NEW YORK – The speculation is over. “American Idol” has finally announced its new judging panel for the upcoming season.
With different rumors each week of which music heavyweights would be joining Mariah Carey, who signed on back in July, the panel is now complete with the additions of singer-rapper Nicki Minaj and country crooner Keith Urban.
The Fox network officially tapped the pair with an announcement Sunday, confirming rumors surrounding them both just hours before the first round of auditions for next season was due to begin in New York.
The announcement also settled the status of Randy Jackson. He will stay put as the sole remaining original "Idol" judge, scotching rumors he might assume a different role on the popular talent competition.
Ryan Seacrest will remain as host when the show returns for its 12th season in January.
"I am thrilled about this year's judges panel," said Mike Darnell, Fox president of Alternative Entertainment.
"With an unparalleled star like Mariah, fan-favorite 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 colorful 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-favored 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.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.