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The 12th season of American Idol opened not with Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey or Keith Urban, but with Phillip Phillips singing his triple-platinum hit, “Home.” It was a not-so subtle reminder that Idol produces not only results but big, bankable stars, including Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and, of course, Phillip Phillips, the pawn-shop worker who was swept to the heights of international superstardom by the hands of Idol voters. But only time and a seemingly endless stream of cover songs will tell if this season will produce a star of Phillip, Kelly or Carrie’s magnitude.

Before we can get to the contestants, we have to address the judges. The surprisingly snoozy Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler have been ushered out and replaced with Minaj, Carey and Urban, who gives the show some country cred, even though he’s Australian. Rounding out the panel is Idol mainstay and pitch policeman Randy Jackson. It’s a fiery mix of talent and ego that should make for a dynamic season. READ MORE

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