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‘American Idol’ Gets a Little Bit Country in New Season

Kevin Winter, Getty Images

American Idol‘ has given country music some of its biggest — and most promising — stars, including Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington and Kris Allen. Now, according to the show’s executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, Nashville might soon get a new crop of ‘Idol’ talent, thanks to a recent rule change.

“We’re seeing quite a lot of country singers, a lot of young talent because we’ve opened it up to 15-year-olds now,” Nigel tells People magazine. “It’s about the talent, it’s about the kids.”

The show recently went through a more widely-publicized change, when judges Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres all left the judges table, and were replaced by Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, who will join Randy Jackson, who has been a judge on ‘Idol’ since the show’s inception in 2002. According to Nigel, the new judging threesome will provide a good mix of constructive criticism.

“Randy has become very, very positive,” the producer reveals. “Jennifer actually critiques what’s in front of her. She doesn’t just throw out glib remarks. She listens, she weighs it up and then she says how she feels. Steven, who doesn’t have a bad bone in his body, finds it very difficult to say ‘you suck’ to anybody.”

The new regime may have the support of several former ‘Idol’ contestants, including both Chris Sligh and Bucky Covington, but one artist is decidedly disapproving of a particular judge on the show, and is not mincing any words. “I think it’s the stupidest thing [Steven's] ever done in his life,” Kid Rock says. “He’s a sacred American institution of rock ‘n’ roll, and he just threw it all out the window. Just stomped on it and set it on fire.”

Chances are, Kid Rock won’t be invited to be a guest judge like some of his peers have, including Shania Twain, Dolly Parton and Katy Perry, since Nigel says he wants to keep the critiquing in-house this season. “I’m not sure I’m going to use any guest judges, to be frank,” he says. “You’ve got real professionals here. I don’t know why I need anyone else. They’ll just get in the way.”

He eliminated the 4th judge seat and he ruled out inviting guest judges, but the changes don’t stop there. Nigel also hints that contestants will do more a capella performing this year than they have in the past. “People sort of lost a little bit behind instruments,” he maintains. “I see no reason why we won’t use guitars and pianos at least once or twice across the season, but I don’t just want them everyday behind the bloody guitar.”

The 10th season of ‘American Idol’ will air in January of 2011 on FOX.

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