'American Idol' season 9: 24 semifinalists, no 'Wild Card' round, and a Feb. 23 voting kickoff

Goodbye, Wild Card round! Welcome to Hollywood Week, Ellen DeGeneres! And everyone mark your calendars for Feb. 23! Those were among the major bullet points released when Fox announced key dates and details for American Idol‘s ninth season this afternoon.

Idol‘s ninth season is slated to begin on Jan. 12 (8-10 p.m. EDT) focusing on the show’s Boston auditions, and will continue the following night (8-9:15) with a pit-stop in Atlanta. The remainder of the audition-show slate will include: Chicago (Jan. 19), Orlando (Jan. 20), Dallas (Jan. 26), Los Angeles (Jan. 27), Denver (Feb. 2), and a non-city-specific compilation of the remaining best-and-worst auditions called “The Road to Hollywood” (Feb. 3). During the tryouts, the Paula Abdul Memorial Chair will be occupied by a rotating roster of guest judges, including Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, Joe Jonas, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, and Shania Twain.

On Feb. 9, Idol switches focus to the Hollywood round, and that’s where Abdul’s permanent replacement, Ellen DeGeneres, will make her first appearance. “Hell Week” episodes will continue on Feb. 10 and Feb. 16, and the Top 24 semifinalists will be announced on the Feb. 17 episode.

The 24-semifinalist format marks a return to the game-plan that Idol favored in seasons 4-7 — whereby female contestants perform for three consecutive Tuesdays, and males perform on three consecutive Wednesdays, with the two lowest vote-getters of each gender getting cut each Thursday until the show is left with 12 finalists. The ladies’ semifinal performance episodes will air on Feb. 23 (AKA Power to the Idoloonies Day), March 2, and March 9; men’s semifinal performances are slated for Feb. 24, March 3, and March 10; and the semifinal results shows will produce copious tears on Feb. 25, March 4, and March 11. Absent from the Fox release is any mention of a “Wild Card” round, a controversial tool producers used to put more power in the judges’ hands during the show’s first, second, third, and eighth seasons.

The competition obliterates its gender divide on March 16, when all the show’s finalists will take the stage for a two-hour episode, and one unlucky singer will receive the Vanessa Olivarez Award for the Season’s Hastiest Finalist Dismissal during the March 17 results show (9-10 p.m. EDT). As previously announced, Fox will air all one-hour Wednesday Idol episodes at 9 p.m. beginning Jan. 27.

Below is the full slate of Idol dates leading up to the first week of finals, as announced by Fox. (All times are ET/PT.)

Tuesday, Jan. 12 (8:00-10:00 PM) Boston Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Jan. 13 (8:00-9:15 PM) Atlanta Auditions Episode
Tuesday, Jan. 19 (8:00-9:00 PM) Chicago Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Jan. 20 (8:00-9:00 PM) Orlando Auditions Episode
Tuesday, Jan. 26 (8:00-9:00 PM) Dallas Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Jan. 27 (9:00-10:00 PM) Los Angeles Auditions Episode
Tuesday, Feb. 2 (8:00-9:00 PM) Denver Auditions Episode
Wednesday, Feb. 3 (9:00-10:00 PM) “The Road to Hollywood” Auditions Episode
Tuesday, Feb. 9 (8:00-9:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 1
Wednesday, Feb. 10 (9:00-10:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 2
Tuesday, Feb. 16 (8:00-9:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 3
Wednesday, Feb. 17 (9:00-10:00 PM) Hollywood Round, Part 4 (Top 24 Semifinalists Announced)
Tuesday, Feb. 23 (8:00-10:00 PM) Top 12 Female Semifinalists Perform
Wednesday, Feb. 24 (8:00-10:00 PM) Top 12 Male Semifinalists Perform
Thursday, Feb. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM) First Results Show (ET live/PT tape-delayed)
Tuesday, March 2 (8:00-10:00 PM) Top 10 Female Semifinalists Perform
Wednesday, March 3 (8:00-10:00 PM) Top 10 Male Semifinalists Perform
Thursday, March 4 (8:00-9:00 PM) Results Show (ET live/PT tape-delayed)
Tuesday, March 9 (8:00-9:00 PM) Top 8 Female Semifinalists Perform
Wednesday, March 10 (9:00-10:00 PM) Top 8 Male Semifinalists Perform
Thursday, March 11 (8:00-9:00 PM) Results Show (ET live/PT tape-delayed) (Top 12 revealed)
Tuesday, March 16 (8:00-10:00 PM) Finalists Perform (ET live/PT tape-delayed)
Wednesday, March 17 (9:00-10:00 PM) Results Show (ET live/PT tape-delayed)


