Pop Culture

'Idol' producer: Show is better off without Simon Cowell

Worried that "American Idol" has lost its luster now that tart-tongued judge Simon Cowell is gone?

Don't be, producer Nigel Lythgoe tells UsMagazine.com.

He told Us Thursday during the "So You Think You Can Dance" auditions in Oakland, Calif., that a variety of contestants will appear on the Fox show next season — and that wouldn't have happened if Cowell, 51, was still involved.

"We've had some incredible country voices — in truth, Simon would have gotten rid of them straight-away because he wasn't a country fan," Lythgoe told Us. "This season we have a 16-year-old kid with an incredible voice and a jazz kid who does this fabulous scat-singing. Again, we wouldn't have had him on the show because Simon would have said, 'He's not an American Idol! Get rid of him!' ... What you are definitely going to get this season is an American voice and American music."

With Cowell gone, "The energy in the audition rooms is totally different," Lythgoe told Us. "You aren't tired at the end of the day, even though we are seeing twice as many kids as we did in the past. We are enjoying it; we are laughing."

He said that while the new judges "are being tough" with contestants, "Idol" hopefuls aren't being criticized for their appearances, unlike past seasons.

"It's not about saying, 'You are carrying too much weight, you don't look like an American Idol,'" Lythgoe told Us. "What I see is warmth and artistic understanding of the person standing in front of them."

If Steven Tyler, 62, doesn't like the voice, "he'll say, 'I hear your soul. But it's not in the voice of American Idol. Thanks so much for coming,'" Lythgoe said.

Jennifer Lopez, 40, "is growing in stature all the time," he said. "She's her own person, and she knows what she wants to say, and she'll just start saying it: 'Now what I think is this.' And it isn't anything trite ... it's from her heart and she means it."

And Randy Jackson?

Well, "Randy is not the Randy you know," Lythgoe told Us. "Randy has been in the shadows. He's not that same person, he's standing up."

Lythgoe reiterated that Cowell — who quit the show earlier this year to launch a U.S. version of "The X-Factor" — "is not involved at all" next season. "He's never been a producer," he added. "Simon Fuller created 'Idol.' Simon Cowell has never had a producer credit. He just got too big for his boots."

The new season of Fox's "American Idol" debuts in January.