UPDATE: At a press conference following the brief Idol judge unveiling ceremony, Fox’s president of alternative programming Mike Darnell dismissed speculation that negotiations with new judge Jennifer Lopez took so long because of special demands by the singer/actress. “There were no diva demands,” he said. “These were easy, comfortable deals.” However, unlike the pact for new judge Steve Tyler, Lopez’s deal for Idol does include a first-look film and TV deal at Fox for her production company. However, later, a top Fox executive confirmed Nikki’s reporting that Team Lopez did indeed make big demands. “But they’re supposed to,” the exec chortled.
Idol producers shed some light on the the upcoming season, which feels like a reboot with the 2 new judges, plus new in-house mentor Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine, newly returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, and new music partner Universal. The producers went out of their way to stress that there will be no judge taking over the villain role played on the show by Simon Cowell for the first 9 seasons. “It’s not about role playing, it’s about [judges] playing themselves,” Lythgoe said. But later a Fox exec explained that Iovine, a music industry veteran, would fit the bill by giving the young singers a dose of brutal honesty when he advised them and assessed their performances in offstage sessions that will be shown during the broadcast. Iovine’s role, therefore, will be crucial to the show’s dynamic. When asked how Idol will deal with not having Cowell, Lythgoe responded: “You obviously haven’t met Jimmy.”
Sources told Nikki as far back as January that Idol was looking at the 56-year-old Iovine, the inspiration for Eminem’s song “Jimmy Crack Corn” (which also features 50 Cent). The deal was sealed when Idol’s 19 Entertainment entered into a multiyear agreement with Universal Music Group to have Interscope Geffen A&M market, promote, and distribute albums globally from American Idol’s finalists and winning contestants across a broad array of retail and new media platforms. Iovine has been chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M since 2001. He was born in Brooklyn-born and began as a recording engineer in the mid-1970s working with John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. He went on to produce albums for U2, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Stevie Nicks, Simple Minds, Dire Straits and Patti Smith. Then Iovine co-founded Interscope Records in 1990 and became a bigwig at Interscope-Geffen-A&M following Universal’s acquisition of PolyGram. Iovine is credited with having given Eminem’s demo tape to Dr. Dre who signed him to his Aftermath label. Iovine also is a film producer — on the Eminem movie 8 Mile, on Get Rich or Die Tryin’ starring 50 Cent, and on More Than A Game with LeBron James and Maverick Carter.
Iovine will be the show’s exclusive mentor this season and there are no plans for guest mentors. In addressing the change, Lythgoe couldn’t resist taking a shot at Idol‘s sometime puzzling mentor choices of the past: “At the moment, no mentors, Miley [Cyrus] or anybody else.” The mentoring format change probably won’t sit well with Cowell as it is similar to his show The X-Factor where the judges serve as permanent mentors for the groups of contestants.
In other changes, contestants will stay in the musical genre they are comfortable in. Rounds will be themed around decades, not different styles of music. (So no more dreaded country nights for rockers, presumably.) Also, the singers will be asked to move a lot more on stage, something that has mostly backfired for contestants in the past. “They have to present themselves much better,” executive producer Ken Warwick said.
Additionally, there will only be the 3 judges and no guest judges this season. And while Elton John never came even close to being an Idol judge despite being everyone involve’s first choice, the producers made it clear he is still welcome. “We are sticking to 3 judges, but if anyone else would add to it and help us, we’re open to the idea,” Warwick said. “Like if Elton John picks up the phone and says he wants to come.”