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.
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.
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!Follow @MichaelSlezakTV