Randy Jackson, the sole holdout from the original cast of judges on American Idol, is leaving the show after this season comes to a close. "To put all of the speculation to the rest, after 12 years of judging on American Idol I have decided it is time to leave after this season," Jackson told Us Weekly yesterday. "I am very proud of how we forever changed television and the music industry. It's been a life changing opportunity, but I am looking forward to focusing on my company Dream Merchant 21 and other business ventures."
The show last night pared down to two remaining contestants, Kree Harrison and Candice Glover, heading into next week's season finale. The 56-year-old Jackson was an original panelist when American Idol began 12 seasons ago. Jackson, along with host Ryan Seacrest, has outlasted former judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.
Jackson's departure appears to be part of a massive overhaul on American Idol. Earlier this week, The Wrap reported that none of the show's current judges – Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Keith Urban – would return for next season, and producer Nigel Lythgoe would also be leaving. The Hollywood Reporter noted last month that American Idol had been averaging a 4.3 rating in the adults 18-to-49 demographic, its worst showing since its debut season in 2001. By contrast, NBC's The Voice reached a 5.2 rating in the same demographic while American Idol dropped to a series low 2.8 in the same week, indicating a change in momentum for the two singing competition shows.