Comments (116 total) Add your comment
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  • Sam

    Does anyone else really want to see a female contestant win this season? When I was thinking before I thought “So, what guy will win this year?” For two years the top two have both been male. Let’s have a little grrl power!

    • Krista

      yeah i would like to see another girl win too. the last girl to win was jordin i think

      • SS

        And Jordin was a winner nobody wanted, either.

      • Troy

        I’d be happy to see another woman win this competition, it has produced some excellent singers. But please, remember that. It HAS produced some excellent singers! American Idols two most successful contestants are both women. Though some men have had success, they still haven’t beaten out the women.

        Beyond that, out of the eight seasons we’ve had so far, four have been won by women and four have been won by men. There is apparently no bias at all here. :)

      • JMB

        How was Jordin a winner “nobody wanted”? She WON. By the VOTES.

      • Telly B

        To this day the two most successful singers to come out of AI have been women; CARRIE and KELLY, who to this day, are still having radio hits and selling albums. The male winners? Not so. Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, Kris, all flopped albums and careers that never really took off. And even the male runner ups that had a lot of buzz, petered out fast (Clay, Adam) Daughtry seemed to be the one male AI alumn that would have a long career, but his latest album and singles havetanked…

      • wg

        I think it’s a little early to say that Adam has “petered out” – considering he’s been on TV performing about every other day for the last month or so. Not to mention it’s also difficult to reconcile your idea that Daughtry’s latest has “tanked” considering his new material has been all over the radio stations I listen to daily. But then, maybe I just have a different definition of “petered out” or “tanked”?

      • Jacob

        I really think that a girl should win this year: Kelly and Carrie are the only successful female IDOL winners. The only woman who is the most successful non-winner is Jennifer Hudson, who has won an Oscar, Grammy, SAG, and a Golden Globe!

      • Shelly

        How can u say that Kris has “tanked”??? He just got started. Give the guy a chance lol. Me personally I love the guy!

      • Shelly

        And I don’t think Daughtry has “tanked” either. I think they are doing very well.

      • David

        Uh…Kris’s single is already about to go gold. His album has doubled in sales since its debut. He’s in his early 20s and hasn’t even gone on tour yet. I’m sure his next single will sell well, too, which will help his album. He’s so young that he has quite a while to establish a career. David Cook is certainly doing fine, too, and he’s also young enough to improve.

    • AcaseofGeo

      Anyone know when “Hell Week” actually takes place in real time? I’ve always wondered if this is really really close to the actual voting rounds or is it already done or is it done in January?? Can anyone help with that?

      • AP

        Well Ellen said on her show, earlier this month I think, that she was preparing for hell week…this probably doesn’t help too much but that’s all I got.

    • Andrea D

      If a woman deserves to win, fine. But please, she should earn it. NO QUOTAS!

    • Allie

      yea i think it’d be cool to see a girl win this year and to have it be two girls in the finale. i don’t think that’s happened since fantasia won when it was her and diana. that’d be neat.

    • Beau

      One SHOULD HAVE won last year!

      • Allie

        i think i know who you mean beau. allison!! or at least have been in the final 3. but she has an album now, so i’m a happy campre :)

      • Allie

        whoops, *camper

    • Betty

      While I am a woman I loved how they did last season. It was the first time there were only 5 girls and 8 guys in the top 13. Why does it have to be even? Take the best singers and let it ride……regardless of gender. I want another male to win. Bur Randy said the girls are really strong this year so……….

      • Fatima

        You want another male to win without hearing them. Who would say I want three men in a row without one to cheer for? Dumb.

      • Sam

        Um, we had Scott M. and Michael Sarver in the top 13 last year. Surely you agree there were two girls that were better than them! Kristen M.? Mishavonna H.? Jesse L.? Scott, bless his heart, can barely sing!

    • samara

      True about the girls, but the biggest successess Idol has produced have been girls: Kelly, Carrie, and Jordin. Where are Rubin and Taylor? And unfortunately it looks like David Cook and Kris Allen aren’t going very far either. Of course then we have the non-winner successes, Adam and Daughtry.

      • MK

        Samara you are right. I prefer male singers myself, but I will give the girls this season a listen to. Randy did said in an interview that the girls were strong this season.

      • Mark

        Way too early to call success or failure on any of the S8 crowd; it’s unclear how that will roll out in the long-term. However, why the hate on Cook? His numbers are doing just great, frankly.

    • BobDob

      Female finalists have tended to perform better in the real world than male ones. Even though it might not be fair, the reason is fairly straightforward. The personality of most successful male artist are surprisingly similar: dark, brooding, strong, sensitive, larger than life, etc. A lot of those characteristics simply don’t mesh well with doing cover songs on a TV reality show competition that revels in making contestants seem vulnerable each week. In contrast, female artist, unlike their male counterparts, can easily succeed with an “aw shucks”, small town, Cinderella type story. Successful contestants like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordan Sparks, and even that ditzy Pickler girl all had that in spades.

      That said, the situation has improved. I think the show has gained a lot of musical credibility by allowing instruments and rewarding novel musical interpretation instead of karaoke-ish performances. The male contestants on the show no longer seem quite as dorky as they used to.

  • Adam

    Very glad they’re going back to this format. I hated… HATED… the one win and you’re in way they did it last year. Felt like we never really got to know the contestants, and the Wild Card round is a joke.

    • Melissa

      Amen, bro! I hated it too, for all of those reasons.

    • Colleen

      The problem with no Wild Card round is how they split up the preliminary rounds. For example, in Season 2, 3 of the best singers were in the same group meaning that only 2 could go through. Without the Wild Card round, we wouldn’t have had Clay Aiken in the competition and it wouldn’t have been the neck and neck race that it ended up being.

      • tiffany

        Jennifer Hudson was a wild card pick as well, lest we forget…

      • louise

        Yes,I felt like a lot of good singers got left by the wayside last year.

  • Frank Anderson

    I like the Wild Card round…

    I also don’t care if the winner is female or male… but it would be nice if the winner is the actual person who should have won.

    I think low sales of Kris Allen’s CD should show the Idol producers that they need to do more the make the final choice the right choice.

    I am ready for this season to begin, even though it will be hard to watch every episode this year since my wife and I are expecting a baby in March.

    • AcaseofGeo

      Just how do you want the producers to “manipulate” things so that the “right” person wins? I know what you are getting at, but how can they do anything that isn’t tampering? My suggestion is “ONE PHONE ONE VOTE” and get rid of the ridiculous “vote 800 times” stuffing the ballots thing.

      • Betty

        There you go. AcaseofGeo got it right. Limit the voting to 10 per phoneline and only 10 text per phone.

      • Mark

        But why? That favors a contestant with breadth over depth. Especially in these times, they’re going to want the opposite.

    • BobDob

      The wildcard show only works if they use the old single elimination format for the quarterfinals. It was very easy for a good contestant to be eliminated when 4-6 contestants would be eliminated after performing only one song. Going back to a format in which only 2 contestants get eliminated each show means most contestants will get to sing multiple song before they leave. You don’t really need the wildcard show any more.

  • dru

    Maybe Sam, maybe not. It depends on the contestants.

    Only season three was an all female finale but the winners are 50-50 males and females.

  • Christina

    The top 24 method is much better. I’m glad for the change back

  • Matty

    Every time you mention “gender” it should actually be “sex.” I doubt that the AI producers really care what gender someone identifies with; the break-up is along the lines of how someone looks like/their biological makeup, aka sex, not gender.

