Randy Jackson, from left, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Ryan… (Todd Williamson / Invision…)
Nicki Minaj is tired of singing judges who are "overtly passive." So she's ready to get tough with contestants this month for the 12th season of "American Idol."
"I don't really have a problem saying 'no,' because we're looking for the best of the best," the eccentric rapper-singer told reporters Tuesday morning at the TV press tour in Pasadena.
Cracking down seems to be the marching order for "Idol" now, after two seasons in which the since-departed judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler frequently told even mediocre singers their performances were "beautiful." "Idol's" ratings last season fell by double digits, largely due to stiff competition from NBC's "The Voice."
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Minaj was hired for the judges table this time around along with pop diva Mariah Carey and country singer Keith Urban. Randy Jackson remains the sole remaining original "Idol" judge.
The push for harsher judging came after producers weighed viewers' tastes as well as the increased competition among singing shows. "They told us they wanted honesty," executive producer Trish Kinane said of viewers.
"This panel has reinvigorated the show," said Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment at Fox. "The panel has been very tough on the kids."
A highly publicized feud between Carey and Minaj could also spike viewer interest, although Fox executives went out of their way to insist that the battles haven't been faked to boost ratings.
"There's passion in this group," Darnell said. "It's not just the girls, it's everyone."
Carey and Minaj were asked to help dispel the reports of bad blood by each complimenting the other.
"She's really shaped a generation of singers," Minaj said of Carey.
When her turn came, Carey murmured, "That's a very sweet thing to say, obviously," but never directed a specific compliment toward her musical rival.
After the panel was over, Minaj stayed behind, seated, surrounded by burly bodyguards and answering reporters' questions in a scrum. But Carey had by that point fled.
What do you think of the new "Idol" panel? Will you watch?
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