Buckle in, boys and girls. It's time to hear from the "American Idol" team about why this year's crop of singers is the best crop ever and why "Idol" will continue to be TV's most popular show.
Click through for the full live-blog, in which we may learn what the "Performance Challenge" episode is all about...
4:23 p.m. The first question is a simple one: What's different? "It hasn't changed. We're still the same people," J-Lo says. After all, if she wasn't changed by the rocks that she's got, why would this change her? Randy says that J-Lo has been more prone to saying "No."
4:24 p.m. We tell Ryan he has a hard job and doesn't get enough credit. Seacrest says that the trick for him is listening and paying attention to everything happening on the stage. And how does he juggle all of those balls? "I like to juggle balls," Seacrest says. He's balancing, radio, television and production, but we wanted to know what he balances on "Idol." The things he balances on "Idol" are the judges, the contestants and "the cadences of the show." "He's amazing at what he does and he doesn't get enough credit for it," J-Lo says.
4:26 p.m. What has the reaction been in the rock community to Steven Tyler doing it? "It wasn't really accepted up front, I must admit, mostly from my own bandmates," Tyler says. But he says that it's become even harder for him to go places. He also says that "Idol" helped boost Aerosmith sales 260 percent last year. And the band is working on a new album.
4:27 p.m. Jimmy Iovine *will* be back this season to do whatever it is that he did last season.
4:28 p.m. "I love this television so and I've been a part of it for so many years and I can't imagine a life without 'American Idol,'" Seacrest says on the contract negotiation question. And he says he's working on a new deal with E!/NBC, but he can't say anything about "Today."
4:29 p.m. Could Ryan imagine himself hosting "The Voice" if NBC asked? "We love Ryan. I can't imagine the show without him... Our expectation is that he's going to be on this television show for as long as we can keep him on the show," interjected Mike Darnell after Ryan Seacrest wouldn't say "No."
4:30 p.m. Randy Jackson has no mean words for Simon Cowell and "The X Factor." "Simon has done well with his show, probably not the expectations he wanted, but we wish him well," Jackson says.
4:30 p.m. Can Steven and J-Lo be harder on contestants this season? Tyler isn't sure that "harder" is what should be done. And you know what Randy loves about this show? He loves that this is the most authentic talent show and that the judges should always call things as they see it. "We try to give them advice as we would want it to be given to us," J-Lo says, adding that both tough love and encouragement have their places.
4:32 p.m. Will we finally get an "American Idol" winner who isn't a white male this season? "May the best talent win," Randy Jackson declares. "I hope a girl wins!" J-Lo gushes. "There are a lot of girls who vote for boys," Randy explains, helpfully.
4:34 p.m. "This is a more intimate television show," Mike Darnell says, clarifying the difference between "American Idol" and "The X Factor." "This show has stood up extraordinarily tall," Darnell adds, regarding the way "Idol" keeps holding up. "This is also the show that produces the stars," adds Ken Warwick, who even insults Leona Lewis as a one-and-a-half-hit star. Randy also criticizes "The Voice" as rewarding "second chance people." Yikes.
4:36 p.m. "Some people are just not ready," J-Lo says of talented contestants they sometimes have to send away.
4:37 p.m. Have second place contestants done better than the winners? "This year, that didn't happen," Randy says, calling Scotty McCreery the third biggest artist in America at the morning. "The show is a platform and it gives these contestants a platform from which to to launch their career," adds Cecile Frot-Coutaz. "If like in life: You hand people the same deck of cards and some will do better than others," she adds.
4:39 p.m. What the heck is the Performance Challenge? Ken Warwick says that the center portion of the season will always change up from now on. Last year included the Vegas show and that stuff. Warwick says that the talent was so great that they had to call the kids back on the stage one last time. This year, the kids had to sing as a small group, a '50s-style "American Graffiti"-type song. "It's no different than we had last year," Frot-Coutaz says, just different venues and different musical choices.
4:42 p.m. Blah blah blah. One critic loves the Judges' Save, but thought it was used too early last year. "You can only use the Save when you honestly feel it's right," Warwick says, adding that it was "absolutely the right decision" to use the Save on Casey. "It's entirely up to them," he adds. "When we did it, it was the right thing to do in the moment," Randy says. "We had no doubt," J-Lo says.
4:44 p.m. There's a telenovela version of "Maid in Manhattan." Jennifer Lopez had no idea. "I've gotta call my lawyer!" she smiles and then says she wants nothing but the best for them. What is J-Lo wearing? "Orange," she replies.
4:45 p.m. Early today, Kevin Reilly predicted that "Idol" may drop a little this season. To the "Idol" folks agree? And are they worried about "The Voice"? "I think it's a compliment to 'Idol' that this show is creating superstars... we're not hiring a lot of people from 'The Voice' to be on our show," Darnell says of Kelly Clarkson mentoring on "The Voice." Nice. Frot-Coutaz says that all that's in their control is their television show and that hopefully viewers will respond. "This is an express train," Warwick says of the lack of chances for second-guessing. "Right now, everybody chases this show. This is the gold standard," Darnell says
4:48 p.m. When "The Voice" was here, they all harped on how their show doesn't the people who suck and are mocked. "They don't have the depth," Randy says. Warwick says their show is all about making the American Dream come true. But they all admit that it's part of the show when the freaks enter the room. "We will definitely never ever rip off 'Star Trek' like 'The Voice' did with spinning chairs," Randy says. Nobody laughs.
4:50 p.m. There's some dispute over whether the judges learn the various contestants' sob stories before or after they perform for them. They haven't seen the clip packages, but they know the superficial story, often.
4:51 p.m. Are J-Lo and Steven OK with people thinking they know them better? "I think it's a great thing," J-Lo says, insisting that you can't really hide on reality TV. "I thought they knew me before, but now it's on a different level," J-Lo says.
4:52 p.m. "I love that all three of us are so different!" J-Lo says, regarding their fashion choices. "I always wear Jennifer's clothes anyway. I've always wanted to get in her pants and sometimes she lets me," Tyler says. Oh, Steven.
4:53 p.m. Ooops. Critic hasn't paid attention to how well Scotty's doing.
4:55 p.m. Half of the new Aerosmith album has been written. Or maybe all of it has been written musically and Steven just needs to be writing lyrics.
4:56 p.m. "They are so little and cute," J-Lo says of her kids, talking about the juggling act of being a single mom.
And that's all, folks...
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