Ever since it was shockingly announced that Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger had been axed from "The X Factor," speculation has run rampant regarding who might replace them. Simon Cowell quashed rumors that Beyonce and Mariah Carey were in the running, and while he recently revealed that Whitney Houston had been considered, obviously that was sadly not meant to be. The latest rumored candidates are Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, and LeAnn Rimes, but as of this writing, all of those also remain unconfirmed.
There's one thing that IS pretty easy to confirm, however: Simon wants some really big names, and he wants females. Divas, specifically. I'm not against that idea, but I will say this: I want STRONG females on "The X Factor" Season 2. No more wishy-washy women who are too afraid of hurting a contestant's feelings (or of getting booed) to give an honest critique, or who break into heaving sobs every time they have to send someone home, or who act way too ditzy to seem like the type of industry expert with whom a newbie singer should entrust his/her budding career. I want women who can go toe-to-toe with remaining judges L.A. Reid and Simon Cowell (assuming Simon doesn't also fire himself...which, come to think of it, may not be such a bad idea). I want women who can win.
So, with that being said, here is my long-overdue and much-mulled-over wishlist for "X Factor" replacement judges. Most of the women on this list have way too much going on to jump on a show that is currently being perceived in the industry as Simon's sinking ship, but if any of them did sign on, it would probably be smooth sailing for the show in Season 2.
Kelly Rowland AND Beyonce - Beyonce is apparently a no-go, but Bey's ex-Destiny's Child bandmate Kelly was a judge last year on "The X Factor U.K.," and it was rumored that Kelly would be moving to this side of the pond to replace Scherzy before Season 1 of the U.S. series was even over. Wow, just imagine if Beyonce and Kelly reunited on the "X" panel--and engaged in a little friendly rivalry! I say they should be a package deal and both sign on.
Madonna - Okay, so she'd never do it. Just humor me, all right? Madge certainly has a history of championing young hot talent (note her collabos with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Nicki Minaj, and M.I.A., or her record label Maverick that once signed Alanis Morissette); she's a cold-blooded, blonde-ambitioned businesswoman who'd think nothing of voting off one of her own subpar team members and would NEVER let a vote go to deadlock; and hey, with her (faux) British accent, she'd fit right in next to Simon!
Cher - I remember a time when some intrepid celebrity reporter suggested to Cher that she compete on "Dancing With The Stars." She pretty much told that reporter to kiss her surgically toned, famously tattooed behind. Good for her. Cher doesn't need a show like "DWTS." She doesn't really need "The X Factor," either, but with her no-nonsense personality and decades of (pre- and post-AutoTune) showbiz experience, she'd be an amazing judge. Come on, Cher, follow in your Burlesque co-star Xtina's stiletto'd footsteps and sign up for a singing show!
Lady Gaga - When Gaga guest-judged on "So You Think You Can Dance" last year, it was one of the best reality TV moments of 2011. Instead of making the show all about her, as one might have expected, Gaga kept the focus on the contestants and gave them her utmost respect, as well as plenty of great advice. She didn't go for shock value, but something of much more value: the celebration of art. However, her guest-mentorship on "Idol" Season 10--when she rocked a pair of Fox-censored phallic platforms, spooked Scotty McCreery so bad he was kissing his cross pendant, and annoyed engaged father James Durbin by grinding up on him from behind--proved she can easily settle into the role of "wacky judge," if she really has to.
Stevie Nicks - Stevie Nicks apparently never watched a reality show she didn't like--she's performed on "America's Got Talent," "American Idol," and "The Voice"--so clearly she ought to add "The X Factor" to her résumé, just to be fair. Besides, Stevie is a rock goddess, and the tawdry tales she could tell of her rock 'n' roll past would make even Steven Tyler blanch. Plus, wouldn't everyone tune in just to see what witchy cape/shawl/doily ensemble Stevie would wear from week to week?
Pink - Nicole Scherzinger thought it was innovative to put Josh Krajcik in an onstage cage and surround him with slutty wannabe-PCD showgirls. Pink, on the other hand, would probably make her protégés perform while suspended in mid-air doing stunts on aerial silks. Simon seems to be a fan of big campy productions on "The X Factor," so Pink seems like a good match in that regard. Plus, she's so badass, her old mentor L.A. Reid (you know, the one Pink called out in her song "Don't Let Me Get Me") would probably be skerred of her.
Missy Elliott - Few women have made such inroads in male-dominated music, behind and in front of the scenes, as Missy. "The X Factor" clearly has a hip-hop agenda, at least to some degree, and Missy is without a doubt a legend and pioneer in that field. She's likable, but tough enough to not take any flak from errant Astro types--the perfect one-woman good cop/bad cop combo for any prospective reality judge. Missy has been off the scene for a minute due to health issues, and a show like "The X Factor" would be a perfect comeback vehicle for her.
Katy Perry - She may not be the most respected vocalist on this list, but when she guest-judged during the Season 9 "Idol" auditions, Katy made great TV when she threatened to throw her Coke in Kara DioGuardi's face. She also proved she has excellent taste in contestants when she wore an "Adam Lambert" cape during her "Idol" results-show performance in Season 8. And there's no doubt, this girl oozes the X factor. Come on, Simon, don't let Katy be the one that got away!
Ann Wilson - She's arguably THE best female rock singer of all time. Do I really need any other reason to put Ann on this list?
Betty Buckley - She is far from the biggest household name here, but this run-through of her recent Twitter rant against "American Idol," Randy Jackson, and Nigel Lythgoe ought to prove why she's qualified for a job like this. Betty simply rules.
Cheryl Cole - Just bring her back already, Simon. Admit you made a mistake by firing Cheryl last year, offer her double her original salary, and be done with it.
So, who would you hire to be one of the new "X Factor" judges?