This. Is American Idol.

It's back.

Tonight the ninth season of American Idol returns and I've already got my t-shirt on.

But today we're not talking about how hard it's going to be to top last season or how Ellen is going to do as a judge (she won't even be on the show until mid-February anyway). Today we're talking about a very interestingly timed announcement by everyone's favorite British grump.

This. Is Simon's last season.

::gasp:: Say it ain't so!

The X Factor, a show that Simon created, produced and judges on in England, is coming to America so Simon has decided to leave Idol to be on The X Factor. He said he is ready for a new challenge and is ready to do something different.

Well i don't exactly know how being on an American version of a show that is already hugely successful in England is much of a big challenge, but I do know that Idol is about to find themselves to be very challenged when it comes to finding his replacement.

Simon is what makes American Idol so popular (as much as Seacrest probably hates to admit). How would we sit through the audition rounds listening to all of the wannabes without Simon's jabs to go along with them? How will we know which contestant to really respect and listen to without Simon's opinion? Because despite the fact of having three other judges, it's always been Simon for some reason who has established himself as the lead judge and the one who really knows what he's talking about.

So who could possibly replace Simon? Should it be someone who's just as sarcastic and brutally honest as he is? Should it be another Englishman?

I don't think so. Why would you replace the original with a probably not very good imitation? It's also time for Idol to get with the times a little bit. As far as her credits go, Kara's got a good resume even though she's annoying because the artists she's worked with and written for are actually relevant today. Which also means that you can't pick another songwriter really because that's her gig. You need someone who's going to be pretty honest, maybe not as mean, but someone who's going to give it to the people straight because at the end of the day, that's what Simon did.

So here are a few suggestions:

1. Pharrell. He's a producer and recording artist and he's collaborated with some of the biggest and, more importantly, longest-lasting names in the music business. Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears - you've heard of them? Pharrell has had a hand in their success, either by himself or with his buddy Chad Hugo as part of The Neptunes (totally got that off of Wikipedia). He knows what's popular now and he knows what people want to hear.

2. Timbaland. Another big name in the world of producing, Timbaland has worked with Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Madonna, 50 Cent, Jay-Z and more. He still records and collaborates and his songs are major hits. "Apologize" and "The Way I Are" both come to mind. He'd be a popular choice again for being current and knowing what makes a star.

3. Joey Fatone from *N SYNC. He's likable and obviously knows what it takes to be a mainstay in the industry. Potential problems with him sugar coating his opinions but he's proven to be good on camera and I think it could work.

4. Nobody. You keep the three current judges and go back to that format. I think this all depends on how Ellen does as a judge.

5. A rotating door of guest judges. They're doing it with the audition process and I think it's a great idea. They've found current, relevant artists to give their critique like Mary J. Blige, Victoria Beckham, and one of the Jo Bros. But I think the key is definitely to stay with current people. I mean, remember when Meatloaf performed on the show? Yeah nobody was too thrilled with that.

These are some very preliminary thoughts but you can bet I'll be following this closely. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Good luck Idol. I think you're going to need it.

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