"American Idol" has enjoyed success since its debut in 2002, but with a revolving door of judges in the past few seasons, fans are slowly trickling by the wayside. Simon Cowell, the one judge who kept things interesting with his brutal assessment of the performances, is now gone, as is "the nice one", Paula Abdul. Producers are still keeping Randy Jackson on, perhaps as a touchstone for audiences who have loved the show since it began.
But this season, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban will be joining the mix, much to the surprise of, well, just about everyone. We have to assume that the producers of the show have thought out their choices carefully, however random they may seem. Minaj brings a dose of youth and fun to the show, which is much needed in the wake of former celebrity judge Stephen Tyler. Carey is recognizable to just about any demographic and has the vocal chops to back up her critiques. And Urban could be the catalyst the show has needed for years now considering so many "AI" alums have been from country backgrounds.
Kellie Pickler, Carrie Underwood, and Bucky Covington are just a few of the country-oriented acts who have found success in the crossover genre, so it's surprising that there hasn't yet been a judge with a working knowledge of that side of the industry. Like it or not, country music is a huge part of the American music landscape, and as much as the show's producers (and judges) like to pretend that youthful pop is the only thing that sells, it's not going anywhere. Keith Urban, if he takes the role of judge seriously rather than sending contestants through Paula-style (which is to say, because he pities them or thinks they're cute), could be what the show needs to gain some of their viewers back.