Pop-Ed: Howard Stern Is the Only Choice To Replace Simon Cowell
By Jason Kaufman Posted Feb 12th 2010 07:15PM
It has been a week dominated by the buzz of Howard Stern potentially making the jump from satellite radio to Fox to replace Simon Cowell on 'American Idol.' Entertainment newscasts proclaim just how much money Stern could be offered ($100 million! More!), speculation of Stern coming to 'A.I.' cast a bizarre shadow over Ellen DeGeneres' debut on the show and Stern himself has spent hours upon hours on his Sirius/XM show laughing about the opportunity and having seven months off a year to count his 'A.I.' money.
The topic has divided our readers. We asked you on Wednesday whether you approved of the potential move. 80,000 people voted and 68 percent said "thumbs down" to Stern in place of Cowell. Our Facebook fans battled back and forth: Some would never watch the show again! Some would start watching only if Stern joined. Our own Girls on Pop editors questioned the move, saying that Stern does not bring enough musical experience to the show (they also state Ellen doesn't have any either). Many of our readers in their comments have stated that Stern would bring nothing but a potty mouth and stripper skits to a popular and family-friendly franchise.
As a devoted listener of Stern's for 16 years, it's time to speak up. The hiring of Stern to replace Cowell is a game-changing, series-saving move and there is no one on the planet more qualified to take Simon's seat. Making the case after the jump >>>
Howard Stern = Music: So many Stern detractors claim he has no place on 'Idol' because he has no connection to music. They ask why anyone would listen to a shock jock's opinion on matters he knows nothing about. What they forget is that Howard Stern and music are synonymous.
Remember that before Stern ever appeared as Fartman on the MTV Awards, he spent years forging a career through the back channels of rock and roll radio when radio actually meant something. Howard was a true tastemaker, slaving away on rock stations such as WRNW in New York, WCCC in Connecticut and WWWW in Detroit in the days when DJs were true influencers, making artists surge on the charts before there was any such thing as MySpace or YouTube.
Stern created his own style, breaking away from the strict formats of radio that demanded traffic and weather and news had to be delivered at certain moments. And while his searing social commentary and his chatter with guests and his own staff became the backbone of his show in the '80s through today, Stern never lost that intimate connection with music.
It still fuels the Stern show. Anyone listening daily knows that the show kicks off with replays of musical performances or that everything from current rock to recent pop tunes are played as bumpers going in and out of commercials. A sizable chunk of Stern's best guests over the years have included musical artists from every genre, from Paul McCartney to Stevie Wonder to Katy Perry to 50 Cent.
His conversations alone with McCartney show a deep and thoughtful appreciation of both Beatles' and music industry history. Hear a Segment Below:
Stern has even played music, from psychedelic experiments in his bedroom at an early age to his collaboration with close friend Rob Zombie for his 'Private Parts' soundtrack.
Apart from his guests, Howard is a constant, vocal critic of the industry. Listening to his recent analysis of the Grammy Awards broadcast or his weekly take on the Top 5 songs across the country, you hear a man who can smell BS in a performance as well as someone that isn't so hung up on classic rock so much that he can't appreciate the addictive hooks of a new Flo Rida single.
Stern also brings a rock and roll edge to a show that has been screaming for it. Contestants like Bo Bice, Chris Daughtry, David Cook and Adam Lambert have been shaking up 'AI' with their expansive covers of rock and pop songs. Stern's edge would push contestants further. He's a career risk taker and he would encourage the same from the singers. In short, anyone who thinks that Ellen DeGeneres has enough experience to sit on that panel should welcome the musical connection that Stern would bring.
Stern Knows Idol: The hiring of Howard Stern wouldn't be some random stunt. Stern could walk into an 'A.I.' job interview cold and be able to ace a trivia quiz.
Stern has been devout fan of the franchise for years. He spends hours each week during the season analyzing the auditions, the live performances and the judges' critiques, often to the outrage of some fans that would like him to get on with interviewing strippers.
Stern is even tied directly to the show's history, having single-handedly altered the course of 'Idol' in 2007 when he threw his backing behind Sanjaya Malakar. The worse that Sanjaya sang each week (please dare to remember performances like 'Bathwater' and 'Cheek to Cheek'), the more Stern pleaded with his audience to vote him in. Sites like 'Vote for the Worst' joined the cause to endorse Sanjaya. Malakar made it up to seventh place on the show, staying for weeks beyond what the judges thought was possible. I can remember the look on Simon's face when Sanjaya would make it through elimination rounds. I swear that I saw the look of a man who knew the show's strings were being pulled by Stern.
Stern Could Actually Innovate a Fading Franchise: Stern jokes that he'd happily take $100 million to judge a karaoke contest, but any fan knows that he would never be interested in just sitting back and becoming Simon 2.0.
Stern is an innovator. People (including myself) didn't realize that Howard Stern conceived of 'American Idol' before 'American Idol' when he hosted talent contests for unknown singers on the radio on the early '80s.
Stern was the one who told Ozzy Osbourne that cameras should follow him and Sharon around to look at their life years before MTV realized it was a brilliant idea.
Stern was the one who invented the man-on-the-street interviews that Jay Leno stole and then built his "Jaywalking" franchise on.
Stern was the one who brought on grade-school students for trivia contests long before 'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?' decided to take the idea to prime time.
You don't know what exactly Stern would bring to 'Idol' but you know that he would give it a shot in the arm because he never mails it in. Stern's not given credit for leaving terrestrial radio in ruins with his move to satellite radio in 2006. That industry is still trying to recover. He then gave Sirius enough of a subscriber boost to allow the company to merge with XM. Those are entire industries that Howard changed. So one can only imagine what he could do with one simple show.
Stern Can Actually Bring More Family Values To Idol: You didn't read that wrong. It's absolutely true. It's very hard to convince someone who doesn't listen to Stern every day that he is a loyal, loving family man and boss. It's not a stretch to think that Stern would support the show's contestants closer to a way that Paula Abdul did, just with more edge. His criticism would help them to mature as singers.
Stern gives many of his employees grief, but he always does it in a way that makes them elevate their game. He's always looking to motivate and one can envision back and forths between contestant and judge on live TV that could impact future performances. One watches a contestant talk back to Simon Cowell and immediately thinks they've earned their walking papers. Stern welcomes the open dialogue and it would make for a fascinating broadcast.
And anyone who thinks that Stern's judging would be a parade of F-bombs forgets the decades he spent on terrestrial radio watching his own words or his classic David Letterman appearances where he's clean. No one in show business knows how to change his verbiage for specific audiences while maintaining his edge like Howard does.
Stern loves to be the topic of conversation and admitted on the radio this week that he's reveling in the rumors of the jump. Stern fans like me would love to see him get exposure to a whole new audience, as we are tired of constantly telling doubters that he's better than he's ever been since the move to satellite and that any snippets of controversy you hear about him in the news cycle are taken out of context from the universe of his show, where there are rules that make sense. The only fear is that if he does make the move, he'll be tempted to leave the radio show behind, which will leave millions of fans like me trying to figure out how two hours of Stern in top form on TV can compensate for 20 hours of Stern in top form on radio each week.
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