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'American Idol' new judging panel with Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. announced officially

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/03/2013 

American Idol's thirteenth-season judging panel is now official, finally.

Fox has announced Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban will serve as judges on American Idol's next season.

In addition, the network has confirmed Randy Jackson -- although no longer a judge on the panel -- will take on the in-house mentor role following Jimmy Iovine's departure, while Ryan Seacrest, "the heart and soul of Idol," will reprise his role as host. 

"American Idol has always been about discovering the next singing superstar, and next season our judging panel will deliver a most impressive combination of talent, wisdom and personality to do just that: Jennifer Lopez, the triple-threat global superstar who loves Idol and whom Idol fans love; Harry Connick, Jr., a bona-fide musical genius and fantastic Idol mentor whose honesty and expertise can help turn these hopefuls into stars; Keith Urban, a multi-Grammy-winning artist who was such a positive force on the show last season," Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly said in a statement.

The stars themselves also weighed-in on their upcoming participation.

"#IDOL2014TheRemix," tweeted Lopez.

"I have always been a huge fan of American Idol and really enjoyed my time as a mentor on the show," explained Connick Jr. "And I am honored that they've asked me to be a judge this season. As an entertainer, I am truly excited to bring my perspective to American Idol, and to help emerging performers find their way."

"Surprise, surprise! I am so happy to be back as part of this amazing show that started it all," noted Jackson. "Season 1-13 is the place to be. The original talent show is back with a vengeance and ready to discover the best talent in America."

Added Urban, "I think this season of Idol is gonna be a blast. New team, new energy and a whole new field of artists to be discovered and given a chance!"

American Idol's auditions will take place in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Detroit, Omaha, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. The series' thirteenth season is scheduled to debut in January of next year.

Speculation Connick Jr. was joining the American Idol panel first surfaced last week. The singer had been in the running to serve on the show's tenth-season panel following Simon Cowell's departure. While former judge Kara DioGuardi said Connick Jr. would be a good fit for the show at the time, Connick Jr. was unsure how he'd fare as a judge.

Reports Lopez, who served as a judge on Idol's tenth and eleventh seasons, was "very close" to signing a deal to return to American Idol emerged in early August. Her boyfriend Casper Smart subsequently revealed she was certainly coming back to the show.

Urban confirmed his return to the judging panel a month ago after previously voicing how he loved being involved with Idol and hoped to be asked back for another season. He served on the panel for the show's most recent twelfth edition alongside Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj.

Deadline Hollywood reported last week Jackson would be replacing Iovine, who has mentored the show's contestants for the last three seasons, as American Idol's mentor. Jackson announced in May he was leaving American Idol after appearing on the show for all 12 seasons. He was the only remaining original judge on the panel.

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