Jennifer Lopez follows Tyler off 'American Idol'

By Lynn Elber

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 13 2012 11:12 a.m. MDT

LOS ANGELES — Jennifer Lopez is the second judge in two days to say she's leaving "American Idol."

Her representative, Mark Young, said Friday that Lopez is ending her time on television's most popular show after two years. Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler said the same thing on Thursday.

Lopez broke the news to "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest on his radio show.

"I really was dreading this phone call with you," she told him. "I honestly feel like the time has come that I have to get back to doing the other things that I do that I've put kind of on hold because I love 'Idol' so much."

That means the show's judging panel is down to one, Randy Jackson, and there are reports that he may take a different role on the program moving forward.

It's an adolescent identity crisis for "American Idol," which has been TV's most popular program for nearly a decade. Ratings for the Fox show have declined as TV's talent show field gets more competitive.

When the show returns for its 12th season next January, it will have to be a reengineered version of the once-powerhouse series that turned hopefuls such as Jennifer Hudson into stars and gave network rivals fits.

Tyler started the exodus with his announcement Thursday that he was putting rock 'n' roll ahead of the show that he said had been "over-the-top fun."

"I strayed from my first love, Aerosmith, and I'm back — but instead of begging on my hands and knees, I got two fists in the air and I'm kicking the door open with my band," Tyler said in a statement. Aerosmith is on a nationwide tour with Tyler and has an album due out in the fall.

In a phone interview Thursday with The Associated Press as the news about Tyler broke, Lopez had said she was saddened to hear that Tyler was leaving and that his departure would play a role in her decision.

"I can't even imagine anyone else there right now because I've just spent two years sitting next to him," she said. "I love Steven, and we became close during that time. We were a great support for each other, on an adventure that neither one of us knew what it was going to be. So it's hard to hear that he won't be doing it."

Jackson and his "dawg!" exclamations have been a stalwart part of "Idol." But the show's multi-year contracts, such as the one Jackson signed, typically include an escape clause that the network can choose to exercise or not.

A call to Jackson's representative was not returned. Fox declined to make an executive available to discuss the show and its judges, but one expressed measured regret over Tyler's decision in a statement.

"We are very sad that Steven has chosen to focus more on his music, but we always knew when we hired a rock 'n' roll legend, he would go back to his music," said Mike Darnell, the network's president of alternative entertainment.

Speculation about potential new panelists has focused on Mariah Carey, with former "Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert getting a shout-out from his fans. Much is at stake for the show and for its judges: Lopez's contract reportedly was worth $12 million and the stint proved a career-booster for her.

Seacrest, the other original cast member, will provide a stable center. He signed a two-year contract with "American Idol" producers this spring to continue as host.

The Fox series, which began with Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul as judges, has made changes on the panel over the years. Ellen DeGeneres joined one season, and songwriter Kara DioGuardi was added as a fourth judge to work with Jackson, Cowell and Abdul.

The addition of Tyler and Lopez two years ago added fresh star power, and the pair and Jackson clicked on-camera.

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