Simon Cowell
Photo: Fox
Wanted: Opinionated judge for popular singing competition who speaks his/her mind without being gratuitously rude. Must be able to withstand vocal torture in arduous audition process and distinguish the William Hungs from the Carrie Underwoods before suffering through the chorus. Music industry experience, the ability to be heard over thousands of "boos" and an aptitude for bantering are musts. This job is not for the faint of heart; people pleasers need not apply.
Before Season 9's top 24 were even revealed, American Idol had already seen its share of shakeups. Paula's out, Ellen's in and Simon Cowell made an announcement that will change the course of the show forever. In May, he'll be leaving Idol for his new talent show, X-Factor.

As the race to fill his seat charges full speed ahead, the question remains: How do you replace someone with Cowell's experience, expertise and charisma? Cowell can't say for sure, but what he would like to see is someone who knows what he's talking about. "Over the years, judges have been replaced by personalities. That, in the long term, will create problems because you have to be able to spot a star," he says. "My advice has always been to find somebody who actually knows what they're talking about and has actually experienced success in the music business."

Could Howard Stern and Perez Hilton be Idol material?
Howard Stern and Perez Hilton
Photos: Getty Images Entertainment
In casting the most coveted job on television, Fox will have no shortage of candidates. "The hardest thing, actually, about finding a replacement is that when you hear people's names like Madonna, it will never happen because you have to give a massive, massive time commitment," he says. "That's always been the problem when you're trying to find people to do these shows."

One name thrown out in the ring of public opinion? Shock jock Howard Stern. "He's played records. Maybe that's a good qualification," he says. "I know Howard's name has been in there for a while, but I'm fairly certain that there hasn't been an approach at any time for Howard to do the show."

Still, if Howard wants the job, Cowell says he should keep bringing it up on air. "Just basically talking about it on his show I think is brilliant," he says. "Good luck to him."

Blogger Perez Hilton has also made his bid for Simon's Coca-Cola cup well-known. "Perez would be funny," he says. "He has a good taste in music; he's a personality. I mean, that could work."

How Cowell really feels about Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres
Photo: Fox
Cowell hasn't been shy in saying his successor needs to have music experience, but he says his statements are in no way a knock against new judge Ellen DeGeneres. "I'll tell you why I think Ellen was a good choice: She actually is very responsible for people she has performing on her own show. I know that for a fact because I've dealt with her as a record label," he says. "And she loves music and she's been an artist, so no, it wasn't meant to dis her credential. It was specifically talking about my replacement because my role on the show was somebody who has run a successful record label."

Simon also addresses rumors of tension between him and Ellen. "I wouldn't say that we didn't get on well. I don't know Ellen that well," he says. "It was a difficult position for her because she started work on the Hollywood Week, which is quite a difficult show to do."

"There was one story I read that I turned up an hour late or something and that she wanted to film. The truth was I think I turned up 15 or 20 minutes late because I did a press conference earlier in the day and they did start filming, but that wasn't a particular problem," he says. "But no, there was no fallout. I was trying to guide her through the week and that was about it, really."

Cowell on his last season
American Idol judges
Photo: Fox
Fans may not be able to envision Idol without him, but Cowell says the show must go on. "I think, ironically, it's going to help next season because I think there's going to be a lot of interest as to who replaces me."

In the meantime, Cowell says he's giving his all to the last season—and hopes to work with one guest judge before he leaves. "I think we should have Lady GaGa because she is the most relevant pop artist in the world at the moment," he says. "I've met her, and she's very smart. I like her."

With his Idol days numbered, Cowell says he's going to keep doing what he does best. "Be in the moment and always do what I've done in my career, which is to hopefully make the right decisions. If that means disagreeing with people, I don't have a problem with that—I never have," he says. "It's my last season, and I want it to be successful. I'll do everything I can to make it happen."

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