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Jennifer Lopez exits American Idol: Who will be the new judges? (+video)

Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are leaving American Idol. Will Mariah Carey and Adam Lambert become the next American Idol judges?

By Lynn ElberAssociated Press / July 13, 2012

American Idol 2012 judges, from left, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson are shown on the set of the singing competition series, "American Idol," in Los Angeles. Tyler and Lopez are now leaving. Will Randy Jackson leave too? Is the show in trouble?

(AP Photo/Fox, Michael Becker, file)

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Los Angeles

Jennifer Lopez followed Steven Tyler's lead off "American Idol" on Friday, a one-two punch for a show on the brink of an adolescent identity crisis.

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Lopez will not be back for a third year on television's top-rated but struggling show, her representative, Mark Young, said Friday. Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler announced Thursday he was exiting.

That means the "Idol" panel is down to one, original judge Randy Jackson, and there are reports that he may take a different role when the Fox show returns next January.

RECOMMENDED: Are you a real American Idol fan? Take the quiz

Lopez broke the news to "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest on his radio show.

"I really was dreading this phone call with you," she told him. "I honestly feel like the time has come that I have to get back to doing the other things that I do that I've put kind of on hold because I love 'Idol' so much."

"American Idol" has been TV's most popular program for nearly a decade, but its ratings have declined as TV's talent show field has grown more competitive.

When it returns for its 12th season next January, "Idol" will have to be a reengineered version of the once-powerhouse series that turned hopefuls such as Jennifer Hudson into stars and gave network rivals fits.

Speculation about potential new panelists has focused on Mariah Carey, with former "Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert getting a shout-out from his fans. Much is at stake for the show and for its judges: Lopez's contract reportedly was worth $20 million and the stint proved a career-booster for her.

Fox and Jackson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tyler started the exodus with his announcement Thursday that he was putting rock 'n' roll ahead of the show that he said had been "over-the-top fun."

"I strayed from my first love, Aerosmith, and I'm back — but instead of begging on my hands and knees, I got two fists in the air and I'm kicking the door open with my band," Tyler said in a statement. Aerosmith is on a nationwide tour with Tyler and has an album due out in the fall.

In a phone interview Thursday with The Associated Press as the news about Tyler broke, Lopez had said she was saddened to hear that Tyler was leaving and that his departure would play a role in her decision.

"I can't even imagine anyone else there right now because I've just spent two years sitting next to him," she said. "I love Steven, and we became close during that time. We were a great support for each other, on an adventure that neither one of us knew what it was going to be. So it's hard to hear that he won't be doing it."

Jackson and his "dawg!" exclamations have been a stalwart part of "Idol." But the show's multi-year contracts, such as the one Jackson signed, typically include an escape clause that the network can choose to exercise or not.

In a statement Thursday, one Fox executive expressed measured regret over Tyler's decision.

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