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American Idol: Can Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez avoid the Sophomore Slump?

American Idol (and Randy Jackson) is back for Season 11 but for Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler this marks their sophomore year.  Can Lopez and Tyler find continued success without novelty on their side?

By / January 19, 2012

American Idol judges, from left to right, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson, gear up for Season 11 at the Fox Broadcasting Company Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena , California. on Jan. 8.

Danny Moloshok / AP

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Just as the frigid winds and early sunsets herald the onslaught of winter, so too does the premiere of America's famed talent show, American Idol

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In its eleven seasons, American Idol has become an institution in American pop culture.  But despite the show's longevity, Idol certainly lost some of its identity, and perhaps even pizazz, with the exit of judges Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.  Bringing in diva Jennifer Lopez and infamous rock star Steven Tyler to take their places last season was a somewhat desperate attempt to prove that TV's No. 1 show was still hip, edgy, and relevant.

At first, Steven's uncensored wackiness and Jennifer's warmth, seemed to indicate that the producers' gamble paid off.  But by the time All-American Scotty McCreery belted out his victory song in the finale, there were obvious chinks in the armor.  Steven, so entertaining in the auditions, had all but checked out by the time the live shows began. And Jennifer's nurturing side seemed to undermine her ability to honestly critique a contestant.  A kinder, gentler, and dare we say, less engaging Idol was born.

Now in their second year, Steven and Jennifer face the dreaded sophomore slump and if trying to fill Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul's shoes was tough for them last year, this year may prove even more difficult. Paula and Simon have rekindled their unique brand of chemistry on Simon Cowell's new love child, "The X-Factor," which debuted in the fall.  Add NBC's "The Voice" to the mix and suddenly Idol risks becoming passé in a genre that they once dominated.

Savannah Auditions

So, with a crucial season ahead of them, Randy Jackson,  Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez headed to Savannah to kick off Season 11.  As any veteran viewer knows, it's silly to become invested in contestants this early on.  Many share the same trajectory as Steven Tyler, starting off strong in auditions but quickly fizzling out come Hollywood Week.  Yet, try as one might, indifference is often futile, especially since the show's No. 1 goal is to get viewers invested in the contestants.  To that end, Idol has injected even more "reality" into their reality show by having the hopefuls document their journey to auditions with video diaries.

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