After endless rumors, Fox finally confirmed the official judges for the upcoming twelfth season of American Idol. In addition to the already announced Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Australian country singer (and Aussie The Voice mentor) Keith Urban will join the show, on top of Randy Jackson, who will return yet again to fill the fourth spot on the panel.
The announcement comes after rival talent shows The Voice and X Factor went head-to-head in the ratings, with The Voice destroying Simon Cowell’s struggling series. Flop Factor is in serious trouble now, with its premiere episode suffering a 32% ratings drop compared to its season one opener, despite the pricey addition of Britney Spears, who appears to have done nothing to save the doomed show.
With American Idol a proven ratings winner, it looks like X Factor will likely end up in a lowly fourth place on the talent show food chain, behind Idol, The Voice, and even America’s Got Talent, which has also been pulling higher ratings.
I tuned in for both X Factor and The Voice’s premieres, and I have to say that I definitely preferred X Factor. Despite heavy scripting from both shows, X Factor was definitely faker, and I found myself struggling to tell if anything at all –from the judges comments to the auditions to the backstage feuds– was real. However, it still made for a more entertaining watch overall, while The Voice almost put me to sleep.
My money’s on Idol remaining not only the highest-rated talent show, but also the best. Despite sappy sob stories and some set up situations, they have yet to reach the point of almost complete scripting like X Factor. Mariah will be a hoot to watch (and a nightmare backstage, I imagine), and Randy really flipped his personality and became interesting in the last two seasons of the show. Keith will probably be relatively inoffensive and will appeal to the country fans like Blake Shelton does on The Voice, but Nicki Minaj is an unpredictable and interesting addition to the show. I always thought she’d be a perfect talent show judge, but for X Factor, where the main focus is trashy drama and the talent of the contestants doesn’t matter. Idol is still a classy family show that has unearthed increasingly diverse talent in recent years; is the manufactured Minaj actually going to be able to offer any practical advice or understand any genres of music outside of rap, R&B, and top forty pop?
Mariah’s narcissistic diva antics and Nicki’s bird brained ratchetness run the risk of turning Idol into an X Factor-esque sideshow, but with the grounding influences of Keith Urban and Randy Jackson, the show might have just found the magic middle-ground to keep its crown.