What’s coming in season 12 of “American Idol”? The judges, host and producers of the hit reality show presented a panel at the TCA winter press tour to let us know exactly what we can expect in the next few months of singing sensations and judge arguments.

So what did we learn from the “American Idol” panel? Here are the top 10 things you need know about the upcoming season.

1. Hollywood Week — 276 young singers made it to Hollywood Week in season 12. For this week — and for Vegas Week — the male and female singers competed separately. They will only come together when the top 10 are chosen.

2. A season for the girls? The producers and judges seemed certain that this could indeed be the season in which a female singer wins again. “The girls are pretty strong this year — stronger than the boys,” producer Nigel Lythgoe said. “You know, we’ve had a real spate of what’s been called ‘white boy with guitar.'”

3. What do the judges think of shows like “American Idol”? Mariah Carey was happy she didn’t compete in a televised singing competition as a young performer: “I personally would never want to do this type of show,” Carey told reporters. Keith Urban, meanwhile, had a very different point of view. The Australian singer actually competed in three television singing shows, starting at age 9.

4. Finding the talent — In addition to the major cities and auditions, the producers went to smaller communities looking for talent this season. They hoped to find those who didn’t have access to the larger audition venues.

5. They didn’t get a lot of time to prepare — The judges didn’t get together much before they started filming season 12. Urban, for example, only met Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj at dinner the night before they filmed the New York City auditions.

6. Don’t expect rappers — Nicki Minaj pointed out that “American Idol” is “definitely not a rap competition.” She said the rap and hip-hop communities expected more personal stories and history than just good singing to be considered excellent.

7. They’re happy to embrace country music — In response to a question about whether “Idol” was moving more toward incorporating country music (with the inclusion of country singer Keith Urban as a judge), Randy Jackson pointed out that this was nothing new. Citing stars like Carrie Underwood, Jackson insisted, “We’ve always embraced all styles of music.”

8. The judges don’t always get along at the judges’ table — Although the reported feud between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj has gotten the most attention, there will be other squabbles throughout the season between all of the judges. “They’re not shrinking violets,” said producer Trish Kinane. Still, this might be good. As Kinane put it, “This panel has reinvigorated the show.”

9. A variety of influences — When asked about their musical influences, the judges had some surprising responses. Mariah Carey mentioned virtually every music style in existence when talking about her singing-family upbringing. Nicki Minaj cited Jay-Z, Bob Marley and Enya. Keith Urban preferred American country music and performers like Elton John, Glenn Campbell and Alan Jennings. Randy Jackson earned a big “Awwww…” from the audience with his answer: “All of my idols are sitting up here.”

10. It’s a lot of work — Balancing musical careers with the demands of judging “Idol” is hard. While the judges all had different strategies, Mariah Carey had the best single answer when talking about her professional and personal lives: “Yay nannies!”

Posted by:Laurel Brown