It's Official: Mariah Carey Signs as American Idol Judge for Season 12 -- Is She a Good Choice?

It’s not just a sweet, sweet fantasy: They belong together. Yes indeed, after several days of intense speculation, Fox announced at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Beverly Hills Monday that Mariah Carey has officially signed on as an American Idol judge for the show’s upcoming 12th season.

“I am so excited to be joining Idol,” Carey shared via a phone call to Fox boss Kevin Reilly, just seconds after he shared the news with the TCA crowd. “I wanted to be there today and I wish I could have been there myself to tell you. I can’t wait to get started in a couple months.”

Reilly — who confirmed that Steven Tyler as well as Jennifer Lopez are both “100 percent” done with their Idol runs — said that judge Randy Jackson, Carey’s co-manager, was “instrumental” in bringing the songstress to the show.

With a nod to the increase in singing competitions — Fox’s own X Factor included — Reilly said, “Not being the only game in town now, we needed to keep things fresh” on Idol. That said, “There’s really nothing else we can confirm” about Season 12, he noted.

Earlier in the day, Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe weighed in on the very public search for new judges, saying, “I would like to see the judges change every year. It’s horrible to be in this position where you guys [in the press] are asking, ‘Who’s it going to be?’ and there are thousands of names being thrown out,” said Lythgoe. “And it’s unfair on negotiations. You can’t negotiate with somebody in a public marketplace.”

As for Carey, she served as a guest mentor during Top 7 Week on Season 7 of Idol, resulting in a stellar night of music focused around the diva’s songbook that included David Cook’s “Always Be My Baby,” Jason Castro’s “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” Carly Smithson’s “Without You,” and Syesha Mercado’s “Vanishing.”

Carey had also been scheduled to serve as an advisor for Simon Cowell on Season 1 of his U.S. version of The X Factor, but was forced to cancel a trip to France to whittle down his roster of female solo contestants when Hurricane Irene grounded her plane in New York.

RELATED | American Idol: 14 Dream Candidates to Replace Steven, J.Lo and Randy as Judges

Carey’s addition to the Idol judges’ table comes in the wake of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler recently annoucning plans to exit Fox’s ratings behemoth after respective two-year stints on the panel. What’s more, Carey’s Idol gig creates something of a competitive conundrum in her own household: Husband Nick Cannon hosts NBC’s category competitor America’s Got Talent, which typically overlaps with Idol for a week or two in May.

RELATED | Steven Tyler Announces His American Idol Exit: Five Characteristics His Replacement Must Have

The “Vision of Love” singer’s potential strengths as a judge are obvious: As one of the most successful power vocalists in modern music history, her opinions on contestants’ performances — and her advice for how they can improve — immediately carry more heft than Auto-Tune-reliant predecessors like Lopez or Paula Abdul. What’s more, Carey doesn’t seem driven by the need to be viewed as relentlessly nice — a problem that has plagued many artists-turned-judges (see Steven Tyler describing everything over the last two seasons as “beautiful.”) Indeed, during her more than two decades in the spotlight, Carey has been known for being outspoken, a little bit cheeky, and occasionally biting. Plus, she brings a little of the unpredictability factor that Tyler and Abdul were known for (see video of her infamous/hilarious Home Shopping Network appearance.)

If Carey is willing to use her critical ear and her candor — and not grind her personality down to a smooth, test-marketed monument to blandness and “gold stars for everyone!” — she could be a great boost for the show’s short-term buzz and long-term sustainability.

What do you think? Excited about Carey joining Idol, or is this an Ellen DeGeneres-level misstep? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. TMW says:

    I won’t be watching it now. I find Mariah Carey repulsive. Bad choice. At least Britney Spears on The X Factor will be 50 shades of crazy.

  2. Don’t care really but my overall thoughts is she is just a body replacing another body. Show has been without any real “judge” since Simon left. They were awful judges the last two years and unless I am surprised, this does not solve that issue. Can’t Jimmy be a judge?

    • Tim says:

      Simon was a terrible judge. All he did was tell people they were indulgent, horrible, etc. and kept using those same tired lines about being a cruise or hotel singer. Or else he focused on what they were wearing. This is the guy who kept putting Clay down and thought Ruben was going to be a commercial success.

    • Temperence says:

      Simon sucked. Period. He wasn’t a judge – he was a bully with terrible, outdated taste. HIs comments were lame and manipulative (not to mention usually wrong). And his new show sucks more than Idol has over it’s entire run *every epsiode*.

