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Will Mariah Carey Be ‘American Idol’s Savior?

After several weeks of gossip and speculation, American Idol finally made it official: R&B diva Mariah Carey is joining the judges’ table.

So now the education of Mimi really begins. Carey will earn a reported $17 million a year—$2 million more than Britney Spears on The X Factor—to help the show regain its swagger after a significant drop in the ratings and a growing reputation that the show has become merely a showcase for white guys with guitars.

“I am so excited to be joining Idol,” Carey said over speakerphone during the Television Critics Association summer press tour event on Monday. “I wish I could have been there myself to tell you … (but) I think you know this all kind of just happened. I can’t wait to get started in a couple months.”

It’s not clear what skills Carey will bring to the show. While her singing voice has always been considered a force of nature—though it hasn’t sounded the same in recent years—Mimi hasn’t been known for her intellect or sense of humor. Some observers feel the show has gotten soft since the departure of Simon Cowell, a brutally honest assessor of talent who could be counted on to keep it real with the contestants, insuring that the show wouldn’t be left with a contingent of finalists who didn’t have the profile to be pop stars. It should be noted that the show hasn’t had a breakout star since he left. Whatever kind of presence Carey turns out to be on the show, it’s fairly certain she won’t be another Cowell. She’s more likely to be in the Lopez mold: soft, warm, supportive, while adding considerable sex appeal, glamor and runway-show-worthy outfits.

Cowell sort of confirmed this in statements he made during the Television Critics Association summer press tour event on Monday.

“I’m happy for her,” Cowell said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “I like Mariah. I think she’s going to find it difficult to say no [to contestants] … she’s sweet. I think she’s going to be great.”

Cowell then pivoted to talking about Britney Spears, in an obvious comparison of the two.

“I’m not going to lie about this,” he said. “I always said the No. 1 person I wanted on one of these shows was Britney. She’s intriguing. You see a different side to her and she’s a really great judge. … Britney is quite mean, which you’ll soon discover.”

Now that Carey is on board, the word is that Randy Jackson will be staying, perhaps to make things smoother for his protege and artist—Jackson is actually Carey’s manager and has played an influential role in her musical development. Things will no doubt be much smoother for Mimi with Jackson sitting alongside her.

So that leaves the final chair, the one vacated by Steven Tyler, who left to once again tend to his three-decade career as a rock god. This is where the Cowell slot would work—somebody mean but effective. Any takers out there?

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