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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118 Comments
  1. Amy says:

    I like Brad Paisley, as someone suggested…class act, great talent as writer/singer/songwriter.
    I had wanted Shania Twain for female, but Mariah’s ok.
    I just am doubting the constant “evolution” of Idol…up to a point it refreshes the somewhat tired brand…then at some point I think it just dilutes it as it starts to struggle for each new identity.
    Randy secured his place maybe with this choice…so he wouldn’t be relegated to only selling his over-priced watches on HSN now. I don’t even hate Randy..but couldn’t resist what seems true anyhow.

  2. Amy says:

    OT…any chance we’ll still see a post Season 11 P2 interview, Michael?? Please?!

  3. AQUA says:

    FANTASTIC CHOICE!!!!! There is no-one more qualified than Mariah!!!! She can actually sing and can actually give good, honest critique. And she has an extremely quirky sense of humor too.

    • My Alter Ego says:

      “She can actually sing and can actually give good, honest critique.”

      Yes, we all know what an extradordinary voice she has. At this point, we don’t know what type of a judge she’ll be.

  4. JASon says:

    I’ll watch for the cleavage!!

  5. adamluv1000 says:

    Mariah is a good add. She is outspoken and actually sings well. I hope the other judges are Adam Lambert and Jack Black. Adam is educated in music, has great pipes, and is very smart and outspoken. Jack is hilarious and actually sings somewhat and is also outspoken. I’m tired of useless judges.

    • sara says:

      Jack Black is actually a really good pick! Never would have thought of him myself, but I’m sure he’d be great.

  6. Ella says:

    I don’t even watch Idol and Mariah has become more and more annoying since her early days, BUT – she is a far superior choice and more equipped to advise on great vocals that Jennifer Lopez ever was because she actually has some pipes on her.

  7. greysfan says:

    All i will say is i won’t know until i have seen her. You can never judge someone when you haven’t seen them in action yet.

  8. Mary says:

    I think she is talented however, her speaking voice irritates me. I do not care who the judges are as long as their critiques the contestants fairly. I watch AI for the contestants not the judges, most of the time I ignore what they are saying. A high profile judge might bring in a few new viewers, but if the talent is not there it won’t hold them. If AI turns out to be like the Voice and X-Factor and its all about the judges, then they will loose me as a viewer Period. Fox has to realize that this is a old show and they are not going to reach the younger audience no matter what they do. As my kid says, we have better things to do.

  9. Mikael says:

    Funny how Mariah was brought in to replace JLo. Wasn’t it rumored that part of Mariah’s big breakdown was over her insane jealousy of JLo? And now she gets JLo’s old job.

  10. ck says:

    Well, this is OK, I guess. She is a talented singer. Still have hope for Brian Eno though ;-)

  11. Virgini says:

    So Michael, where’s the love for Phillip Phillips? Best debut by Idol ever…theme song for the gymnastics at the Olympics…great video. Looking at your posts, it’s as if he didn’t even exist. I’m disappointed in you.

  12. Name That Tune says:

    The danger is she will be JLo. Which will be ok if they can find a real judge for the third seat. And if she can lead a female to victory.

    Otherwise, it’s just a WGWG contest, and who cares about that?

  13. Templar says:

    Forget the hopper and Dish network. Take your thinly disguised ad elsewhere.

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