  3. Tiffany says:

    Time to cancel this cheese fest…

    • april-ann says:

      Exactly. And this choice could set the wheels in motion for that.

    • IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

      I would like to see that happen, too, but I have a feeling they’re not going to be smart and quit while the show is ahead. The only way I can think of to get them to end it now would be illegal and very complicated, and I have no intention whatsoever of carrying it out or hiring anyone to do it, but I’ll share it anyway.
      First, we locate everyone who was ever a finalist (it’s not worth it to go back further than that) on the show and kidnap them all. Then, we send the FOX executives a video proving that we are holding them captive and demanding “Cancel American Idol now or all its alumni die! And we won’t agree to just give back Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, this is an all or nothing deal!” That would put even more pressure on them to cancel it, especially since many of the alumni have families that they’re providing for. And of course, we give them a deadline to surrender by.
      I repeat and emphasize, I know that this would be illegal and very complicated, and I have no intention whatsoever of carrying it out or hiring anyone to do it.

      • Rick says:

        Except for Haley ofcourse!!

        • IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

          Oh, you bet we’d take Haley, too; she’s one of their strongest. But we wouldn’t actually kill the Idols; we’d just hold them until the show actually gets canceled and make it look like we killed them, leaving the FOX executives to stew in their guilt.

    • Rolfe says:

      Explain to me why it is time for FOX to cancel their number one hit that provides three hours of television a week for them.

      • TV Exec. says:

        When you cannot keep judges and you are constantly changing your panel it is time. This show is past it’s time, just like survivor and all those crap ass reality shows.

  4. M80 says:

    Now they need to get Tommy Mottola to replace Steven Tyler. Because THAT I would definitely watch!

  5. Linda says:

    I’m not a fan of Mariah Carey, but if she can give useful feedback to the contestants, then she’ll probably be fine as a judge. The judges set the bar so low the last 2 seasons that if Mariah can put a coherent sentence together, she’ll already be a vast improvement over Steven and Randy.

    • Steve says:

      At least , unlike JLO and PAULA, Mariah can actually sing…and to boot, she writes most of her own songs. Love her or hate her, she has real talent and Im sure the contestants – esp the girls- will love having her on board. Id love to see a Mariah theme night now. I just hope she doesnt fall into the trap of being nice to everyone…bring on some REAL critiques…and throw in a little of your crazy now and then. It might be fun for Idol to get another ‘diva’ – even if its a younger one (BUT NO MILEY OR ILL GAG)- and have the diva-off so they can spin the stories of cat fights…and then maybe have a male record exec in the middle…2 women 1 man might give it a little different look too…The panels always have 2 of each or a majority of men (even The Voice has gone with 3 men and 1 women…they did that in UK too so I don’t know if thats part of their format in other countries)

      But please don’t keep Randy as judge- even more so because he manages Mariah, it would be more awkward

  6. G. says:

    This is interesting. At least she can sing (looking at you J. LO), so her comments will be coming from a place of credibility. Let’s hope she stays true in the role of judge. .

    • jenna says:

      my thoughts exactly. I haven’t been an avid idol watcher for years but am planning on tuning in once or twice to see how mariah’s judging shapes up. I really hope they get another producer/vocal coach/record exec to be the third judge.

  7. George says:

    Well there’s two judges slots filled. One for Mimi, the other for her ego…

  8. This is HUGE of Idol and they needed to land someone of this magnitude to let everyone know it’s still the biggest audience on TV. Anything less would’ve been disaster.

  9. Oh wow, that not a good thing. Has you wondering who will be replacing Steven Tyler? Hughie Lewis? Steve Perry? Sebastian Bach? Neil Diamond? Donnie Osmond?

    • Lisa (@KittyKay3) says:

      Sebastian Bach is an interesting choice. He can sing, is unpredictable and has an excess of charisma. He would call Mariah out if she gets to be too much diva. Assuming Randy is gone, who do you like as a third with Sebastian and Mariah?

      • Templar says:

        Better Sebation Bach than Bret Michaels. Jon Bon Jovi would be better than either one.

        • Lisa (@KittyKay3) says:

          I like Jon Bon Jovi better as well. He has a wide demographic of fans. I doubt they can afford him on top of Mariah’s 17 Million. I hope they switch Randy out.

