The New Season of American Idol: Buh-Bye, Dawg-House; Hello, Contestants Younger Than Bieber
Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Ryan Seacrest and Jimmy Iovine
Most living, breathing Americans already know American Idol is undergoing a facelift for its 10th season. Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres are out. Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are in. But new judges aren't the only major changes coming. This year will see a campaign against those McSoulful singer-songwriter types, the inclusion of younger contestants, a ban on all "dawgs." (OK, maybe just less of them.)
Before Wednesday's premiere (8/7c on Fox), TVGuide.com breaks down what's new, what's gone and how all these changes will alter the Idol universe.
American Idol's new judges: "We're not here to break people down"
Buh-bye John Mayer wannabes! Following the recent dominance of singer-songwriter-types like winners Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze, Idol has restricted how often contestants will be allowed to use their instruments. "[Producers] felt as though they had a bunch of strummers rather than guitarists or musicians," executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said. "[Contestants] hid behind their guitars and certainly we want to avoid that."
Hello, in-house mentors! Both the judges and the producers have expressed a desire to nurture the contestants on an ongoing basis. Who better to lend a helping hand than the man behind Eminem and No Doubt, record label chairman Jimmy Iovine? Iovine will mentor the hopefuls every step of the way and will also call on big-name producers like Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera), Timbaland (Justin Timberlake), Christopher "Tricky" Stewart (Beyoncé) and Polow da Don (Usher) to help the singers with musical arrangements and performances.
Idol auditions: Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler bring laughs, critiques and tears
If you're younger than Bieber, that's cool. Thirtysomethings are still not welcome, but producers allowed kids as young as 15 years old to audition this time around. Is this is a nod to the success of Idol wunderkinds such as David Archuleta, or a desperate attempt to find the next Justin — or better yet, Justine — Bieber? Can the young ones handle the pressure? So far, Lythgoe said the 15-year-olds have been "shockingly good."
Get to know the contestants really well. What's it like eating, sleeping and showering alongside the competition? Viewers may soon find out for themselves. Producers are still mulling airing footage from the house where the contestants live. This may take the focus away from the performances that really matter, but will certainly give fans a better chance to get to know the finalists. Plus, some of us are dying to meet the storied Idol house ghost, Phyllis.
New Idol book: Inside Simon's lair, Season 1's love triangle and this year's "three Paulas"
The dawg-house will be shut down. Well, that's not entirely true. Yes, Randy Jackson has a new chair and a new 'tude this season. He said to expect a more "assertive" judge and fewer of his favorites words like "yo" and "dawg." We'll miss Simon's tight V-necks and biting commentary, but Jackson's padding? Jury's out.
Fewer names to remember out of the gate. Producers called last season's transition from top 24 to the final 12 a "weak" part of the competition, so now Hollywood week will take place over two weeks, and the top 40 will be sliced in half down to a top 20. The powers-that-be are hoping that the smaller group gives fans a better opportunity to get to know (and become more attached to) those still in the running.
Road trip! Vegas, baby, Vegas! Sixty contestants will hit the road for Idol's first ever road trip to perform Beatles songs on the stage of Cirque du Soleil's tribute to the fab four, Love. Will they also be performing stunts? We can only hope.
Minor out, new music director Ray Chew in. Chew steps in for departing director Rickey Minor. After working on everything from political events including the 2009 Inaugural Ball to TV shows including The Singing Bee, Chew brings diverse experience to the Idol stage. Where exactly the band will sit has yet to be determined.