Clay Aiken, Kelly Clarkson, and more ‘American Idol’ alums talk Season 12 judges

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"American Idol" is set to debut its 12th season, but not everybody is happy about the changes that have occurred on the long-running singing competition, including the addition of superstar celeb judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban.

Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken recently told the Hollywood Gossip that he's not a fan of the shift the show has taken. The singer said that back in his day the show "was about the contestants."

"Kelly [Clarkson] and Justin [ Guarini] and Tamyra [Gray] and Nikki McKibbin, they were all the stars of the show. And when I was on, Ruben [Studdard] and myself and Kimberley Locke were the stars of the show. Now 'Idol' is about the judges. I don't even know if they remember there are contestants anymore," he said.

Former "Idol" judge Steven Tyler has also taken issue with the upcoming season's cast of characters. The Aerosmith front man, who spent two years at the judges' table, told MTV that the alleged "feud" between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj was taking from the show's mission of finding new talent.

"I know that they've got something going on on the judges' panel; it shouldn't be that," he said. "[The new talent] needs to be birthed, not judged by 'entertainment' factors; it needs to be judged by people that are honest, true, that have the 'it' factor."

Last month, Tyler also questioned Minaj's ability to spot raw talent with this dig: "If it was Bob Dylan, Nicki Minaj would have had him sent to the cornfield!"

But Season 1 winner, Kelly Clarkson, likes the extra star power. She told Extra, "I'm kind of super-proud that I'm from the show and Mariah Carey's going to be on it. Just because I'm a huge fan of hers."

Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks dished that if she came face to face with one of the new judges during her season, she'd have gone into "fan mode." She told Hollywood Life: "I would probably go into complete fan girl mode if I was standing in front of Mariah Carey. She is like one of those ones for me! I would totally do what my fans do: Can I have a hug and all that stuff."

Former judge Simon Cowell also had an opinion on the addition of Mariah Carey to the cast. He told The Hollywood Reporter: "I like Mariah. I think she's going to find it difficult to say no [to contestants] ... She's sweet." (Hey, is he calling her a softie?)

Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood thinks it's high time the show had a country boy. She told Parade, "I think it's about time [they had a country music star as a judge]… There have been so many country artists to come from the show, so why not get a country-loving judge in the mix? He'll do a great job."

Ditto for Scotty McCreery. The Season 10 winner told Billboard that the show's new judging lineup is "cool" and added, "I think it will be interesting to see Keith Urban out there in the middle of Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. It will be interesting to see how he handles that."

And reigning "Idol" champ Phillip Phillips gave Parade his two cents regarding the new judges. "It's definitely interesting," the "Home" singer said. "Keith Urban is an amazing musician, and I'm curious to see how Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj will judge. I didn't think I was that good, so you never know what [the judges] are looking for!"

It's just a few weeks until we see for ourselves. "American Idol" Season 12 premieres on Jan. 16 at 8 PM ET on Fox.

More from this contributor:

Life after 'American Idol': What the former judges have to say

'American Idol' judges' drama plays out on Twitter

How will Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban stack up against other judges?

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