Sept. 6, 2012: Nicki Minaj arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards in LA. The flamboyant rapper will be one of American Idol's judges this season, Fox announced.
Jordan Strauss JORDAN STRAUSS/INVISION/AP
By Bill Keveney
American Idol is amping up the star wattage.
The Fox singing competition has increased its celeb quotient, adding rapper Nicki Minaj and country singer-songwriter Keith Urban to a Season 12 judging panel that also will feature pop diva Mariah Carey and original judge Randy Jackson.
The new additions, rumored for some time, were announced Sunday by Fox. The quartet was scheduled to attend its first audition session that day in New York.
The panel touches most of the major music bases as Idol, which returns in January, will have its first judges with backgrounds in rap and country. Minaj, 29, known for explicit, animated lyrics and sexy, outlandish costumes, has seen her career powered by two hit albums, Pink Friday (2010) and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012). The Starships singer uses several alter egos in her rhymes and has a base of rabid fans who call themselves "Barbies."
Grammy winner Urban, 44, who last week announced he was bowing out of Australian's version of The Voice, released his sixth studio album, Get Closer, in 2010. It follows 2009's platinum-selling Defying Gravity. The Nashville-based singer, married to actress Nicole Kidman, was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia.
"Nicki's an unbelievably captivating international phenomenon who has made an indelible mark on rap and pop. And Keith is another great addition to Idol -- he's one of the biggest stars in country music," said Mike Darnell, Fox's reality programming chief.
The network announced in July that Carey, 42, would join the Season 12 panel.
With the additions, Idol returns to the four-judge format that it abandoned two seasons ago. The new judges will replace Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, who announced their departures this summer after two seasons.
The makeup of the judging panel has become much more variable in recent years. It was a rock of certainty for much of its run, with the original three judges â?? Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell â?? all working together for the first eight seasons, the last with Kara DioGuardi.
Since then, Abdul, Cowell and DioGuardi left and new judges â?? Lopez, Tyler and Ellen DeGeneres â?? have come and gone. Going forward, judging changes are likely to be more frequent, Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly said recently.