      • Sara says:

        I loved Bach on Gilmore Girls (didn’t know him before) & became an instant fan. He would be great

  10. susela says:

    Ewww. I think Mariah is the type who will try to hijack the judge’s table and get all the attention on herself (the way Aguilera has done on “The Voice”). I’ll give it a try, since I’ve watched every season of Idol, but I don’t expect to be watching for long.

  11. That wasn’t the name I was hoping to hear but I’ll reserve my judgement until the panel is rounded off and we get to see who all will be sitting behind the table. I think Randy Jackson should step down from judging and serve in a different capacity. I haven’t seen him give any really constructive advice in years. “In it to win it” and “Yo, Dawg!” doesn’t cut it.

  12. Eric says:

    I think this is a great choice for the reasons that Michael listed above. Not only is Mariah a fantastic vocalist, but she is also one of the most successful female artists of all time. She has lots of potential and as long as she steers clear of sugar coating everything she could be a great judge. All they need now is to round out the panel with Adam Lambert and we would have a season 12 I could get behind.

  13. ceebee says:

    Arrrgh…does this mean we are stuck with the Idiot Dawg??? Hell 2 the No!!!

  14. maria says:

    Love Mariah and she’s did a good job as a mentor a couple of years ago. This is exciting!

  15. Karrie says:

    I’m sure Randy is elated but I’m surely not! I probably won’t watch it anymore now!

  16. PutAforkINit says:

    the show became become defunct in my mind when simon left
    no overpaid celeb with a big ego is going to get me to ever watch again

  17. Johnlee says:

    Good luck with that…I hope it will be a great opportunity for people who THINK they know her to learn more about her amazing personality, they will be surprise to know the Diva behavior is not true and that she’s actually got a great sense of humor.

  18. PutAforkINit says:

    PS: the white guy with the guitar will win again. like the last what, 5 or 6 years?

    there you go, i just saved you about 4 or 5 hours of viewing time a week.

  19. Joe says:

    If this hiring saved Randy Jackson’s place on the panel, I think I’m out. They need a clean sweep & Randy needs to go. They keep him and I’m not sure I can stomach the insider name dropping love fest between him & his co-client Mariah. It will alienate viewers without a doubt.

    • Rick says:

      The only way they get me to watch again is if the Dawg goes.

      • ado4586 says:

        Dear American Idol producers,
        Please don’t have Randy on the panel again. Nobody likes him and he does not offer up any useful or intelligent critiques. True each past judge have has their detractors, but they also had some fans. Randy has no fans or supporters. He’s better served as a behind-the-scenes contributor. Bringing Mariah is a good example of that. But he’s a terrible judge and hurts your crediblity. Do the right thing and put us all out of our misery.

        Thank you.

        • FreeHaley says:

          +1 He has either lost it or has sold out totally. Either way, sadly, he has about zero credibility left and was the worst of the three.

  20. Snsetblaze says:

    Michael had some great suggestions. If she does what Michael thinks she should do, then she should be a decent judge. I’m not a fan of her music but I can’t deny she actually can sing. I’m not a fan of JLo or Paula Abdul but I wouldn’t say they could sing and I just don’t like their music.

  21. GMom says:

    I was pleasantly surprised in season 7 when Mariah was a mentor. She was kind, helpful, and not a “B” at all. I’m anxious to see how she does as a judge.

  22. A says:

    Well she’s more than qualified, can’t deny that.

  23. A says:

    Also if the people who audition are smart, DO NOT sing one of her songs unless you 100% great at it!!! you can’t compare.

  24. Sha says:

    I’m thrilled. Mariah is everything jlo is not, poised, talented, classy, and did I mention TALENTED. She is the only artist in history to have a #1 single every year of the 90s (so most of the contestants grew up hearing her songs) and a handful of #1s in the 2000s. 18 number ones! Judging by how she was as a mentor in season 7 (one of the best live rounds that season), I think she will be awesome!

    • Brigette says:

      AMEN! It’s about time they have a mentor on here who can sing with the best of them. I think this is awesome news. SEE YA, JLO! Too bad the Dawg stays. :/

  25. rydravyn says:

    I want Dolly Parton as a judge. I think she’d be a wonderfully entertaining breath of fresh air.

  26. Lisa (@KittyKay3) says:

    How can Randy objectively stay on the panel with Mariah if he is her manager? Will he be in fear of loosing his cut if he disagrees with her?

