It's official, Keith Urban has signed on as a judge for American Idol.
The Fox network officially announced Urban as well as singer-rapper Nicki Minaj as Idol judges on Sunday, confirming rumours surrounding them both just hours before the first round of auditions for next season was due to begin in New York.
Keith Urban ... "I don't know that I'll ever be THAT guy." Photo: Reuters
This follows Friday's announcement that Aussie country crooner Urban wouldn't be returning to Nine's The Voice. At the time Urban said "other commitments" were keeping him from reprising his role as a celebrity coach on the hit show.
"I've been so fortunate to have been a part of The Voice. And as much as I'd love to do it again, it's clear that the recording and promoting of a new album, a tour and other commitments will keep me from being a part of the second season," Urban said through a statement released by Nine.
Australian audiences took to Urban, giving the artist his first number one album in the country but it seems he has quickly moved on. Arriving at Lincoln Center in New York, where the auditions for American Idol would take place, Urban was already on message for the US show which he hailed for its "great history of producing real stars".
Looking for a superstar ... Nicki Minaj. Photo: Reuters
As an Idol judge, he said he plans to be "authentic" but not cruel.
"I did similar shows when I was very young in Australia," he recalled, "and I was sort of crucified by one judge. So I don't know that I'll ever be THAT guy."
The American Idol announcement also settled the status of Randy Jackson. He will stay put as the sole remaining original Idol judge, scotching rumours he might assume a different role on the popular talent competition.
This trio will join pop star Mariah Carey at a judges' panel now expanded to four members from its previous three.
Minaj said during the auditions she'll be looking for "a superstar," which, she explained, is "something that can't be defined in words."
Jackson called this pair of hires a "fresh, fresh, fresh Idol one-two!"
Minaj, he said, "brings a whole other cool vibe we've never had on the show, and Keith Urban? My God, he's unbelievably talented!"
When Carey was asked whether she had eagerly awaited news of who would join her as judges, she cracked that, no, she hadn't, "because all I really care about is me," but quickly added, "Only kidding."
Turning serious, she said she didn't know what kind of judge she would be.
"Am I the mean one? Am I the nice one? ... It's not about me, me, me, it's about them (the contestants) and what I can bring to them to help guide them in the right direction," said Carey.
Ryan Seacrest will remain as host when the show returns for its 12th season in January.
"Last night," he said, "we had a chance to really get together for the first time as a group. Everybody made a toast and talked about how special it was that they were here, and why they were here. So we're off to a good start."
Seacrest took note of "the serious and obvious diversity on this panel," adding, "You can see just by the panel the kind of power the show has."
The makeup of the panel has been in flux since Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez announced their exits in July. Carey signed on later that month.
"I am thrilled about this year's judges panel," said Mike Darnell, Fox president of Alternative Entertainment. "With an unparalleled star like Mariah, fan-favourite Randy, chart-toppers like Nicki and Keith and our incomparable host Ryan, we've put together one of the most exciting judging panels around."
Idol is looking for its famous new faces to supercharge a show that remains a ratings leader but has seen its viewership and pop-culture clout erode in recent seasons in an increasingly crowded talent show field. Besides Fox sibling The X Factor, which recently added Britney Spears and Demi Lovato as judges, there's NBC's The Voice, which boasts Christina Aguilera among its big names.
Minaj, 29, is known for her colourful hairstyles, wardrobe and antics. A native of Trinidad who grew up in New York, she has scored with hits like Starships, Turn Me On, and Super Bass, her seventh single, which has sold more than 4 million copies.
She is the first female solo artist to have seven singles simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She released her second studio album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, in April, and since then it has sold 1 million copies worldwide.
The 44-year-old Urban has four Grammy Awards and 14 No. 1 hits, and was named Male Vocal Artist of the Year three times, as well as Entertainer of the Year, by the Country Music Association. His latest CD, Get Closer, has produced three consecutive No. 1 singles.
The New Zealand native is married to Australia-born film star Nicole Kidman.
American Idol ended the 2011-12 season as the leading entertainment show and No. 2 overall, just behind NBC's top-rated Sunday Night Football.
But the show aired its least-watched finale ever and the advertiser-favoured young adult audience has been steadily shrinking. The show's cachet hasn't been helped by a run of champions who have failed to achieve the career sizzle of past competitors Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson.