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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 10

'American Idol' adding in-house mentor, making performance changes


By Reality TV World staff, 09/22/2010 

Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler's judging panel additions won't be the only significant changes to American Idol next year.

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Fox has announced music producer and executive Jimmy Iovine will be joining American Idol as an "in-house mentor" who will help each tenth-season contestant select a single music genre they will perform and be trained in throughout the singing competition.

"We are no longer going to get the country singer to sing rock and the rock singer to sing folk," American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe said during a Wednesday press conference in which Lopez, Tyler, Iovine and returning judge Randy Jackson met with reporters following Fox's announcement of Lopez and Tyler's judging panel additions. 

"They are now going to stay with what they believe and what Jimmy believes is their genre that they need to work in."

Iovine's addition means Idol will no longer feature weekly guest mentors or performance round themes based around individual artists.

"No mentors.  Jimmy is the resident mentor, so mentors -- Miley [Cyrus], or anybody else -- [are gone]," Lythgoe said.  "The styles of music are going to be more decades rather than individual artist's music.  And that's, I think, is really important -- to be able to develop what they are good at."

Iovine is the chairman of the Interscope Geffen A&M Records group of Universal Music Group, which replaced Sony Music as Idol's recording partner last month and will be much more hands-on than its Clive Davis-headed predecessor.

"We're going to try every week to bring the artist along.  Really give them some input.  And we're going to try and show that, Nigel's been coaching me on how we're going to fit that in the show... we have producers like Timbaland and Polow who are going to be working every week... they can't just be told sing better, someone has to work with them every week," said Iovine.

"Every week we're going to have the best producers in the world working with these artists and they're going to be bringing them along the way they would bring any artist that is signed to Interscope along every week.  I think you're going to see a remarkable difference from week to week, much bigger than it was in the previous [seasons]... they're going to be brought in every week for two or three days and work with guys like Timbaland and Polow, and myself to a certain extent."

"Every week, they need to progress. You can't just tell someone, 'Hey, you know something, you sounded better last week.'  Well what are you going to do about it?  They have to be coached and brought forward."

In addition, Idol's tenth-season will feature new restrictions on how the contestants will be able to perform their songs.

"We've got a whole new set of rules that are going to come in, that we're not just going to copy the [song] tracks that have been there before," Lythgoe said.  "And they're no longer just going to be standing there... we will want them to move.  Artists nowadays don't just stand on the spot."

"They need to present themselves a lot better," executive producer Ken Warwick added.   "For example, last year we got, as producers, to be honest, sick to death of them standing there hiding behind a guitar and just singing... it's going to be a big step-up musically.  And so far the talent we've seen -- and I know we say this every year -- but it's surprised a few people."

While he didn't offer any specifics, Lythgoe also told reporters the producers are also considering changing the format of American Idol's middle rounds.

"I think those middle rounds, we're looking at finding other ways to do that so that we actually present to America who we think the best singers are," he said.  "The middle rounds have always felt a little uncomfortable to all of us."

However Idol's status as television's top-rated show restricted the producers from being able to make many format changes prior to the current shake-up which was sparked by the departure of former judge Simon Cowell, according to Lythgoe.

"What this does, Season 10, with having these icons here as well, is we're no longer protecting a brand.  Once something works, you don't mess around with it too much," he said.  "We're now being given the opportunity -- we are ten years old -- of recreating the magic that we started with."

"All these shows have to evolve.  You know, if you keep on the same thing for ten years you're going to suffer.  And this is an evolution, it's a brand-new thing and it really feels that way," Fox reality programming chief Mike Darnell added.

In addition, an acknowledgement that Idol's recent winners haven't been as commercially successful as the show's earlier winners also contributed to the shake-up decision, according to Lythgoe.

"I think it's fair to say that in moving to Interscope, you look back at the history and you go, American Idols, who are really there now, what is in our wake?  And I supposed you'd go Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and then you start running out of Idols," he said.  "We have got to go back to creating an American Idol.  That's what we're here to do, that's what we have to do."

Idol's changes won't be too drastic, however.

"We're still going to get [the contestants'] backstories, still going to decide whether we like them -- if they've turned into a real diva or whether they're looking to soak it up like a sponge," Lythgoe said.  "You're still going to get that aspect of it.  The public out there has got to know them, has got to feel that they are truly voting for talent and well as liking them."

Lythgoe and Darnell also insisted they aren't expecting Lopez or Tyler take over Cowell role as Idol's tough-talking judge.

"We're not looking for a replacement.  We wanted who they are and what they bring to it is unique and individual," Darnell said.

But Lythgoe did suggest that while he won't be a judge, Iovine -- who had among the first names reported to be under consideration as Cowell's judging panel replacement when he announced his plans to leave Idol -- may end up emerging as the show's de-facto replacement for Cowell.

"You obviously haven't met Jimmy Iovine," he replied when a reporter asked whether Cowell's departure was a loss before quickly adding that Cowell was still unquestionably "irreplaceable."

"I think Jimmy Iovine will bring a lot of toughness... he's the type of guy who can stand there, look you in the eyes when he's heard your CD, throw it in the bin and say 'Not good enough.'  Different animals.  A&R people [are] totally different than artists."

According to Iovine, Interscope Geffen A&M will be bringing its "best game" to Idol.

"From our perspective, it was an extraordinary opportunity to have a platform like this for music and what you can do to expose artists right now -- we were always very, very jealous of this show, watching Sony Music have this platform," he said.

"Everyone wants to know, 'Is it going to be the same?'  Nothing can be the same for ten years or it's doomed to failure.  This is an evolution, and I think the producers and Fox have really put together an incredible team for that evolution."

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