Monday, July 23, 2012

Mariah Carey joins 'American Idol' judging panel - USA TODAY

American Idol isn't giving up its diva power, with Mariah Carey landing as a judge as Jennifer Lopez departs.

By Lionel Cironneau, AP

Female 'Idol' contestants have been channeling Mariah Carey for years, so it's only fitting that the octave-defying diva is the talent show's newest judge.

Carey will join the judging panel for Season 12, Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly said Monday, confirming a deal with the pop and R&B star to a national gathering of television critics.

Carey, speaking to the group briefly by speakerphone, welcomed the new assignment. "I am so excited to be joining Idol," she said. "I can't wait to get started."

Idol host Ryan Seacrest was among the first celebrities to tweet a shout-out: "Welcome to the fam @MariahCarey!! When u and @nickcannon need a date night, I'm happy to strap on the double baby bjorn." And Idol Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks expressed her excitement via Twitter as well: "I can't wait to watch @mariahcarey as a judge!! I LOVE her!!"

Carey's arrival mark the latest overhaul of the Idol judging panel. Reilly said he is "100% certain" Lopez won't be back, while Steven Tyler, who joined the judging panel with Lopez in Season 10, has already announced his departure. The show made certain Lopez wouldn't be back before moving forward with Carey, Reilly said.

"They're very, very different personalities," he said of the two women.

The addition of Carey continues the genre's pursuit of big-name stars to attract viewers. In addition to Carey on Idol, Christina Aguilera is a coach on NBC's The Voice and Britney Spears will be a new judge and mentor on Fox's The X Factor.

Reilly wouldn't confirm any other members of the Idol judging panel, which currently also includes Randy Jackson, saying the show's structure now consists of "so many moving parts." Other judges could be announced as early as the coming week.

Idol suffered a 23% fall in ratings last season and is no longer the only singing game in town, with the presence of X Factor and The Voice. Both of those shows will be on in the fall, with Idol returning in winter.

Judges could come and go more frequently than in the past, Reilly said. "I think change is going to be a part of the show going forward. We're 12 years old. I think we've got to keep it fresh."

However, he said that Idol's focus remains on the singers, and that it wouldn't make radical changes in its format. The show has produced such platinum-selling artists as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

He said the singing competition remains "the gold standard" of its genre, as exemplified by the contenders for the judging panel. "Once again, we have the biggest names in the business, like Mariah Carey, interested in the job."

The network also announced additions to Idol's audition process. Family and friends will be able to nominate potential contestants without their knowledge, submitting videos or websites that feature them performing. Successful candidates will be surprised by a film crew.

And the "American Idol Small Town Audition Bus Tour," a 10-town mobile recruitment effort, will begin in August, stopping at Idaho Falls, Idaho; Billings, Mont.; Casper, Wyo.; Rock Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa; Bowling Green, Ky.; Clarksdale, Miss.; Joplin, Mo.; Dodge City, Kan.; and Grand Junction, Colo.

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