"American Idol" Adding Guitar Strumming, Subtracting Mentors

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With this season's American Idol currently taping the "Hollywood stage," when the throng of contestants who are "going to Hollywood" gets slashed down to twelve guys and twelve girls, AI producer Nigel Lythgoe is opening up about some of the changes the show is undergoing in its seventh season. The biggest shift, one that would have benefitted Idol losers like Blake Lewis, Bo Bice and Chris Daughtry, is that contestants will be now allowed to show off their instrumental talents as part of the Hollywood portion. Lythgoe, who is also hard at work on Idol spawn The Next Great American Band, is unsure whether that aspect will carry over into voting weeks.

This season will also feature fewer celebrity mentors, as having the contestants share the spotlight every week last year likely contributed to slightly lower ratings. Lythgoe tells the New York Post, "We got such good mentors [last season] that we forgot about ... getting across who these kids were, their backgrounds and families. There are legends in our business that hopefully will come along as mentors on Idol this season -- but not every single week." There goes any hope of a possible Shalamar mentorship. The last potential change is the possible joint tour of Fox darlings American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. "I'd love to see the Dance tour go out with the Idol tour and put the singing and dancing together," Lythgoe says. There's a lot of time between then and now however, and millions of votes to tabulate, as American Idol's seventh season is set to premiere in January.

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