Following veteran "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson's only slightly surprising resignation announcement earlier this month, and Fox reality chief Mike Darnell's resignation last week, Randy's Season 12 co-star and former client, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj have both confirmed that they too won't be returning to "Idol" next year.
"W/ global success of “#Beautiful” (#1 in 30+ countries so far) @MariahCarey confirms world tour & says goodbye 2 Idol," Mariah's PR firm, PMK-BNC, announced via Twitter on Thursday. Mariah has yet to tweet anything herself, as of this writing, although she retweeted PMK-BNC's post.
"Mariah Carey is a true global icon — one of the most accomplished artists on the planet — and we feel extremely fortunate that she was able to bring her wisdom and experience to the 'American Idol' contestants this season. We know she will remain an inspiration to 'Idol' hopefuls for many seasons to come," the Fox network and "Idol's" production company, FremantleMedia, said in a joint statement.
Nicki broke her resignation news on Twitter herself, posting: "Thank you American Idol for a life changing experience! Wouldn't trade it for the world! Time to focus on the Music!!! Mmmuuuaahhh!!!."
Fox and FremantleMedia issued the following statement: "Nicki Minaj is a superstar who brought a level of honesty and passion to 'American Idol' and who had a tremendous positive impact on so many contestants this season. Given her extremely busy career, we understand and respect her decision and wish her the best."
These announcements are hardly a shock. The writing really was on the Fox wall before this season even began, when that damning footage of a Nicki/Mariah catfight "leaked" on TMZ, and a backlash among core "Idol" viewers ensued, months before the Season 12 premiere actually aired. This feud overshadowed the entire season (and overshadowed the contestants, who deserved better), and the result was plenty of bad vibes...and low ratings. On May 16, the show had its lowest-rated finale ever, in all dozen seasons.
In some ways, though, Season 12's panel was a marked improvement over Season 10/11's useless and enabling Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, who seemed physically incapable of doling out any sort of constructive criticism. Nicki was engaging, entertaining, and the straightest-shooting judge since Simon Cowell. Mariah may have taken what felt like 18 minutes to make a point (at $18 million, it seemed she was getting paid by the word), but in her own roundabout way, she did occasionally offer some good technical advice from a world-class vocalist's perspective. Even Randy stepped up his game a little bit.
If only Mariah and Nicki could have just gotten along, then maybe this would have been a great season for "Idol." ("Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe once blamed the judges' lack of chemistry for the show's slump.) Mariah may not have been the pithiest judge in "Idol" history, but she was the one who came to the judging table with the most credibility. Her hiring was initially considered a major coup for the show. Instead, she spent most of her time on the show rambling, looking miserable, and sitting as far away from Nicki as possible. Nicki only made matters worse with her constant shade-throwing and Twitter rants. None of this made for good TV.
So now Mariah and Nicki join Ellen DeGeneres on a not-so-illustrious list of "Idol" judges who only lasted one season. (Yes, even Kara DioGuardi lasted two.) Will Keith Urban land on that list soon? Insiders say yes, although nothing has been officially confirmed, and he has publicly stated that he'd like to return for Season 13.
And so, the judge speculation begins anew. Will "Idol" alums like Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, or Adam Lambert get the gig? Will acclaimed mentor Harry Connick Jr. or ex-judge Paula Abdul, both of whom temporarily/jokingly sat behind the judges' table this season, be offered permanent seats? Will Fox try to bring back Jennifer Lopez, as rumored? Will producers reconsider hiring non-celebrity judges, as I have long advocated? (And can I be one of them? I'd do it for a lot less than $18 million. Just sayin'.) It's going to be interesting, so watch this space.
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