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'American Idol' top 13 party, on the scene: Judges and finalists talk format changes, song choices, more

The lucky 13 finalists for season 13 of American Idol were revealed Thursday night, and immediately after, the group got to celebrate together in Hollywood. This week marked the first live shows of the new season, which has seen many format changes from previous years.

One of those changes is the just-finished Rush Week, which featured a workshop with former judge Randy Jackson and the help of Idol alums Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry. New judge Harry Connick Jr. also got the first “boo” of the season for his song-choice critiques to some of the female contestants. EW was on the scene and got the judges’ take on the changes to the season, and why Harry said he liked being booed, as the finalists meet the press for the first time. READ FULL STORY

How to save 'American Idol' (Someone has to!)

Put away the Kibbles ‘n Bits, because the Dawg has officially left the building. Longtime judge/canine Randy Jackson announced last week he is leaving American Idol after 12 seasons of “Yo! Yo! Yo!” One can only pray the rest of the judges’ panel will shortly follow. The judging has been a major problem for this show ever since Simon Cowell packed up his scary collection of V-neck T-shirts three years ago. Sure, Idol tried to keep viewers interested by bringing in Jennifer Lopez to look gorgeous and Steven Tyler to hit on contestants roughly a third his age, but that never really worked. And the less said about this year’s panel the better.

But Idol has issues that extend far beyond the people sitting behind the red Coca-Cola cups. While it remains the only singing contest on TV that can still launch viable recording stars (as the recent success of the awkwardly named Phillip Phillips proves), the onetime television phenomenon has now become just another show, with recent episodes pulling in a paltry 11.3 million viewers. Fox should do the right thing and cancel Idol before it devolves further into irrelevance, but of course that scenario is about as likely as Mariah Carey offering any sort of useful critique whatsoever. So seeing as we’re stuck with each other, here are a few suggestions to pump some life back into the franchise. READ FULL STORY

Randy Jackson's top 10 'American Idol' legacies

Randy Jackson — who’s officially departing American Idol — gets a bad rep. Just look at him up there. Clearly he has the most productive things to say on the season 12 judging panel! Below, my half-assed tribute to an inflated animal balloon (the producers made me do it!):

Yo, You Feel Me? 10 Things Randy Jackson Always Did Beautifully #InItToWinIt

10. Created Catchphrases: It’s a Comeback Kid story for the ages: The Dawg somehow overcame a severely limited vocabulary to conjure up gorgeous nonsense words and phrases — “Pitchy!” “You can sing the phone book!” “Blow it out the box!” “For me, for you!” — that would flourish for years (due to Randy’s refusal to quit saying them). READ FULL STORY

Who should judge 'American Idol'?

We all should, really, for being so LAME. As rumored this week, Idol may shake up its entire judging panel next season in an effort to boost ratings. It’s getting beaten in the adult demo by repeats of The Big Bang Theory and a fresh-from-the-swamp ep of Duck Dynasty. Oof. Does the show even matter anymore? It’s, like, way existential. READ FULL STORY

'American Idol': Which 2013 judge is your favorite? -- POLL

Recent episodes of American Idol have featured countless “rawwwwwr talent”s from a lovesick Keith Urban, brutally honest missives from Señora Ladybug Nicki Minaj, surprisingly zesty complete sentences from Randy Jackson, and unbridled self-centered rambling from Mariah Carey. Whose specialty do YOU value most? Vote below….

READ FULL STORY

Mariah vs. Nicki: Who won the first round of the Great 'American Idol' Diva-Off? POLL

In this corner, daaaahhhhling, we have five-time Grammy winner (and 34-time nominee, whoa) Mariah Carey: the best selling female artist of all time, the custodian of a famous five-octave range, a lovable nut who doesn’t really exercise while wearing five-inch heels but does really flip out if photographed or filmed from her “bad” left side.

And in this corner, speaking in a fake British accent for some reason, there’s brash young upstart Nicki Minaj: a rapper/singer who once boasted of earning $50,000 for a guest verse even before her album was released, a wearer of assorted ridiculata, and the winner of zero Grammys so far, though she’s racked up four nominations since 2011.

Both had their claws out as soon as American Idol‘s season premiere began last night. READ FULL STORY

Assessing the new 'American Idol' judges: Who will be mean? Nice? Crazy? Useless?

Now that American Idol‘s season 12 judges have officially been announced — Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, and Nicki Minaj, joining Idol lifer Randy Jackson — the nation can finally turn from wildly speculating over who will step into the judges’ table to wildly speculating over how much of the show’s budget this season will be spent on wigs. Also: How will the eighth, ninth, and tenth judges in the show’s history fare when attempting to deliver quippy criticism to wannabe singers who weren’t alive when Carey’s first through fifth albums were released?

Who will be the “mean” one? The “nice” one? The “crazy” one? The “useless” one? Who’s most likely to spontaneously cry? To spontaneously dance? To provide thoughtful, constructive feedback that is both honest and entertaining to hear? (It could happen!) We will have to wait until January to see them all in action, but based on the judges’ personas and Idol history, here’s our best assessment of Idol 4.0: READ FULL STORY

'American Idol': Pia Toscano drops in and other top moments you didn't see on TV

Tonight’s American Idol was the first night the public could vote, the first night in front of a live audience, and the first time on a brand new stage at the studio in Los Angeles, and wait — is that Pia Toscano?!

I’d never been to an Idol live show before, so it was all new to me, but the new stage included a snaking pit with more room for the performers to strut around, and a cityscape montage reminiscent of the L.A. Law intro from the 80s. The judges were spiffed up in their finest — most remarkably, of course, J. Lo, fresh off that whole Oscar nipple confusion, in sky-high sparkly Louboutin heels and a skin-tight white sequin dress.

Today’s show didn’t feature any crazy audience antics or falls off the stage, but there were quite a few fun things you didn’t see on TV: READ FULL STORY

'American Idol': The disastrous booting of Pia Toscano reveals why critics, yes, DO matter

Anyone who’s a critic these days has to contend with a steady anti-mainstream-media drumbeat, one that sounds something like this: Critics don’t matter! They’re out of the touch with The People! They’re snobby hacks whose opinions carry no more validity than anyone else’s! (Memo to haters: Have I left out any of your complaints?) If you accused me of being defensive on this issue, you would probably be right. It’s how I make my living, so of course I’m bound to get a little touchy about it. Yet I also think that I’m capable of setting my personal bias aside to talk about why critics, at their best, really do matter. And offhand, I can think of no better illustration of why they matter than what happened on American Idol last week, when the golden-throated songstress Pia Toscano got booted off before her time. The audience voted, presumably with their hearts, but where were the judges, the tastemakers — the critics! — when we needed them? READ FULL STORY

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