    • KRibbons

      ok, really?

  • Stacey

    I knew it. That they would go back to the male/female game plan of each having six candidates of each sex, after the males absolutely demolished the females last year and only three or four females ended up in the finals and so many men got in. I actually think it might work out better this way. It will be interesting to see how it goes….

  • Sarah T.

    I hate the fact that they STILL have 4 judges which ends up cutting into the singing time of the contestants. Can we just get rid of Kara please? I mean, I know she offered SO much insight last year but seriously? her time is up. Peace out Kara.

    • SS

      +1.. yes PLEASE get rid of Kara, or at least have her speak her real opinion rather than just seconding Randy.

      • KRibbons

        I want to know how they can put Avril Lavigne in the same category as Kristen Chenoweth! Or Joe Jonas in the same SENTENCE as Neil Patrick Harris. Sad world :(

    • Lyn

      I agree four judges are annoying, but not sure I would toss out Kara at this point. I absolutely dread hearing non-musician Ellen mugging, making lame jokes and trying to make everything all about her. Not saying she doesn’t have talents, but feel she’ll be awful on this show and can’t imagine why they’re bringing her on.

      • Mark

        And even with Kara… why her over Randy? He’s proven useless over eight seasons.

  • Peggy

    I hated the top 13 last year, where there were 8 guys and only 5 girls. I liked Allison and I really voted for her, just so there would be a girl in as long as possible.

  • Nate

    As soon as they get rid of Randy and get Ben Fold’s I’ll be happy.

    • David

      Did you just put an apostrophe in a man’s name?

      • Jackie

        Hahaha… but yes, I agree with him; Ben Folds is awesome.

      • Nate

        Ah, well, things happen I guess.

  • IreneMalibu

    Danny Gokey wuz totally robbed last year in th final and he shuld have won instead of Lameburt or whatshisname. Im glad they are not doing that stoopid top 36 this year and im glad 4 ellen. yay!

    • mwinchell

      Were is Gokey today? Singing at a State Fair.

    • Beau


    • @Irene

      Get your facts correct, the winner was Kris Allen!! Whathisname???? Adam Lambert deserved to WIN the freaking thing!!! He’s awesome!!! Danny or Allison should have been 2nd.

      • LongBalls

        Had Adam Lambert won, it would have been another win in the female column.

      • MK

        LongBalls funny stuff, NOT! lol

  • Corran

    I looveeee the wild card round! And the top 32 format. It ensures the best people go on ahead and then the next best have a chance to compete. Unknowns like Kris and Allison could have been voted off if they had a top 24.

    • Fatima

      Not true AT ALL. The method of last year means you have one shot to get in, and it most cases the deck is stacked so that the ones with screen time get in despite their performances. Kris and Allison were the exception. This method allows a few weeks for people to gain fans and only the worst get booted. I think it ends up producing a more more consistent batch. Do you even realize what you’re saying?

      • Mark

        Potentially more problematic is that the top 24 does theoretically keep 12 singers out of the voting portions. But I agree with Fatima, nonetheless.

  • Stacey


    I disagree. While on one level Alison was at a advantage with the way things were since she had so little viewing before. But she got voted into the finals having placed on her night. She didn’t go in as a Wild Card. So chances are she could have survived in the old and new format. Most viewed her performance of “Alone” as one of the few best of her particular night. So as long as she continued to do well and she did have a interesting vibe to her… she still could have made the final. And what was unfortunate was so many men were in last year and it got to point where there so many guys and so few females. It got boring to watch and not that interesting… So I still think Alison would have gotten through… If the girls had the same format last year. Alison would have stacked up as the best of the females…so she might have made it further…

  • Delon

    A month of auditions?! GRRRRR! Why did they bring in Ellen? 3 judges is just enough. I wanna hear more singing and less blabbering from the judges.

  • Delon

    Performance shows should be 2 hours just like The X Factor. I want contestants to sing longer.

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