A Definitive Ranking Of 'American Idol's Judges

On Monday, I woke up to news that I honestly was not expecting: American Idol is going to end after Season 15 which will premiere in January 2016. Say what? I knew that the show's ratings have been steadily declining over the years and all that, but American Idol is such a huge part of our television culture. This is the show that discovered Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, and made media mogul Ryan Seacrest into a household name, how can it go away?

Although my viewing of the show has become more sporadic in recent years as compared to my days as a devoted fan in the early '00s, I have always been aware of its cultural impact. Idol was undoubtedly loved by many — it was the number one series on broadcast television for eight of its seasons, after all. For the final season, Ryan Seacrest is slated to finish his run as the show's long-time host, and all three of the current judges will also return. The only other details that have been released about the final season is that throughout the competition, the show will celebrate the previous 14 seasons, so I hope that means lots of surprise performances and Simon Cowell cameos.

Speaking of Cowell, over the span of more than a decade, American Idol has had a pretty diverse repertoire of judges, so in celebration, I decided to rank all of the judges from the "WTF" ones to those who will live on in television history.

11. Ellen Degeneres - Season 9


OK, I love Ellen and so does most of America, but I don't understand why she was chosen to judge a singing competition? Sure, she's a music lover and she's funny and amazing otherwise, but Ellen on American Idol just didn't work. She only lasted one season.

10. Steven Tyler - Seasons 10 & 11

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Many fans loved the Aerosmith rocker for his kooky antics, but he did not really offer any real musical advice or criticism which was surprising considering he's the lead singer of a legendary rock band. He always had an offbeat personality and in the end, it seemed he wasn't that into the show. Tyler announced that he was leaving American Idol by saying,

After some long ... hard ... thoughts … I’ve decided it’s time for me to let go of my mistress American Idol before she boils my rabbit... I strayed from my first love, Aerosmith, and I’m back — but instead of begging on my hands and knees, I’ve got two fists in the air and I’m kicking the door open with my band.

Power on, Tyler.

9. Kara DioGuardi - Seasons 8 & 9

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Many people had no idea who the songwriter was, but in her defense, she was stuck in a pretty bad position becoming the fourth judge along with the already established judges who'd been around since the beginning of the series. Later on, DioGuardi shared some of her stories of American Idol with Rolling Stone and it seemed her stint wasn't all that great — and it showed.

8. Mariah Carey - Season 12

For most of her time as judge, Carey seemed to be pre-occupied with being a diva on the set and feuding with fellow judges, so much of her drama didn't really go over well with viewers and contestants. The focus should be on fostering the young talent, not taking away their spotlight.

7. Keith Urban - Seasons 12, 13, & 14

I love Urban and think he's sweet and all, but he's been labeled as the "boring one." That said, he is some good eye candy for mom's everywhere (mine included).

6. Nicki Minaj - Season 12

A lot of focus was placed on Minaj's little feud with Mariah Carey, but the rapper's sunny personality shown through and she always made an effort to give great constructive criticism to the contestants.

5. Randy Jackson - Seasons 1-12

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Randy Jackson was on the judges panel for almost the entirety of the show and America loved him. I didn't quite get the fascination, especially since his "Yo dawg" tag line grew tired in 2007, but he was always very straight-forward and honest in his comments, especially when the judging panel went through some strange mix-ups throughout the years.

4. Paula Abdul - Seasons 1-8

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I just had to include one of the American Idol OGs in the higher ranks. Abdul was the original "crazy judge" and was well known for her weird spats with Cowell and her over-the-top hand clapping, but she was always a very supportive judge.

3. Harry Connick, Jr. - Seasons 13 & 14

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Connick, Jr. doesn't stand up for many singers, but his quiet and insightful remarks show that this man really knows about music and contestants take his advice to heart.

2. Jennifer Lopez - Seasons 10, 11, 13 & 14

I love Jenny from the Block, and she is one of my favorite Idol judges. She is supportive, gracious, and gives great advice. She is critical when she needs to be, but never bashes someone needlessly. Fans everywhere started to eagerly anticipate when a contestant would give her "goosies," meaning something good was about to happen.

1. Simon Cowell - Seasons 1-9

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Say what you will about Simon Cowell, but the man knew how to spot talent and his resume proves it. This is the man who decided to put together One Direction and just had that "feeling" about Kelly Clarkson. Yes, he was harsh and became a television villain, but he never wavered in being exactly who he was. Plus, Cowell's criticism was just an inkling of what a contestant would come to expect in the real world of recording, so really, he was helping them out in that way, too.

In the end, you can't deny that each American Idol judge brought out something different in each contestant. We saw ordinary people transform into stars in front of our eyes — and the judges' eyes — every week, and that, the heart of American Idol, will definitely be missed.

Images: Fox; Giphy (4); Getty Images (8)