Judges Size Up New Round Of ‘American Idol’ Hopefuls

Paula Abdul says this year's talent pool is better.

Move over, Kelly Clarkson — 32 new “American Idol” contestants want a moment like yours.

The second season of the hit reality show premieres Tuesday (January 21), and if early commentary from the judges is any indication, it’s going to be a tighter race than before.

While about 10,000 people auditioned for the first season, producers say five times as many tried out for the second. So, mathematically speaking, this year’s talent pool should include more potential “Idols” than last year’s.

“I think the talent is better, I really do,” judge Paula Abdul said at last week’s American Music Awards. “I think some of these contestants have a real unique sound and they’re true to staying focused on that and not compromising. It’s going to be interesting. It’s a whole different ball of wax.”

With more people auditioning for the 32 coveted slots, the diversity among the singers has also increased.

“It’s definitely a wild, eclectic bunch of kids,” said Randy Jackson, another one of the show’s judges. “There’s something for everybody in this bunch. There’s two or three I’m pulling for, but I wanna see what America is going to vote for, ’cause you ain’t seen nothing like this.”

Aside from the contestants, the new “American Idol” will be similar to the first season, with the same rules, the same prize and the same judges, which also include the brash Simon Cowell.

Rapper and radio personality Angie Martinez signed on to be a fourth judge in the fall but quit soon after (see “Angie Martinez Quits ‘American Idol’ After Two Episodes” ).

Ryan Seacrest will return as host, though his former partner, Brian Dunkleman, will not. Kristin Holt, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and “American Idol” contestant, will join as a correspondent.

Four months ago Clarkson, a waitress from Burleson, Texas, was voted the “American Idol” in front of nearly 23 million viewers (see “Kelly Clarkson Crowned ‘American Idol’” ).

Clarkson and runners-up Justin Guarini and Tamyra Gray have all signed recording contracts and are working on their debut albums.