The changes at "American Idol" are coming so fast and furious it's getting hard to keep track of them.
A quick primer: on Thursday afternoon, peacocking judge Steven Tyler announced his departure after two years with a florid statement about going back to his first love, Aerosmith. Hours earlier, fellow two-termer Jennifer Lopez said in an interview that it might be "time for me to go." .
And, on Friday (July 13), Us magazine reported that sole original adjudicator, music biz vet and bass slapper Randy Jackson, is considering a lateral move from judge to mentor on the show. "Show producers think they need to freshen everything up now," an unnamed source told the magazine.
The wholesale judging panel change appears to be spurred by two opposite forces: the career boost that Tyler and Lopez experienced as a result of appearing on the nation's highest-rated reality show and the increasing pressure to empanel a group of currently relevant judges not afraid to give aspiring contestants some real talk. MTV News spoke to experts on Thursday about the shake-up and they said it was probably best for the show given the almost universally positive, "cheerleader"-style comments that Lopez and Tyler served up during their tenures.
"The group-hug mentality hurt 'Idol' 's momentum, making the show feel like an endless three-month-long lovefest," said MTV News contributor and "Idol" superfan Jim Cantiello. "There was a clear disconnect between what viewers were thinking and what the judges were saying."
That said, Us reported that "Idol" producers are once again circling around butterfly- and rainbow-loving diva Mariah Carey as a possible replacement. Carey, whose name came up during the last judging reboot in 2010, happens to be managed by Jackson (who has also produced songs for the singer) and the source said "Idol" execs are in "serious talks" with her and are "very close" to signing a deal. If she does sign on, Carey would join "America's Got Talent" host and husband Nick Cannon in becoming one of the reality TV elite. Her name joins a growing list of reported potential replacements, which includes everyone from former "Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert to Katy Perry , Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus and Black Eyed Peas band mates Fergie and will.i.am. Even after the Tyler news broke, Lopez continued to play coy with her future on the show, telling the Associated Press that she "can't even imagine anyone else there right now" after spending two years next to the excitable rocker. "I love Steven, and we became close during that time. We were a great support for each other, on an adventure that neither one of us knew what it was going to be. So it's hard to hear that he won't be doing it." She said Steven's departure will definitely impact her decision, but again indicated that she's not likely to return.
"All hope is never lost, not all hope, but at the same time, there are too many things that I need to think about," she said. "I know they want me back, I know that I want to go back, but it's not as simple as that."
Deadline Hollywood reported on Thursday that all hope is not lost for Lopez just yet. Though the 42-year-old singer wants to return to performing full time and get back to her stalled-out movie career, negotiations for another season on "Idol" are reportedly still under way.
"She wants to do movies. She's expecting her team to deliver," a source close to Lopez reportedly told the site. "She feels she'd rather be on Idol performing than judging everyone else." The source said even with ongoing negotiations, Lopez is probably gone for good. "I think she's off and it's mutual," the source said of the star, who was reportedly paid $12 million a year for appearing on the show. "They're not inviting her back so quickly. Not because they're unhappy with her. But because she wants a lot of f---ing money, a lot."
A source at Fox described the ongoing negotiations as "complicated and fluid," saying that things may get resolved very quickly, or drag on for a few more weeks. Fox has repeatedly declined MTV News' requests for comment on the judging upheaval.
Though "Idol" has held the top-rated crown in TV for eight years, the 2012 season saw it slip to #2 behind "Sunday Night Football," as ratings continued a steady decline and the May finale drew record-low ratings .
If fans are looking for a silver lining in all this craziness, they can take heart that the one cast member who is not going anywhere is host Ryan Seacrest. He signed a two-year deal this spring that will keep him around for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.