Should John Replace Simon Cowell?

By jim bessman for

Ever since Simon Cowell’s decision to step down at the end of the current season of “American Idol,” entertainment bloggers and prognosticators have speculated as to who will take his place as the belligerent judge. And any number of stars have been suggested (or suggested themselves), everyone from La Toya Jackson to “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan (the 2-1 favorite, according to gambling site to Elton John, whose rep quickly came out to nix the idea.

On Thursday, blogger Nicole Caminiti broached the inevitable in her “John Mellencamp: the Perfect Replacement for Simon Cowell on American Idol” piece. (LINK)

“I have followed this man's career for over 20 years and truth be told, I feel like I know him,” she wrote by way of explanation, no doubt expressing what many of John’s fans feel. “Mellencamp may have a reputation for being a tad ornery and difficult to get along with, however he is definitely a refined professional. He is diligent, tenacious, creative and energetic. John Mellencamp is a perfectionist who has literally made a career out of being a musical rebel. He has rebelled against politics, pop music, record companies and even Hollywood, yet he has consistently remained at the top of his game throughout the decades.”

She’s right on so far, except I’d make that two tads ornery to be on the safe side, three in case it’s a bad day. Caminiti thinks this and the other noted Mellencamp personality traits fit in well with Cowell’s—presuming that’s what the “AI” producers are looking for. “He is direct, outspoken and opinionated,” she continued. “He does not mince words, says exactly what's on his mind and doesn't care what anyone else thinks [and] his sharp tongue, confidence and musical insight make him the perfect candidate to replace Simon Cowell.”

But she also touched on an equally important attribute in John’s recognition and appreciation of talent. This is evident throughout his career in the great artists who have recorded with him and opened for him--Little Big Town being but the most recent example—and the many great songwriters like Richard Thompson and Steve Earle whom he’s championed over the years by covering their songs in concert long before they became well known.

And Caminiti did correctly note how “it's not just his fiery attitude and endurance that would make Mellencamp a great ‘American Idol’ judge. He has penned countless songs and melodies that pay homage to our country's heartland. He is an American storyteller who crafts relatable tales about the common man.”

Yet ironically, that’s also precisely why he would never really make it as an “AI” judge—that is, in the Cowell mold: Relating so well with the common man, the American storyteller finds it impossible to say anything bad about those who might be his subjects; in this regard, John’s way too nice of a guy to play the Cowell.

Go back to his highly anticipated 2007 guest spot on “Ebert & Roeper,” when he subsituted for the then laid up Ebert. A big film enthusiast, he was unable to say anything bad about any of the movies that were discussed, in fact, he loved them all. For the record, they were “Vacancy,” “Lonely Hearts,” “In the Land of Women” and “Fracture.” I can’t remember anything about any of them, and the only one Roeper liked was “In the Land of Women.”

So it’s quite unlikely he’d be willing to put down an “AI” contestant with any comment more caustic than “nice try.” No, the power move would have been to have hired John as Paula Abdul’s replacement. Looks aside, he’s a far better singer, and arguably, a better dancer.