Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban Join Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson on American Idol
Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj | Photo Credits: JB Lacroix/WireImage, Jordan Strauss/WireImage, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images, Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage
After several weeks of rampant speculation, Fox has finally confirmed that Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson will make up the American Idol judges' table on the show's upcoming 12th season.
The news, which had been continually pushed back as deals were finalized, truly came down to the wire — as the show's first auditions in front of Idol judges are scheduled to begin today in New York. (Auditions in Los Angeles, Chicago, Charlotte, San Antonio, Baton Rouge and Oklahoma City will follow.) Last-minute final negotiations with one of the new judges (either Minaj or Urban) held up an announcement until today; the team will be officially unveiled at a New York press conference on Monday.
"Nicki's an unbelievably captivating international phenomenon who has made an indelible mark on rap and pop. And Keith is another great addition to Idol — he's one of the biggest stars in country music and I know that our fans and contestants will fall in love with him," says Mike Darnell, President of Alternative Entertainment at Fox. "With an unparalleled star like Mariah, fan-favorite Randy, chart-toppers like Nicki and Keith and our incomparable host Ryan, we've put together one of the most exciting judging panels around."
But now that it's official, does the new partnership between Carey, Minaj, Urban and Jackson represent the last great hope for American Idol? As viewers apparently tire of the singing-competition genre — witness the lackluster starts this fall for both The Voice and The X Factor — Fox is hoping a new influx of major star wattage will lure viewers back to granddaddy of TV's modern-day talent shows when it returns in January.
The need for change was necessary after Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler ended their two-season run on Idol. But Fox and producers FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment were looking to shake things up anyway. Idol got a ratings bump when Lopez and Tyler joined the show in 2011, but saw its ratings dip 23 percent last year. "Although we finished the season at the top again," Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly told reporters earlier this summer, "our ratings were down. Not being the only game in town, we need to keep things fresh."
Superstar diva Carey was the linchpin of that strategy, a star who had been courted by several shows (including X Factor) before finally deciding the time was right to sit in a judge's chair. The search to fill out the rest of the panel began in earnest once Carey sealed her deal on July 23, the day of Fox's TV Critics Association press tour.
After that, a cavalcade of names popped up as contenders for the Idol gig, including Katy Perry, Alanis Morissette, Kanye West, Brad Paisley, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Nick Jonas, Pharrell Williams and Enrique Iglesias. Among those performers, Iglesias came closest to actually making the cut.
But according to insiders, the Idol producers and Iglesias ultimately couldn't come together on a deal. The singer rakes in a lot of money performing internationally, and one source said he was asking for a salary in the eight-figure range to justify taking time out to go on Idol. (Carey is believed to be pulling just under $17 million for her Idol stint, while one source says Minaj will take home $10 million and Urban is likely to make around $4 million.)