"American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest is a master of suspense, expert at milking a moment for maximum impact during the gut-wrenching elimination episodes of the musical competition. But on Wednesday (September 22) at a press conference to announce the two new judges joining the "Idol" panel for the show's upcoming 10th season, Seacrest did away with the shenanigans and got right to the point.
Just moments after taking the stage, he cued up a montage of clips chronicling the legendary rock-and-roll career of Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, 62, who, as reported, will be joining the show. Seacrest invited the high-energy singer out onto the stage, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer let out one of his signature wails. Asked how it feels to be joining the "Idol" family, Tyler said, "Fabulous. Wonderful. Feels like the perfect feathered nest."
The choice is an odd one, considering Tyler has fronted one of the world's premier rock bands for nearly 40 years and has a colorful background, to say the least, including recent feuds with his bandmates and a 2008 stint in rehab after decades of sobriety. But despite no formal experience on TV, the singer explained why he decided to give it a try after all those years on arena stages fronting the best-selling American rock band of all time.
"It's being a part of something much bigger than yourself," he said. "I want to bring some rock to this roller coaster and show you that if you got the heart, you got the talent and you got the feeling to do this, you could be the next American Idol." Wearing an atypically sedate outfit of black slacks, a velvety jacket and a paisley shirt, Tyler was all smiles during the brief appearance.
Moments later, the screen filled with the second introductory montage, this one ticking off the bona fides of singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, including clips from "Selena," a string of magazine covers and nods to the 55 million albums she's sold during her career. The show also paid lip service to the frenzy of speculation about Lopez possibly joining the highest-rated program on TV by flashing a series of tabloid reports and TV clips chronicling the rumors of Lopez's hiring. The singer rose from the stage in a swirl of smoke and bright lights and gave Seacrest a double-cheek kiss as he introduced her to the room. Wearing a shimmering silver jumpsuit, Lopez explained why she, too, decided to join the show and what she thinks she can teach the wannabe singers in the audience in Los Angeles who were gathered to take their shot at the crown.
"You have to concentrate on the moment," she said. "Do the best you can and just live." Seacrest noted that Lopez had been a mentor on the show and that she and husband Marc Anthony are fanatic "Idol" watchers when he asked Lopez what she was expecting from the upcoming season. "I'm looking for the next Michael Jackson," she explained. "Like Randy [Jackson] said, we're looking for the best American Idol ever. I'm really excited. I really am."
And, with that, Seacrest brought out the retooled judges' panel by intoning his signature phrase: "This is 'American Idol!' "
The announcement, which was also broadcast online, broke a summer's worth of tension about who would replace departed judges Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi, killing rumors that had everyone from Elton John to Justin Timberlake, Harry Connick Jr., Usher, former judge Paula Abdul and returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe possibly taking seats at the table next to the only remaining original adjudicator, Jackson.
Though "Idol" brass did not reveal the details of the deal signed by actress/singer Lopez, 41, the former "In Living Color" Fly Girl and onetime "Idol" mentor will reportedly pull down $12 million a year for the job, while rock icon and Aerosmith singer Tyler is rumored to receive an $18 million payday for his first TV gig.
As also rumored, the Lopez deal includes some perks, among them a "first-look" film agreement with 20th Century Fox with Lopez's film company, Nuyorican Productions. "Jennifer is a true entertainment powerhouse who has made a tremendous impact on pop culture," said Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, chairmen and CEOs of Fox Filmed Entertainment. "Whether as an actress, singer, songwriter or producer, she is a fantastic creative talent, and we're thrilled to be in business with her."
In a statement, Lopez, whose film career has stalled over the past few years thanks to a string of lukewarmly received romantic comedies, added, "As an artist and producer, I am excited to call Fox my home, and I am looking forward to working with Tom, Jim, Peter and the entire Fox team to create and produce the kinds of film and television projects that reflect my passion for entertaining audiences and telling great stories."
Also joining the show when it kicks off in January will be iconic Interscope Geffen A&M Records chairman Jimmy Iovine, who will serve as an in-house mentor on the show, after decades spent boosting the careers of everyone from U2 and Dr. Dre to Eminem, Lady Gaga and 50 Cent. Throughout the season, the show will go behind the scenes to watch as Iovine works with the contestants as part of a new partnership with Interscope, which will take over the promotion and distribution of albums by the "Idol" finalists.
The judges' panel isn't the only thing changing for the show's upcoming season. Last week, it was announced that "Idol" hopefuls could submit online audition videos to MySpace for the first time. The show also dropped its age limit to 15 to make sure it doesn't miss out on a potential Justin Bieber.
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