Tell it to the judge: why American Idol needs no-nonsense Katy Perry

If anyone can turn the US reality show’s fortunes around, it’s a proper pop star who rides 16ft-tall golden lions

Traditionally, signing up to be a judge on a talent show is a dead giveaway that a pop star has lost their shine. A squeaky leatherette seat on a reality-show panel is the halfway point between “actually selling records” and “auditioning for these shows as a contestant”; for evidence, see Mel B, Nicole Scherzinger and Dannii Minogue, Cheryl (all X Factor) or, across the Atlantic, Paula Abdul, J Lo, Mariah Carey (American Idol). Their post-reality output has been disappointing at best, embarrassing at worst. Only season 12’s Nicki Minaj has managed to escape with chart power and dignity still intact.

It came as a #blessed surprise last week, then, when Actual Pop Megastar Katy Perry was revealed to have signed up as a judge for the newly revived American Idol, the network paying her an alleged $25m, probably more money than it cost the channel to acquire the actual show. Dosh aside, it’s a weird move on her part: Perry is, after all, a stadium-filling artist who has played the Super Bowl. That puts her in the same league as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, yet you don’t see them sitting behind a desk listening to 562 terrible versions of Kelly Clarkson songs.

However, if anyone can pull a TV talent show out of its death spin, it’s K-Pez. She’s got opinions and she’s going to share them. In fact, there’s every chance that no one will get to sing a note on Idol, because Katy will spend the entire two-hour live show telling the first contestant about a dream she had last night. To be honest, though, no one really cares about the contestants on American Idol, do they? It’s all about the judges. Viewers want to see A-listers row with each other. But since Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj both left the show in 2013 (Mariah called her series-long feud with Minaj “the worst experience of my life”), we haven’t had a fight worth watching. Recent judges – Steven Tyler, J Lo, Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr – have spent too much time insisting they’re best friends and posting matey selfies. Which is, quite honestly, boring.

What they needed was Katy Perry storming in, slagging everyone off, starting fights, then posting a series of shady tweets. She’s an expert, after all: she’s dragged her rivalry with Taylor Swift out for three long years.

Yes, Katy Perry is just the reality-show ticket. After all, you know she’s not going to sit back and let boring balladeers get away with the old “standing up off the stool when the key change comes in” performance. This is, let’s not forget, the woman who rode into her Super Bowl half-time performance on a 16ft-tall golden lion. She’s not going to tell a weepy Adele impersonator “you’re going to Hollywood!” Unless you turn up with 16 dancers dressed as forest animals and enough fireworks to get the entire studio evacuated, you’re going home. And isn’t that what we’d all rather watch?


Issy Sampson

The GuardianTramp

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