On American Idol, they hold nothing back when criticizing or complimenting the contestants.
But isn't it about time Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell were the ones under the spotlight? Entertainment Weekly thought so, as the magazine gathered together past finalists Ace Young, Kimberley Locke and Anthony Federov for a judgment on the judges.
Here's what they had to say:
One of the only standouts from a lackluster guys' night, Blake Lewis still came under criticism from Randy for not breaking out his mad beatboxing skills during his rendition of Keane's ''Somewhere Only We Know.'' Randy even suggested Blake should beatbox every week.
Kimberley: That's where the confusion comes in, I think. We all know he can't beatbox every week. That's not how the show works. I guess if he can incorporate beatboxing into every genre, that would make an interesting show; I don't know how far it would get him through the competition, though.
Randy also laid into Nicole Tranquillo â€” one of the two women voted off this week â€” for tackling Chaka Khan's ''Stay,'' a song Randy felt was ''too urban'' for her.
Anthony: I agreed with him on that. She does have a pop voice. I don't know â€” if that's the kind of music she likes singing, that's fine, but I think he was on point with that one. Every performance I watched, [Randy] was literally taking the words out of my mouth. He was dead-on every single performance.
Ace: I don't know what [Randy] meant by it, but I think if a song's too anything â€” if it's too country or too pop or whatever â€” I think they're saying they didn't fall into the feeling of the song. The hardest thing with Idol is you only get a minute and a half [to sing]. So ''Stairway to Heaven'' is the wrong song. Song selection is key.
Kimberley: I didn't like [Randy's] comment. I do think [the song] was a little bit unnatural for [Tranquillo], with some of her facial expressions. I think she went in for it too deep instead of just being herself. But come on, that girl hit those notes. I was very impressed with her. I know Randy Jackson of all people is not a prejudiced guy, but had I been standing there, I would've said, ''So what are you saying, I'm not black enough to sing that song?'' I was kind of offended by his comments, and that's the first time Randy's ever really offended me. Most of the time it's Simon.
Paula, meanwhile, went easy on Tranquillo, repeatedly brushing off Randy and Simon's criticisms of her by exclaiming that the girl can sing.
Kimberley: Paula's an artist and she can be sympathetic with us, but sometimes I think she just flat-out lies just to make us feel better. She told the one girl [Haley Scarnato], with the black one-piece pantsuit with the high-waisted belt, [that] she was great, and I didn't think she was great.
After Simon commented that erstwhile bluesman Sundance Head didn't know what to do with his hands, Paula, well, started rubbing her chest and telling Sundance he should do the same. What was that about?
Ace: I have no idea, honestly. The judges have their own inside jokes that sometimes don't even pertain to the person on stage. They've known each other for so long that they can just pass [insider] signals [to each other] and have a whole conversation.
And then there was Paula's volume-tastic hair.
Kimberley: Paula's hair looked a little dry. She has a lot of hair right now, a whole up-down thing going all at the same time â€” like, she had a pony in the back, but it was all really down. But Paula's beautiful, so she can take hair risks.Ace: Whatever she did to add volume to that hair is something that should be marketed, because you know we've all been working on how to get a little fluff in our stuff. The hair had attitude. She looked great.
Simon and contestant Chris Sligh butted heads this week after Sligh responded to Simon's comment that his rendition of Mute Math's ''Typical'' was like a ''student performance'' with a crack about Simon's pop-opera male group Il Divo.
Ace: I've seen Simon very annoyed, and it was very clear that statement caught his attention â€” but whether or not it got under his skin, you never really know. I don't think anyone knows Simon to that degree. We're still getting to know him even though it's his sixth year. When Simon compared him to a student performance... I don't know what that means [either]. I don't know if that [refers to] karaoke or the learning process.
Anthony: Simon's comments were a lot more constructive than they usually are. One of my favorite quotes was what he said for Nicole [Tranquillo], that [her performance] was ''indulgent, unnatural, aggressive, and over-rehearsed.'' He also mentioned something about Haley [Scarnato], that she sounded old, like singing in a decent hotel. This is Simon's way of basically saying the same thing as Randy or Paula, but he's more creative with his words.
Simon was also quick to note the beauty of contestants Antonella Barba and Alaina Alexander, if not their singing talent.
Ace: You know when the judges say you're attractive, I think the first thing you can do is call your parents and thank them because it's not in your control, your visuals aren't up to you, it's what it is. But [those women were] there to have them say, ''You really picked the right songs, you really took the right approach, I felt it, it was great.''
Kimberley: By him saying that, he was telling them your singing sucks, so thank goodness you're cute, because you'll get some votes because you look good. Do I agree with that? No, I don't. It's a singing competition. That one girl Antonella, who sang the Aerosmith song? She was so off-key all the way through that song, and he should've just said that to her, but he didn't, and so he gave her another chance. If he had blasted her, America would've listened, and she wouldn't have another chance. She can sing, she just chose the wrong song.
Simon did heap loads of praise, however, on LaKisha Jones, saying, ''I'm very tempted to say to 23 people, 'Book your plane ticket home.'''
Ace: I remember in our season, [after a] Mandisa performance, Simon had said something similar. He said [to her], ''You are on a different level than everybody else,'' and then he looked at everybody and said, ''You better step up the game, you better pick your songs well and attack this like you want it,'' and it made everybody step up. So it was great motivation to say something like that.
Kimberley: That's odd for Simon to say that, because we all know Simon has this thing against big women. I kinda have a feeling that somebody may have tapped Simon's hand and said, Okay, enough with the big-girls comments. Because he was way too nice [this week]. But I mean, I'm glad, because she was great. I think there were other girls on there who were just as good as her, if not a little better, but I thought she was great.