Lythgoe, a longtime judge on "So You Think You Can Dance" who helped create Britain's "Pop Idol," whichspawned "American Idol," told Us Weekly that Cowell's aversion to country music kept a lot of talent from breaking through on the show.
"We've had some incredible country voices — in truth, Simon would have gotten rid of them straight-away because he wasn't a country fan," Lythgoe said. "This season we have a 16-year-old kid with an incredible voice and a jazz kid who does this fabulous scat-singing. Again, we wouldn't have had him on the show because Simon would have said, 'He's not an American Idol! Get rid of him!' ... What you are definitely going to get this season is an American voice and American music."
With Cowell gone, "The energy in the audition rooms is totally different," Lythgoe told Us. "You aren't tired at the end of the day, even though we are seeing twice as many kids as we did in the past. We are enjoying it; we are laughing."
The newly ordered panel of judges, which includes Jennifer Lopez andSteven Tyler, won't be cruel to auditioners that don't have what it takes, he said.
"It's not about saying, 'You are carrying too much weight, you don't look like an American Idol,'" Lythgoe told Us. "What I see is warmth and artistic understanding of the person standing in front of them."
Tyler will tell a reject, "'I hear your soul. But it's not in the voice of American Idol. Thanks so much for coming,'" Lythgoe said.
Lopez "is growing in stature all the time," he said. "She's her own person, and she knows what she wants to say, and she'll just start saying it: 'Now what I think is this.' And it isn't anything trite ... it's from her heart and she means it."
Cowell, who left to launch a U.S. version of "The X-Factor," is not involved in the upcoming season, Lythgoe said.
"He's never been a producer," he added. "Simon Fuller created 'Idol.' Simon Cowell has never had a producer credit. He just got too big for his boots."