Last week we speculated on the future of America Idol’s judging panel, and now the rumors have been confirmed: Mariah Carey is now officially a judge on the upcoming 12th season. So what does this mean for the pop star and the struggling franchise?
Well for one thing, it’ll be an automatic ratings booster. Carey is the most accomplished singer to ever become a permanent member of the judge’s panel. She brings not only years of hard-earned experience and wisdom with her, but millions of loyal fans who love the pop star diva. Carey is one of the best selling artists of all time with more than 200 million records sold worldwide — surely a good chunk of those buyers will tune in to Idol to see her advise musical hopefuls on how to make it in the music business.
Idolis a perfect vehicle for Carey because she’s a genuinely talented music industry professional. The unfortunate state of pop music being what it is, these days it’s less about your musical talent and more about how you dress, dance, which hot producer crafts your hit single — leaving the actual singing part to the sound engineer and Auto-Tune.
But on American Idol there’s no Auto-Tune, no radical wardrobe changes to distract from the performer’s true purpose: singing, and singing well. To that end, Carey is a stalwart of the old guard, with the vocal prowess to prove it. People watch American Idol to hear great singing, and few recent pop stars can reach that standard as well as Carey has. Having her on the judging panel is the boost in credibility that the panel needs.
It’s going to take more than Mariah Carey to turn the struggling American Idol machine right-side up, but luckily there seem to be more interesting changes coming. The show has also announced a plan to do a “Small Town Audition Bus Tour,” visiting such remote outposts as Idaho Falls, Idaho and Casper, Wyoming. This will be a nice departure from the big city talent the show persistently attracts, as well as some “Small Town America: It’s so small!” footage that nosy Americans can’t help but love.
No doubt this will help Mariah Carey’s career as well. Idol not only gives her weekly appearances to keep her prominent in the pop culture consciousness, it also gives Carey an opportunity to promote new music (which, no doubt, there will be as soon as humanly possible). Even with sagging ratings, Idol still rakes in an average 18 million viewers. That’s a lot of potential albums sales that Carey could certainly use — her last studio album, 2009’s Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, was her first to not reach platinum status.
Carey’s only the first judge that’s been announced for the new American Idol panel, which recently underwent a semi-clean house after Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler announced their departures. I’ve got high hopes for Carey as a judge — her self-involved personality can be rather entertaining, and I’m sure she’ll craft a couple of zany catch phrases every TV personality needs (hoping for something related to glitter and/or butterflies).
But instead of succumbing to the super-sweet-girly-judge stereotype that tends to befall many female judges on TV, my hope is Carey will be tough on the contestants as well. Certainly any criticism coming from her should be advice worth heeding.
Follow Kia Miakka Natisse on Twitter at @miakka_natisse