    Is some of the 17 million coming from Randy’s cut. Idol could pay out the same money but claim she is worth more than JLo and Brit Brit?

    • misha says:

      I don’t think anyone can deny that Mariah has MUCH more ‘star power’ than JLo. I mean she already has the talent factor won by a longshot….

    • Sha says:

      Isn’t Randy going to become a mentor.. or something else behind the scenes? I don’t think he will be a judge.

  27. Jen says:

    She doesn’t seem too bright. But at least she can sing. Hope Randy goes – he’s useless.

  28. Mel says:

    God Bless AI… Jessica hurried, she would not be lonely.

    • Mel says:

      They were to invite Peggi Blu – 1. She knows how to sing, 2. She knows how to speak the truth, 3. She has no ego more than the universe 4. they and so it is already paid.

      And, yes, J-Ho was VERY thick! AI NEED new Simon! If you imitate the ostrich, all you get – the sand in your ears.

  29. Steve says:

    Something there between Idol judges and HSN…Mariah has her line….Randy just premiered with is watches…JLo had her perfume…Is Ryan next? I STILL WANT TO SEE CHER AS A JUDGE BUT IM SURE NOW IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. Shed be the best…Just even imagine her and Mariah going at it? Cher is pretty outspoken too!

    I hope this doesnt mean we’re going to be stuck with Randy as a judge yet again. He says the same exact things year after year…it almost doesnt matter who’s singing. If they want (or need because of Mariahs connection) to keep him, move him into some kind of mentor role where he helps the kids with song choice, performance, style, stage presence etc.

    I wish they’d also do some kind of screen test/audition with the panel before they agree to make sure theres some kind of chemistry.

    Theres got to be a lot of stars looking to revitalize their careers

  30. mrdoubleb says:

    Michael, the amount of Mariah lyrics you’ve inserted into the first sentence is almost as disturbing as the fact i recognized them :D

  31. JustMe says:

    Fine by me! I hope she stays true to the mentor status from an earlier season. IMO, the judges’ critiques are a form of mentoring. I never cared for Simon’s harshness, but clearly, the judging in the last two seasons was severely lacking. I would prefer a position somewhere between those options (harshness vs. sweetness and light).

  32. shelly says:

    just another shade of crazy

  33. octopus says:

    What about the obvious choice: William Hung?

  34. Tahoe Mike says:

    Ah hell, now we’ll never get rid of Randy.

  35. Annie says:

    She’s an interesting choice. Her vocabulary will go beyond calling people pitchy, and she’ll know what she’s talking about. She also has a reputation for speaking her mind, which is good. I just hope that that reputation holds up under the weight of the cameras and the press.

  36. Mic says:

    I’m surprised at how upset everyone is. Look at the bright side: How many people are going to sing Mariah and Whitney ballads with MC as the judge? :)

    I can’t hate her after hearing her sing. No one can deny that she’s got pipes. :P

  37. Jen says:

    I’m really excited about this! She was great as a mentor in season 7 and being a songwriter as well as an amazing singer should add some gravitas to her critiques. I think she’s going to be fantastic!

    • Tim says:

      I too think she’s going to be a nice change for the show. Steven couldn’t speak his mind coherently, and J-Lo had no credibility when it came to critiques.

  38. marygrace says:

    I watched the shopping network appearance and looks kinda dippy but will wait and see. She does write and sing need for synthesizers, smoke and fire coverups. Now bring on Adam Lambert!!

  39. Templar says:

    Change the voting policy!!!!!!!!!

  40. Lexdy says:

    Not here for this foul woman.

    Bring me Xtina and Britney plz. The Voice and the Crazy Factor is where it’s at.

  41. matthew c says:

    My only fear is this: Since she is going to be a judge does that mean her music can’t be used anymore? As one of the most important singers of her generation it’ll be difficult to do a musical series w/out her music, as it’s such a vital catalog to eliminate.

    • tewence says:

      this is true, however, we won’t get the whole “you gotta be the best if you are going to sing mariah” crap over and over again. might be nice to see them not resort to her songs since they have been overdone and will ultimately receive negative critique.

  42. Mark says:

    So this is a hard concept to grasp, but she’s also in her 40s… She’s as current as leg warmers, George H.W. Bush, the original Gulf War, Tears for Fears…..

