was his honest emotion that made him, and the show, great.

He could be cruel -- most "Idol" judges have to be. But when a contestant wowed him, he smiled, howled or hooted. His quintessential moment: After watching future champion Scotty McCreery audition, he blurted out, "Hell fire and save matches, (expletive) and duck and see what hatches."

It was a bizarre, bleeped exclamation of praise. It was also fun, funny and genuine.

With Tyler gone, newest judge Nicki Minaj is now the lovable goofball on the show. She's not nearly as lovable -- she has goofball covered -- but, like Tyler did, she champions misfits. Watching her makes me think that despite their brief November Twitter feud, the two could have made a killer combo.

The Season 12 lineup should have been J. Lo, Minaj and Tyler. Randy Jackson has been useless since, well, forever. Mariah Carey isn't as kind, cruel, smart or beautiful as Lopez. Keith Urban is a handsome piece of wood with none of Tyler's charm or mania.

"Idol" will learn a lot of hard lessons this year. Ratings will continue to struggle as America realizes three of the show's four judges are boring and inept. The biggest lesson will be that they gave up the best judge in Tyler.

Source: (c)2013 the Boston Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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