Fox has officially confirmed today what has long been rumored: Pop diva extraordinaire Mariah Carey will be a judge on the next season of American Idol. So, out goes Jennifer Lopez, a talented entertainer, and in comes Mariah Carey, a true singer. And not just any singer! A singer who, along with Whitney Houston, is basically responsible for the standard American Idol belt-and-run vocal style. Carey's stylistic stamp is all over the show, so it makes sense that she would now be on it. It's a smart move for her, and something of a coup for Fox.
It's no secret that Mariah Carey's career is not quite as white-hot as it once was, so she shouldn't feel like she's taking a step down becoming a judge on the twelfth season of a reality competition show. It is, after all, the biggest reality competition show of them all, despite NBC's pesky little The Voice occasionally matching or besting it in the ratings. And anyway, Carey isn't coming crawling to them; the show's producers courted her, for some time. Or at least that's been the public story, which Carey and her camp would be wise to stick with. There's no slumming here, America. Mariah Carey is simply lending the show her services, like any good artist giving back to up-and-comers. All for a modest $17 million. It's pretty good PR for her, while also communicating that she's someone whose artistic opinion (or as artistic as anything gets on Idol) still matters.
On the Fox side, it's a shrewd move, in that Carey's initial episodes will surely draw a bunch of curious looky-loos. The network has to be cynically aware that, like the impending X Factor debut of Britney Spears, there's a certain "Can she handle it???" factor with Carey. Though it was all the way back in 2001, Carey's strange exhaustion-related antics on Total Request Live and various other media still loom large on her post-millennium profile. (She recently made a bit of a spectacle of herself by crying at the BET Awards, for example.) People will be curious to see how she behaves on Idol, which means ratings. At first, anyway. Obviously the bulk of the show's ratings depends on getting the right crop of singers, which Carey ultimately has little to do with, but her presence ought to at least add some curiosity factor in the beginning. Plus, on the less cynical side, Carey has proven a competent and helpful guest mentor on Idol in the past, so maybe she will actually be constructive, perhaps even more so than the surprisingly engaged and on-point Lopez.
All told, we think this is a win-win. Carey makes a boatload of money and gets her name splashed in the press now and when the show premieres in January. And Idol gets another energy boost from a big name stopping by for a season or two. The show is certainly on its last legs, but Mariah Carey might just help it hobble along a little while longer. And then a hero comes along, etc. etc.