Fox just made it official: Mariah Carey is the latest successful pop diva to join American Idol. The 42-year-old will join the judges table for season 12. As reported in this week’s issue of EW, Carey has been the leading contender to join the panel this summer, which has seen a flurry of celebrity names floated in the press as possible candidates. Her salary is expected to be somewhere north of $12 million — the sum paid Jennifer Lopez during her first year on the show — and possibly as high as $17 million.
“It’s the biggest recording artist than any of these [singing competition] shows have ever had,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly told critics at their press tour in Beverly Hills on Monday. “It’s an artist many of these contestants have tried to emulate. [The deal] only concluded only hours ago. Not being the only game in town we need to keep things fresh.”
The move comes on the heels of Steven Tyler exiting the hit singing competition, and Fox being unable to convince Lopez to sign on for a third round. Lopez was holding out for a raise beyond her $15 million second-year salary and took to the media to proclaim that she was almost certainly leaving the show. If there was a slight chance of Lopez staying before, it vanished once Fox signed Carey — Fox won’t pay for two high-priced female vocalists. “I think I can say it’s 100 percent that Jennifer won’t be back on the show,” Reilly said. Earlier in the morning, Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe (who’s not involved in the judges talks) expressed hope that Lopez would change her mind. “I was really upset to hear of Steven leaving us and the possibility of Jennifer leaving us. She did say ’99 percent.’ Strange thing to say, ’99 percent.’ You’re either leaving or not leaving. I’m hoping she’s not leaving.”
Lythgoe is involved in his own negotiations to return to the show and insiders expect he’ll stay on board. Despite some reports to the contrary, veteran judge Randy Jackson (who, as it so happens, is Carey’s manager and was involved in her negotiations) is now expected to stay on board, though nothing has yet been announced. Either way, Fox is expected to now focus on its search for another male judge. One dark horse (and attractively low budget) candidate is former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert. Fox’s decision to shake up Idol was effectively made months ago. In recent years, changing Idol‘s panel has typically resulted in a ratings spike, at least at the start of the season.
For this year’s 11th season, Fox decided to leave the panel unchanged from the previous year and the series suffered the largest ratings drop in the show’s history. Though the show’s audience was still huge, averaging 18 million viewers per week, ratings were down 23 percent. What do you think? Will Mariah Carey improve Idol‘s ratings?