"We're more of a collaborative judging group," Lopez explained. "We're always leaning over to each other and saying, 'Oh my God, I think she's good.' 'Oof, I don't get it.' 'You don't like it?' I mean, not in a way where it becomes disrespectful to [the contestant's] moment, but we discuss things. We just have a totally different style than any of the past judging tables."
When the new season starts Jan. 19, the judges hope the attention will switch to the music and namely the contestants who are making it.
Tyler raved to EW about the contestants, who, he said, are "just astounding" this year.
"We throw the drift net out and look what comes up?" Tyler says. "Gold. [I'm] crying, honestly, from someone who hit the notes so sweetly and beautifully, not just that it's the end of the day and thank God this motherf---er is the last one. Not that."
Halperin, who profiled the new season for The Hollywood Reporter, gives a quick rundown on the biggest changes in the new season.
A New Night
You read it right, "Idol" will premiere this year on Wednesday night, with results on Thursday -- a switch from its Tuesday and Wednesday time slot the last nine years.
Could it be because "Dancing with the Stars," which airs Monday and Tuesday nights, was nipping at the heels of that talent contest and even outdrew it for the first time last April?
Halperin says competition is part of the reason for the night switch. But it also provides a cover for falling ratings. "If they dip, producers can blame it on the night change," she said.
Halperin also believes Fox is trying to nurture its other big moneymaker, "Glee," which will be showcased on Tuesday, instead of following "Idol."
A New Look
"Idol" goes through a stage makeover every three years and this year, Halperin expects substantial changes.
"They just want to ramp everything up," she said.
Possible changes include a snazzy new set, moving the band to the typical orchestra setting, even new camera angles to engage viewers.
If there's enough drama, producers may bring back the "Idol" mansion, putting contestants under one roof and showing the audience their lives off stage.
The show could also move a lot faster by shortening the elimination process. Rather than a top 24 semi-final round, it could go directly to 12 finalists or 15 depending on what producers finally decide.
A New Diva
If the reports about contract negotiations with Jennifer Lopez are to be believed, then there's a new diva on the judging panel.
But Halperin, who spoke to a season 10 contestant, said J Lo is hardly a diva. "She is really nurturing, gives good advice and is warm and empathetic -- what we wanted Paula to be but less kooky," she said.
The diva, it turns out, is Steven Tyler. "He requires a lot of breaks for makeup and hair touch-ups," Halperin said. "It's interesting to note that the guy with long hair requires as much fussiness in makeup and hair as J Lo."
But Halperin expects a breath of fresh air from Tyler, the judge, who has never before seen the show but has one of the best voices in the music industry.
"He's the most unpredictable," she said. "The more he could potentially riff and speak off-the-cuff the better."
That doesn't mean going back to his old ways, which landed him in rehab, either. "His sobriety is 100 percent apparent," said Halperin, who spoke to show insiders.
New Voting Rules
Producers have until March to iron out voting issues before the first audience votes are cast.