    What they need to be relevant is people who are relevant. Yes, it’s hard to get that + enough chops to be a judge. So use the fact you are still the top-rated show on television and a giant career booster. Bottom line is that Blake Shelton and Adam Levine are still more relevant than anyone on Idol’s panel — ever. Simon and Jimmy I. somehow get it even though they are crotchety old guys, but that kind of insight is rare (and sometimes Jimmy I. makes me wonder with his song choices out of the 1970s).

    Youth. Youth. Youth. Mariah is a great singer and hugely successful — really, one of the most successful pop stars ever — but relevant? About as relevant as J.Lo I’m afraid. :(

    • Templar says:

      ITA. Brad Paisley would be good. He’s current, successful, old enough for his opinion to have some weight, but young enough to appeal to a wide demographic.

    • B says:

      thats the thing though these shows MAKE the judges relevant. JLo’s career was tanking (anyone remember that awful ‘throwing on my louboutins’…shudder) before she became an AI judge and now she’s had some very successful hits. Same with Christina Aguilera. Adam Levine had massive success with his past 2 songs BECAUSE of the extra exposure he got from the voice. Relevance isn’t an issue, its having judges who will actually critique instead of gives awful sound bites/catchphrases 10 times a night

    • tewence says:

      is she CURRENTLY relevant? not totally (although her voice is STILL one of the best out there, not matter how prolific her career has or hasn’t been). the reason she will be good on the show is because she has the career, actual talent, and knowledge to back it up. she could actually really help the contestants find their niche…after all, she knows how to write and choose good singles with 18 number ones under her belt.

  43. Isabelle says:

    I cant wait. Mariah does have talent and should be good at mentoring. I love her and cant wait to see how else they add to join her. Hoping for Adam Lambert.

  44. sarcasmo says:

    It doesn’t really matter who they pick as long as Uncle Nigel keeps feeding them comments to say. If Nigel wants to improve the show, let her speak her own mind. (And dump Randy!!)

  45. lynn says:

    Not a Mariah fan! was hoping for Kelly Clarkson! will still be tuning in though. I watched the show because of the contestants, It was never about the judges.

  46. teatime says:

    Michael, I am glad you mentioned the night she mentored during season 7. That has to be one of the best performance nights on Idol ever. Everyone was good to great. David Cook, Always Be My Baby”; David Archuleta , “When You Believe”; Syesha Mercado , “Vanishing”; Jason Castro, “I Don’t Wanna Cry”; Brooke White, “Hero”; Kristy Lee Cook, “Forever”; Carly Smithson, “Without You ”
    I don’t know much about Mariah, but at least she has a great voice and writes songs, too. Comparing her to JLo I don’t see how should would not be an improvement.

    • Alice says:

      I agree. JLo and her auto tuned “voice” was a disaster! She used AI to promote her own crap songs and embarrassed herself with musical numbers promoting her junk albums and with the nerve to have her boyfriend Casper Federline dance behind her. It was obvious she was jealous of female singers with superior voices (and many times the writing chops she lacked) like Haley Reinhart and Elise Testone. Good riddance.

      Steven Tyler was just as useless with his career long over, really. I’ll give him that is IS a real musician (unlike JLo), but his “commentaries” were just as blundering and stooopid! Double good riddance.

      Randy…STILL a boorish buffoon! Go away.

      Those 3 were so disgusting last season: Four words: Time of the Season!?!?!? Phil performed this song so horribly, and they all gave him kudos.

      Not a huge fan of Mariah, but at least she can sing and has written or co-written some good songs. I HOPE THE PRODUCERS AND/OR HER MANAGEMENT CHAT WITH HER ABOUT PROVIDING MEANINGFUL COMMENTARIES TO ALL SINGERS AND NOT BE A PEOPLE PLEASER!!! (Sorry had to shout this!)

  47. new judges says:


  48. Tim says:

    Mariah is fine, but what we really want…, what we really need…, is an Idology episode with Phillip Phillips!

    • IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

      I begged Slezak to make it happen, but all the bugging him on Twitter didn’t change the fact that Phillip underwent a serious kidney surgery and had to rest up so he would be ready for the tour. He never caught up with Casey James and he never redid the Casey Abrams interview after that footage got corrupted, so don’t count on anything with Phillip. (Boo.)

  49. JoeC says:

    I’m the biggest Mariah Carey fan around, now I’ll watch American Idol again! She brings so much credibility; she’s the greatest singer around! And yes she’s got a personality too, a big one!