‘Idol’ leaner but not meaner
Minus Simon Cowell, it’s now Steven Tyler and J.Lo plus Randy Jackson as judges.
This is “American Idol 2.0.”
After almost two months of dodging media questions, Fox officially announced Wednesday to great fanfare at the Forum what has been widely speculated upon for weeks: Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler are the new judges for the show’s 10th season, along with Randy Jackson.
The grandeur surrounding Wednesday’s news contrasted sharply with the quiet that draped the new judges’ contract negotiations, which seemed to drag on for more than two months. The hiring of the two new faces amounts to a sweeping overhaul of one of television’s most popular shows, which has lost its star judge, Simon Cowell, and whose ratings have been in decline.
Both performers are former chart-toppers whose careers have cooled in recent years. Lopez, who has served as an “Idol” mentor, has sold 25 million records worldwide but was dumped by Sony Music Group in the wake of lagging sales this year. Tyler, longtime frontman for the rock group Aerosmith, has tangled publicly with members of his band, who haven’t gone platinum on an original album in nearly a decade.
“I’m calling ‘Idol’ Season 10 the remix, baby!” Jackson told the crowd of about 3,000 “Idol” hopefuls who had packed into the Forum to audition and hear the news from host Ryan Seacrest.
And a remix it will be when the show returns in January. As first reported in
[See ‘Idol,’ D8]
The Times in August, music producer Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, has joined the show as an inhouse mentor.
Iovine and Interscope producers such as Timbaland will work with the contestants every week to help them grow within their chosen genre. Contestants no longer will be forced to put their country twist on the Bee Gees or their rock edge to Dolly Parton.
By working with Interscope, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said he hoped the focus of the show would be to develop successful pop artists. “You look back at the history, the American Idols, who are really there now? What is in our wake?” Lythgoe said. “You have Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and then you start running out of Idols. We have got to go back to creating an American Idol.”
Lythgoe and Iovine spoke to reporters outside of the Forum, accompanied by Seacrest, the three judges, executive producer Ken Warwick and Fox President of Alternative Entertainment Mike Darnell. The panel kicked off the news conference by quickly batting down reports that negotiations with the new judges, particularly Lopez, had been difficult.
“I’m kind of used to it,” Lopez said of her alleged diva demands. “We know what the truth is. The truth always shows itself in who you are. To be honest, I wasn’t worried.”
The truth is that in addition to her $12-million salary for her work on “Idol,” Lopez has a first-look development deal with Fox Films to develop TV shows and movies.
In a conference call with reporters later Wednesday afternoon, Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment for Fox Networks Group, also dismissed speculation that negotiations with Lopez or Tyler had been particularly difficult or lengthy. “Once we actually made them offers, their deals closed very quickly,” said Rice, who noted that he did not even meet with Lopez until August, which was after word of the talks about the two joining the show had leaked out.
Despite its dip in viewership, “American Idol” could still be highly profitable for Fox and the producers this season, even if the ratings tumble again. That’s because the salaries of Lopez and Tyler combined won’t come close to what Cowell was pulling down.
Asked who would replace Cowell as the tough voice on the panel, Jackson said, “I don’t think there will be [a tough voice].”
Lopez said she believed in “tough love,” but “I don’t think I ever — as an artist myself — I could never be cruel to another artist.” Tyler said he was steeling himself to judge young talent.
“I’m sure we’re going to send some people home with a broken heart,” he said. “But with everything we’ve been through in our careers, and living vicariously through young talent, it’s going to be hard.”
Jackson said that he felt “everything worked out the best it could” after the departures of Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi.
“Idol” producers have tightly controlled the show’s image over the years, but the program was thrown into disarray following the recent exits of Cowell, DeGeneres and DioGuardi.
Cowell announced his plans to leave “Idol” before the ninth season began. But DeGeneres, apparently taking her cues from the public’s response, resigned this summer. DeGeneres had been hired to replace Paula Abdul, who left the show unexpectedly over a contract dispute. Fox opted not to resign DioGuardi, who joined the singing competition two years ago.
NEW CREW: Steven Tyler, left, and Jennifer Lopez join returning judge Randy Jackson at the Forum announcement, part of the overhaul of “American Idol.”