Can Jennifer Lopez Reignite Now That American Idol Doesn’t Want Her?

Being a judge on American Idol, prime-time TV’s No. 1 show, is nice work if you can get it. And it looks like Jennifer Lopez won’t be. For weeks, she had been on the longlist of “names” — which, at various points, has included Elton John, Justin Timberlake, Bret Michaels, Harry Connick Jr., Chris Isaak, Howard Stern, Shania Twain, Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, my pet frog and my late grandmother — mentioned as possible replacements for departing judges Simon Cowell and Ellen Degeneres, who recently announced that she wouldn’t be returning after one widely panned season on the show. (I still think Idol should move heaven and earth — and, if neccessary, hell — to get Elton.)

American Idol would have been a blessing for Lopez, a guaranteed paycheck and the biggest audience she’s had since the mid ’00s. But unfortunately, Lopez apparently thinks it’s 2001, and she’s still the biggest star in Hollywood’s constellation. According to People.com, talks between her and Idol’s producers broke down because Lopez’s “demands got out of hand.” Earth to Lopez: Now is not the time to be asking for the sun and moon, along with first-class accoutrements for an entourage of 50, Evian water to soak your feet in, and gold-lined garbage bags for those pesky brown M&Ms.

For those remaining Lopez fans who think American Idol is so beneath their queen anyway, consider this: It’s been more than half a decade since Lopez topped anyone’s hot list. She’s not even a major tabloid attraction anymore. Wedded bliss will do that to you — so will a faltering career. Although the North American box-office performance of her most recent movie, The Back-Up Plan, her first in three years, was moderately respectable ($37.5 million, a sum that Jennifer Aniston and rising romantic-comedy stars Katherine Heigl and Amanda Seyfriend can match without getting out of bed) after its release in April, the reviews were predictably bad, and it failed to restore Lopez’s early ’00s luster.

On the music side, her last two albums tanked, and her would-be comeback, Love?, has been plagued with pre-release difficulties. She left her longtime label, Epic Records, by reportedly mutual agreement (and has since signed with Def Jam Records), and the first single, “Louboutins,” failed to chart on Billboard‘s Hot 100. Initially scheduled to come out in February, Love? is now due in the fall, but where is the buzz?

Though Lopez is hardly where Paula Adbul was when she got her Idol gig, she’s no longer in the position to negotiate like a diva. Now, thanks to her ego and her drastically reduced bargaining power, she can’t get a job that Simon Cowell and Ellen Degeneres don’t want and one that Kara DioGuardi — Kara DioGuardi! — has. I’d like to say a big musical comeback is in store, but that’s unlikely. Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and the ephemeral nature of pop trends have seen to that. Though her film career isn’t exactly endangered (The Back-Up Plan did well enough overseas that its final worldwide gross doubled its $35 million budget), her days as a $15 million-a-film star are probably behind her for good. And since she was never the greatest actress to begin with, I can’t imagine that she’ll ride some low-budget indie to an Oscar nomination and renewed A-list status.

The good news (yes, there is good news): Maybe “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” or “Jenny From the Block” will land on an upcoming episode of Glee, and Lopez will be invited on for a cameo. It’d be nice work if she could get it. TC mark

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