Nigel Lythgoe: What's Next For "American Idol"

According to the executive producer, the current season will have a tone of its own.

By Scott Huver
|  Tuesday, Jan 22, 2013  |  Updated 3:54 PM PDT
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"American Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe

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As the search for the next “American Idol” moves forward in the once-all-powerful TV juggernaut’s twelfth season, producer Nigel Lythgoe offers some behind-the-scenes insights about the tinkering behind the scenes and what to expect from the latest crop of contestants and those fiesty judges.

On tweaks and twists to this season’s format:

We’re not having any guest judges; obviously we’ve got enough with the four that we’ve got, thank you very much! No nothing about mentors this season at all. Jimmy Lovine is coming back – we did it not last year, but the year before where we actually used record producers to help the kids. I want to do that again this year and try and give their journey the same journey that they would have had had they had not had this competition but moved in to the music business. The more I can align it to the music business, the stronger it is going to be for them and their journey.  As we’ve seen with Phil Phillips coming out the other side, he’s one of the few artists that sold that many records last year; probably only him and Adele that did that well.

On the dynamics of the new judging panel of Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson:

They’re very passionate. Each one of the judges I think is looking for something else this year. They know they’ve got a big job on their hands because Jennifer [Lopez], Steven [Tyler], and Randy did very well with Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips.

They’ve also have got to live up to that and they’re very competitive people. These are human beings that have experienced an incredible success in their own lives. They don’t want to sort of be put down in any way shape or form so they are going for the best that they can get. I think Nicki is looking for an artist. I think Mariah is looking for the complete singer/songwriter. Randy is looking for somebody that sings on pitch, and Keith isn’t just looking for a country star – Keith is looking for an instrumentalist, a good singer, and somebody that can capture that sort of magic charisma, if you will, and connect with the public. 

On the notorious and much-publicized breakdown in civility between Carey and Minaj:

I don’t think that’s been a bonus in any way shape or form, to be frank. It’s not publicity that I welcomed. I really do believe – and I’ve said all the way since we began – this show, it’s about the contestants. The judges are always going to be interesting because they are who they are, but the show is about the contestants. I don’t really want to know that there’s been a huge blow up between them or anything like that and have it all taken out of proportion of what actually goes on during the long days that we do, and the amount of kids that came along and the wonderfully talented ones that came along.

On who will rise among the contenders:

It isn’t always about the voice; it is about charisma, it is about personality, it is about attracting an audience and doing that week on week.  If there was an absolute formula to stick to in order to win "American Idol" we’d have probably found it by now, bottled it, and I’m sure one of the production companies would be selling it, but we haven’t. It’s really what grabs you. Does the story grab you? Does the song of the week grab you? It’s a difficult one.

This year is there is more strength in the talent, I think, of the girls. That is not to say that one of the boys will not sneak in because there are, I would say just off the top of my head, five or six really good guys and only five of them are going to make the top ten. At the end of the day when you’ve got five guys and five girls, the strength of talent, the depth of talent doesn’t matter. You’re still only dealing with five males and five females. It’s anybody’s game at that stage

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