American Idol Biography
After a sharp drop in ratings during the eleventh season, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly announced that the show would undergo "some creative tweaking" for this season. On July 12, 2012, it was announced Steven Tyler would not be returning as a judge, after two seasons. The next day, Jennifer Lopez announced she would also be departing as a judge. On July 23, 2012, it was announced that Mariah Carey would be joining the show as a judge for the season. In September 2012, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban signed on to the show rounding out the judges table, with Randy Jackson returning as well. On December 31, 2012, it was announced that Ryan Seacrest has signed on to remain the host for at least two more seasons.
Producer Nigel Lythgoe indicated on January 9, 2013 that during the Hollywood rounds, the girls and boys would perform on separate weeks. The separation of the sexes would continue in the Vegas round right up until the Top 10. There would not be a Top 12 or wild cards, and he publicly stated he was contemplating the idea of ranking the singers by their vote totals as well as the possibility of breaking out voting data by geographic region.
In an attempt to refresh the show's audition process, new ways to audition were announced. First is the "American Idol Small Town Audition Bus Tour", a 10-town nationwide tour that will give hopefuls who couldn't make it to one of the large audition cities a chance to try out. The cities are Idaho Falls, Idaho; Billings, Montana; Casper, Wyoming; Rock Rapids, Iowa; Iowa City, Iowa; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Clarksdale, Mississippi; Joplin, Missouri; Dodge City, Kansas; and Grand Junction, Colorado. Idol is also starting the "Nominate an Idol" program, which will let friends and family of individuals they think could be the next American Idol nominate said person in secret by filling out an online form and existing video or URL of their nominee—they must be singing solo and a capella. The chosen auditions will then be surprised on location by a film crew and given an opportunity to advance to the next round. Finally, online auditions for season 12 were open from Wednesday, August 1, 2012 through Tuesday, August 14, 2012, and October 12 to November 4, 2012.
For the first time, the Hollywood rounds were held in the Valley Performance Arts Center in Northridge, California. The contestants were separated by gender, with the male contestants performing in the first week, and the female the next. There were three rounds in each week - the a cappella, the group, and the solo rounds. Unlike previous seasons, the groups in the group round were chosen by the producers, although each group was able to select a song from a list of twenty songs to perform. For the solo round, the contestants were allowed to perform with an instrument or a live band. Twenty-eight male contestants were selected after the three rounds, but eight were eventually eliminated to give twenty who would proceed to the Las Vegas rounds. The final twenty women joined them to make a Top 40, which was announced on February 14.
Las Vegas round
The forty people who made it now faced the "sudden death" Las Vegas round and only twenty moved on. The contestants were divided into four gender-separated groups of ten, with the female groups airing on Wednesdays and the male groups airing on Thursdays between February 20–28. Each group performed in front of the judges and a studio audience, singing a standard ninety-second solo with the judges critiquing them at the end. When everyone had performed, they were called out one by one to face the judges, who - based on how they performed - either eliminated them or advanced them to the live semi-final voting round.