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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - New judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler aren't the only changes in store for the 10th season of "American Idol," premiering January 19 on Fox. Here are eight other fixes designed to help the talent show recover from a disappointing 2010 outing.
The set is undergoing substantial modification, including the location of the band, led by musical director Ray Chew.
The elimination process is speeding up considerably; viewers at home will still shape the semifinals, but the Top 24 may go directly to 12 contestants -- or 15, as producers are still mulling over a final number.
The voting procedure will be overhauled. Plans are in the works for an online integration that would include bonus content and the ability to vote with a click.
An Idol mansion. Newly returned executive producer Nigel Lythgoe "was keen on it," a source says.
Producer-songwriters handpicked by Interscope Records boss Jimmy Iovine will mentor the contestants. Rodney Jerkins (Janet Jackson, Britney Spears), Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, Pussycat Dolls), Timbaland (Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado) and Alex Da Kid (Rihanna, Eminem) will help them with song selection, then arrange and produce the musical accompaniment -- a prerecorded track augmented by a live band -- specifically for each contestant. And for the first time ever, the contest won't be limited solely to cover songs.
Theme weeks will also get a makeover. "We're not going to ask a country singer to sing an R&B song, or an R&B singer to do Led Zeppelin," Iovine explains. "If the theme is '80s or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, every song will be customized to that contestant." What's most important, he adds, is that the song suit the finalist's voice.
While there has been serious talk of music videos to test the contestants' acting skills, and how they incorporate backup dancers and even their ability to replicate iconic video images from the past, no final decision has been made and one Fox insider says it could be off the table -- for now. (More than ever before, Idol is in flux.)
"With music breaking on the Internet, the visual aspect of any pop star is huge," Alex Da Kid says. "We want to make (the process) as real as possible."
Instead of taking the summer months to work in the studio and releasing an album in the fall, finalists will have music out as the season progresses. "The sands of time are slipping through the hour glass and you want to capitalize while the public is so engaged in the story of winning or losing," says Ron Fair, chairman of Geffen Records. "Normally with a new artist, the world isn't waiting. In American Idol's case, the public is -- they want to hear something great. With a big tail wind like that, you want to set sail."