Oh, what great timing I have. Below is what I posted early Friday morning before Jennifer Lopez told Ryan Seacrest that she’s out as judge on American Idol.
With news that Steven Tyler is leaving American Idol, the eyeballs turn toward Jennifer Lopez who previously has been noncommittal about coming back to the show. J. Lo was on the Today show and had this quote (as posted by the LA Times):
Everybody wants that definite yes or no … there are so many other things that I do, that I put on hold for that. But I am thinking that maybe it’s time for me to go and do other things that I really love to do. Like films, and right now I’m on tour and performing — all the things that I do.
If American Idol was a jumping off point for Lopez’s career and she’d gotten the most publicity she could accrue, I’d say that she probably should move on to bigger and better things. But that’s not what Idol’s been for her. Being on American Idol has made her relevant again.
In the early 2000s, there were few female celebrities who were hotter than J. Lo. She’s the only artist to have a number one album (“J. Lo”) and a number one movie (“The Wedding Planner”) at the same time. But like what happens to many artists, her career stalled. Leading roles in movies were few and far between and her album “Brave”, released in 2007 was a massive disappointment and still hasn’t reached 200,000 units in the US. Compare that to the near 20 million units moved in the US combined from her first three albums.
In 2011, thanks to Simon Cowell leaving (and to a lesser extent, Ellen DeGeneres and my wife, Kara Dioguardi), American Idol needed a judges reboot. Only long-timer Randy Jackson stuck around. Tyler and Lopez joined, each giving their brands shots of human growth hormone. Tyler caught some flack from his Aerosmith bandmates, but J. Lo was like teflon. While she was a worse singer than every Idol finalist she judged, she could not only outperform them, but she was a true American Idol herself, living the entertainer’s dream. Who lived the American dream better the the back-up dancer from the Bronx?
J. Lo worked well on this show, specifically for two reasons:
1. High-definition cameras were made to shoot her. She’s an absolutely stunning woman in a cosmetic industry. She was the perfect face to be on one of the highest rated TV shows in America.
2. Though she can come off as diva-ish and a little high maintenance, she speaks well to different audiences. She’s from the Bronx so she has that New York swag. She’s Puerto Rican, so she has Latina swag. But it was her charm that allowed her to give out fair critiques while not being too harsh on the contestants.
In her two seasons on American Idol, J. Lo has used the opportunity to rebuild her brand. From January to May, she’s been able to star in a top 5 show in front of 10s of millions of people every week. Artists would pay for the kind of promotion that Lopez has received simply from hosting American Idol.
The LA Times article mentioned that she now has endorsement deals with Fiat, Venus razors, L’Oréal EverSleek, Harman Kardon’s home theater systems and has her own clothing line at Kohls. To give up the kind of visibility would seem shortsighted considering how far back she’s come.
That’s the reason why ultimately, I think this might be a bit of a money grab from her (considering that Britney Spears is reportedly making more than her on a lower rated show). Yes, she can do more of her music. Yes, she can do more movies. But why not do both and be able to promote it in front of a huge audience every week? Thanks to American Idol, J. Lo is relevant again. It would be silly to throw all of that away.