It’s that time of year! American Idol is back for its 12th season. Along with the addition of Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Nicki Minaj at the judges’ table, the show has some changes up its sleeve.
Last week, I had the opportunity to take part in a press call with the show’s executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who discussed a variety of things about the new season.
Here are five things that you should expect during Idol’s 12th season:
1. The introduction of “I Nominate.”
“I Nominate” gives friends and family the opportunity to nominate someone that they feel should audition for Idol.
“[They] thought that the person they were nominating had a great voice, but were a little too nervous to come along and audition,” Lythgoe explained. “Randy Jackson actually went out and we did some hidden camera stuff and shocked them and surprised them, and then gave them an audition number, so that they actually skipped the lines and everything, came straight in to see the judges, if Randy agreed [with] them.”
2. Guys and girls will compete separately during Hollywood Week.
For the first time ever, the guys and girls are being separated for one of the notably intense rounds of the competition.
“We split the weeks up and gave a week to the boys and then a week to the girls, which really gave us an awful lot more focus on our talent this year, that allowed us to see the woods through the trees, if you will,” Lythgoe said. “ We’re going to continue to do that during the Vegas round as well up until the point we get to our Top 10.”
3. 20 semi-finalists will be narrowed down to 10 after America’s vote.
Unlike past seasons, where there have been a Top 11, Top 12, and even a Top 13, after the Top 20 performs for America’s votes, there will be only 10 moving on in the competition – five guys and five girls.
“Personally, I have never liked a Top 11 or a Top 12, or a Top 13. It was always created in order to fill the transmission times that FOX wanted, so we created Top 13s and Top 12s and gave them a wild card here and ‘let’s bring somebody back.’ It’s very plain and simple, in truth, and as we’ve always sort of done with So You Think You Can Dance, there’s your Top 10,” Lythgoe shared. “It’s a knockout competition. That simple. And we’ve always attempted to do that, in truth, but we’ve never found a way to do it with everything that’s been asked of us and this year we have.”
4. Drama among the Idol judges
While Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj have already made headlines for their audition room catfights, Keith Urban has managed to stay out of the drama radar, but don’t expect that he won’t get his say in.
“He is the scratching post between Mariah and Nicki. He sometimes looks like he’s watching a tennis match with his head bobbing between the two girls,” Lythgoe said. “But when it’s his turn to speak, he gives his mind, and he won’t put up with anybody else knocking him down. He’s had rows with Mariah, Randy, and Nicki; a big one with Nicki, in truth. “
5. Revealing the contestants’ ranking
Actually, file this one under “something to possibly expect” as Lythgoe had wanted to reveal the contestants’ rankings for years and wasn’t able to do. With The X Factor giving the rankings a go during their past season, Lythgoe is going to push again to do the same on Idol, with a possible twist.
‘I also like the idea of doing sort of, I suppose, conferences, like the NBA does and say, ‘Let’s see how the West voted for you. Let’s see how the East voted for you. Let’s see how the North voted for you,’” he explained. “I think that would be exciting.”
American Idol season 12′s two-night event kicks off tonight and will feature the New York auditions. The Chicago auditions will be featured the following night. Both two-hour episodes will air at 8 p.m. on FOX.
Photo credit: George Holz / Michael Becker / FOX