American Idol Returns With Revamped Panel And New Attitude: Recap

Tags: Jennifer Lopez - Keith Urban - Harry Connick Jr. - Nicki Minaj - Mariah Carey

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American Idol is now back and focussing on the only thing that really matters on the talent show: the contestants. The last season of the singing talent contest saw ratings in freefall as viewers bored with judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey's bickering turned elsewhere, giving Idol its lowest ever ratings.

American Idol Panel
The Judges & Ryan Seacrest: New Season Means Back To Business.

As Idol's viewing figures plummeted, rival show The Voice loomed nearby ready to dominate. Of course, the producers and even judges themselves weren't blind to what was happening therefore decided to give the panel and format a revamp in time for the current season 13.

American Idol's new season kicked off last night (15th Jan.) with stops in Boston, Mass., and Austin, Texas to comb out the country's hidden talent. Judge Keith Urban was last season's returner and was joined by Harry Connick Jr. and former Idol judge Jennifer Lopez. A key feature of the new season is that there'll be less focus on the judges and their drama which will avoid the catfighting seen in season 12.

Keith Urban
Last Season's Failings Concerned Keith Urban.

Audiences are sure to welcome Idol's new no-nonsense approach which also means the traditionally more compassionate and nurturing vibe of the panel has been hardened with a more brutally honest and - where Connick Jr. is concerned - more ascerbic, Simon Cowell-like judging style. The singer and actor turned Idol judge's no-holds-barred approach to criticism fell a little flat when contestants complained they didn't know who he was - an embarrassment that should be remedied once Idol climbs back up the ratings again.

Jennifer Lopez explained the show's fresh new feel to USA Today, saying "I think the focus is back where it's supposed to be on everything: All the positivity that is American Idol, all the dream that is American Idol and all the emotion that is American Idol."

Harry Connick Jr.
The Younger Contestants Weren't Sure Who Harry Connick Jr. Was!

With an enhanced focus upon the contestants and their needs, viewers can watch their every twitch, move and emotion via The Chamber, a small, enclosed space the auditionee ventures into to calm their nerves before facing the daunting judges. Stepping up into the 21st century, the show also introduced an interactive voting system whereby viewers at home can share their opinions by tweeting for or against a certain performer with results announced after returning from commercial breaks.

Auditionees that stood out during the Idol season debut included Bieber-esque teen Austin Percario and the soulful 20-something Shanon Wilson who excelled at all the high notes, as well as a host of diverse talent making their mark on contemporary hits, like Katy Perry's 'Roar' and Ed Sheeran's 'Lego House.'

Jennifer Lopez
Returning Judge J.Lo Is Positive For The Show's New Direction.

Idol being reality TV, of course there was a little drama for the camera, such as the focus on teenager Katelyn Jackson, who wrote 'Another Angel' after her grandfather suffered a heart attack as she performed onstage.

Altogether, 46 promising talents were picked to proceed to the next stage and American Idol will return tonight for the second of its two-night premiere, visiting Austin and San Francisco, Calif.


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