July 23, 2012 at 3:13 PM ET
Updated at 1:55 p.m. PT: Fox wasted no time replacing one of their two empty chairs at "American Idol's" judges panel. The network announced at the Television Critics Association press tour on Monday that Mariah Carey will be joining the singing competition for season 12.
“As a singer, songwriter and producer, it’s going to be fun and rewarding to help find new talent and give back with 'American Idol,' ” Mariah Carey said in a statement. “I’m currently in the studio working on my new album and its first single, ‘Triumphant,’ which will be out early next month. I can’t wait to channel my creative energy as a part of this show which is a massive global phenomenon.”
“Mariah Carey is the real deal. Not only is she one of the best-selling artists and performers on the planet and one of the world’s most gifted vocalists, she also is a successful songwriter, record producer and actress,” Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment at Fox, said in a statement. “She has a deep knowledge of music and a career insight that will make her a really amazing asset to our judges’ table and to our contestants. It’s the dream of almost everyone who auditions for 'Idol' to sing like Mariah and we couldn’t be happier to have her be part of the show.”
The singer's husband, Nick Cannon, last week joked that "Idol" couldn't afford his superstar wife. "I don't know if they can afford a Mariah Carey," he told TMZ. "If they gave (Jennifer Lopez) $20 million, they might have to double that!"
Former judge Steven Tyler, who joined the show in 2010, announced just on July 12 that he was leaving the program after two seasons. The next day, Jennifer Lopez, who also joined the show in 2010, told host Ryan Seacrest on his radio show that she likely would not be back. Fox exec Kevin Reilly told reporters Monday that he is "100 percent" sure J.Lo would not return.
Original judge Randy Jackson has not yet announced if he will be back for another season, and there were rumors this month that he, too, would be leaving. But if he's also headed for the door, it sounds like executive producer Nigel Lythgoe would be OK with the exit. "I'd like to see ('Idol') change judges every year," he told reporters at TCA. "I think they need that."
Though there is still at least one seat open at "Idol's" table, Reilly wouldn't say who else might be in the running. "I can't talk about other negotiations," he said. "We literally just closed Mariah, but I like the way that we used Jimmy (Iovine) and I think he's great in the role that he did."
Interscope Records chairman Iovine, who serves as a mentor for "Idol" contestants, was often the only one who provided the hopefuls with constructive criticism during the past season.
Reilly also told reporters that the judges table may be rounded out pretty soon. "It could be in a week, or two weeks," he said of naming the rest of the panel.
Season 12 kicks off in January 2013.
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Additional reporting by TODAY.com contributor Susan C. Young.
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