After months of speculation, the seemingly endless search for American Idol’s new judges is winding down, and, according to sources, it’s come down to two music industry candidates: hitmaker Dr. Luke and manager Scooter Braun.
Who’s a better fit for the veteran singing competition? Both have impressive industry credentials.
Luke, whose real name is Łukasz Gottwald, has written radio smashes for the likes of Kelly Clarkson (“Since U Been Gone,” “My Life Would Suck Without You”), Katy Perry (“California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream”) and Britney Spears, among many others, and also boasts his own publishing company (Prescription Songs, home to such songwriters and producers as Bonnie McKee, Benny Blanco and Cirkut) and a relatively new -- and reportedly massive -- deal with Sony Music, which houses his Kemosabe Records.
Braun, who manages Justin Bieber, The Wanted and Ariana Grande, among others, has in the last five years made a name for himself as one of the music business’ most formidable players. His success with Bieber, who had little more than a YouTube following until Braun came into the picture (along with Usher, the two secured the teen phenom a major label deal), has brought multiple opportunities to expand his reach, from a record label under Universal (Schoolboy Records) to documentary films (Bieber’s Never Say Never film grossed $73 million) to television (E!’s The Wanted Life).
Seven years separate the two in age (Luke is older, at 39), but both hail from the same general area of the United States – Braun from Connecticut, Luke from neighboring Rhode Island. Both dropped out of college – Braun, from Emory University in Atlanta, Luke from the Manhattan School of Music – so that they could pursue a career in the music industry but took decidedly different directions. Luke, a skilled guitar player, joined the Saturday Night Live band. Braun became a party promoter and then headed up marketing for Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def. Both gigs put the two aspiring music careerists in direct contact with music business insiders and allowed them to expand their networks.
For Braun, his first big break came with rapper Asher Roth, whose “I Love College” was a top 20 hit in 2009. Luke earned his stripes under the tutelage of Swedish songwriter Max Martin, whom he met at a house party in New York. The two soon collaborated several radio smashes, including Clarkson’s “Behind These Hazel Eyes” and Pink’s “Who Knew.”
As far as developing talent, both have proven to be skillful advisors to their clients and partners, no easy task when dealing with megastars, and in that sense, could handle the pressure to produce a superstar, as Idol’s official name boasts. Presumably returning judge Jennifer Lopez has already give her thumbs up to Braun, while Luke was recently spotted at a lunch meeting with Idol executive producer Per Blankens and News Corp.’s David Hill, who oversees both Idol and X Factor.
At this point, with so many names having been churned through the rumor mill -- from Jennifer Hudson to Adam Lambert, Will.i.am to Kanye West -- can’t the powers-that-be just make up their minds already? Or is the eight-headed monster that is Idol’s brain trust standing in the way of progress … yet again?
As we here at Idol Worship see it, one question needs to be answered: who’s better on television? And here is where Braun has a tremendous advantage. Where Luke is tempered, Braun is unpredictable. Unafraid to speak his mind, Braun has an uncanny ability to be honest without insulting – it’s one reason he’s so well-liked in the industry. For Luke, having to navigate egos and sensitivities in addition to label demands has made him more of a diplomat and peace-keeper. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but with Keith Urban and Lopez seated at the table, too much neutrality can lead to another snoozer of a season.
There’s another complication with Luke’s Idol involvement: his deal with Sony. Now that Idol releases music through Universal, one can’t imagine Sony Music CEO Doug Morris, who's called Dr. Luke his "new Jimmy" (as in, Iovine), being all that thrilled to see one of his label underlings scoping out talent for the competition.
Braun, on the other hand, sits on the right team – and in fact, within a stone’s throw of Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge’s office. Would he be able to juggle his duties as manager, label head and TV judge? That’s undoubtedly a concern his clients will have and it could certainly be a deterrent.
Ultimately, though, the reason Braun is the better candidate comes down to one thing: he loves attention, whereas Luke has for years been a behind-the-scenes guy. His personality, while lovely, may not translate to television. But there’s little doubt that Braun would have trouble hamming it up for the cameras. To the contrary, he’d be a natural. He’s passionate about the craft of music and a not-so-gentle handholder, too. We fully expect a walk-off at some point during the season. Just for show, of course.
Who'd you rather, Idol Worshipers? Leave your thoughts in the comments.