After American Idol formally unveiled its new judges — Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson — the show announced even more changes for its upcoming tenth season, including the introduction of an in-house mentor and an overhaul of theme weeks.
Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, will be a regular presence on the show, helping to coach the Idol hopefuls throughout the competition. To aid him, Iovine will also recruit high-profile music producers, including Timbaland and Polow Da Don, to work behind the scenes with the contestants.
Iovine had been expected to recur on the series as part of Idol's new partnership with music distributor and Interscope parent Universal Music Group.
"We're going to have the best producers in the world... and they're going to be bringing the contestants along every week," Iovine said Wednesday during a press conference following the announcement of the new judges. "You'll see a remarkable difference week to week. It's going to be an entirely new construct of bringing up the artist."
At the same time, theme weeks will focus less on specific artists and niche genres. "We are no longer going to get the country singer to sing rock, or the rock singer to sing country," executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said. "The styles of music will be more about decades, rather than an individual artist's music."
Also gone? Celebrity guest judges during the audition rounds. Unless, Lythgoe says, someone "with something real to add" comes calling.
The changes to Idol are all part of a theme. Idol needs to find not just a winner, but a pop superstar on the order of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, who remain the show's best-selling artists to date. "What is in our wake? Kelly... Carrie... and then you start running out of idols," Lythgoe said. "We've got to go back to creating an idol."
New judge Lopez agreed. "I just think you have to go with the talent at the end of the day," she said, noting that she's not interested in someone who can perform in a variety of different styles. "I want to look for the 'it' thing."
"We got sick to death of seeing [contestants] stand behind a guitar every week," trying to make the theme of the week work, executive producer Ken Warwick added.
Other changes to Idol include the introduction of online auditions and allowing hopefuls as young as 15 to compete.
As for the new judges, they say no one is trying to replace Simon Cowell. "How tough will I be? I believe in tough love," Lopez said. "But I could never be cruel to another artist." Aerosmith's Tyler said, "I'm sure we'll send some people home with a broken heart, but we've all been through that in our careers... It's going to be hard, but it's also going to be fun because they're stepping up to the plate and so are we."
Jackson says the group has a head start in the chemistry department as well. "We've all known each other for a while. I think we're going to have a lot of cool camaraderie," he said. "It's a natural fit because we're from all different sides of the music scope."
"I would say to most of those kids, [Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez] are the idols for them" to aspire to, Jackson continued.
"It's a fun group," Fox President of Alternative Entertainment Mike Darnell said. "I think there's a warmth to them that will come through."