'American Idol' Makes Big Changes: Original Songs, Faster Release Schedule

The "American Idol" season premiere is still two weeks away, but several changes coming to the Fox show have already been announced, from new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez to the elimination of the Top 24 round. Now, in the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, even more major revamps are revealed, including a new living arrangement for the contestants, the option for them to perform original songs, and the release of their music while the season is still underway.

Along with Interscope/Geffen/A&M chief Jimmy Iovine, top producers like Rodney Jerkins, Alex Da Kid, and Timbaland will help mentor the contestants, who will reportedly no longer be limited to taking on cover songs and may opt to perform original tracks.

The new season may also showcase music videos from each contestant, and the singers are expected to release new music as the season progresses, instead of issuing tracks in the fall after the season wraps. "Normally with a new artist, the world isn't waiting," Geffen chairman Ron Fair tells THR. "In 'American Idol's' case, the public is -- they want to hear something great. With a big tail wind like that, you want to set sail."

Additionally, this year's hopefuls will reportedly live together in an "Idol" mansion during their downtime, while the classic "Idol" set will undergo a substantial overhaul, with a changed location for a backing band that will be led by the show's new music director, Ray Chew.

Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson Go Back Home

in New 'Idol' Winners Special

Another change that producers briefly tossed around: an "Idol" all-star showdown, which would have featured the show's past winners and finalists competing against one another. The potential rematch "didn't make it very far," says THR, because the former contestants who were approached weren't keen on the idea.

For more on the upcoming season of "American Idol," which premieres Jan. 19, go to THR's Idol Worship blog.

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