Just when it seemed that things in the Aerosmith camp had cooled down - albeit with the "help" of lawyers and managers - things may be in disarray again. Lead singer Steven Tyler has been dropping hints that he will be one of the judges for American Idol's upcoming 10th season. This hasn't been confirmed by either American Idol or Fox Broadcasting, but it's left a very sore taste in the mouth of Joe Perry, who again finds himself wondering what happened to the band he and Tyler started in 1970.
In theory, Aerosmith should have had good things going for them. Their 2004 cover album Honkin' on Bobo met with positive reception from critics, and their fans looked forward to the band returning to the bluesy-rock sound that defined Aerosmith for decades (and less of the pop influences of 2001's Just Push Play). But amidst a divorce, rumors of a relapse into a drugs and an on-stage injury that forced the cancellation of a tour, Tyler's commitment to Aerosmith seemed questionable when he told Classic Rock magazine that he didn't know what he was doing (vis-a-vis Aerosmith), but that he wanted to focus on himself - "Brand Tyler". His bandmates weren't thrilled, and word soon spread that they were auditioning replacements for Tyler. Things were exacerbated when Perry revealed that the singer had not been in contact with the band, and that Aerosmith wanted to move on. Whether Tyler wanted to be a part of that was up to him.
For fans who lived through the days of Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay, this must have sounded very familiar.
It took a surprise appearance from Tyler with the Joe Perry Project to assure the world that he wasn't going to leave Aerosmith. That seemed to swing the pendulum the right way again. Tyler entered a rehabilitation facility, and the group did some tentative recording. Drummer Joey Kramer said that everybody was getting along great, and after a long time, everyone was on the same page.
Then came the rumors that Tyler was looking at American Idol (or that Idol was looking at him). Kramer felt that, should the Tyler-Idol connection materialize, it would open up Aerosmith up to a new fanbase, but Perry took issue with Tyler not consulting (or informing) his bandmates first, and questioned the wisdom of such a career choice when Aerosmith still has plans - recording the follow-up to Honkin' on Bobo and making up for a number of canceled shows.
I am, by no means or stretch of the imagination, a fan of American Idol, but the highly-publicized departures of Paul Abdul, Ellen DeGeneres and Simon Cowell as judges have been hard to miss. As guaranteed a ratings giant as Idol is, I can't be the only one thinking that the show's popularity might suffer with the exodus of such high-profile faces. I'm probably the only one actually hoping for it, but I'm sure I can't be the only one thinking it. To be fair, deserving and exceptional vocal talent is occasionally showcased on American Idol, and the travails of would-be Idols is always good for a guilty-pleasure rubbernecking. But with such established faces as Abdul, Cowell and DeGeneres leaving, would Fox stretch a hand out to Tyler? Is an aging, eccentric rock star from the 70s and 80s what Fox, American Idol and the millions and millions of people tuning in, are looking for?
Much as I love Aerosmith, they haven't given me too many reasons to love them in the recent past. Sure, they're getting old, my music tastes have changed, but they've had consistent difficulty recording an album for the last six years. Their stock has fallen. I'm not exactly convinced that the way to get back in the saddle is for Steven Tyler to be a judge on American Idol. As for what's best for Tyler, it's hard to say. Aerosmith may have five members, but it's really been only about Perry and Tyler, the Toxic Twins. Perry has been more than content to have let the music do the talking, but Tyler has always been a different story. Aerosmith came back from the grave when they kicked their drug and booze habit - will American Idol be the final nail in the coffin for American's rock 'n roll band?