American Idol judges - a history

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American Idol featured a diverse selection of celebrities and pop stars in the judges chairs during its run. Actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, country singer Keith Urban and crooner Harry Connick Jr are on the final panel – we take a look back at the eight judges who preceded them and reflect on how well they filled the hot seats.

Simon Cowell - Seasons 1-9

Appalled but fascinated viewers tuned in for the British judge’s cruel critiques and unsympathetic zingers. Without Cowell, there would be no Idol.

Randy Jackson  - Seasons 1-12

He overstayed the party. The goofy Jackson rarely contributed substantial commentary, often resorting to using the word “pitchy” to describe a performance he didn’t like.

Paula Abdul - Seasons 1-8

While the loopy and overly dramatic Abdul didn’t give much constructive advice, she was a lot of fun to watch. She was also the only judge who made emotional bonds with contestants.

Kara DioGuardi - Seasons 8-9

A gifted songwriter but she failed to make much of an impression as a judge on the show.

Steven Tyler - Seasons 10-11

The hilarious rocker was a refreshing presence, but his tendency to remain neutral – everything was “beautiful!” – was not helpful to the hopefuls.

Ellen DeGeneres - Season 9

In a disappointingly boring turn that she later called “the worst decision” she has made, DeGeneres refused to say anything negative about a contestant.

Mariah Carey - Season 12

She gave excellent, albeit rambling, advice but had the tendency to make things all about her. At one point, she walked up to a contestant and sprinkled glitter on her.

Nicki Minaj - Season 12

She was combative and harsh but Minaj seemed as though she genuinely wanted only the best for the singers.