Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, "Idol" empowers contestants and viewers to share their voice in deciding who will be America's next singing superstar. This season features a new judge and plenty of surprises along the way.
Every year, tens of thousands of hopefuls from across America audition for a shot at stardom.
For Season 8 the show's judges – Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and recent addition Kara DioGuardi - traveled to the following cities in search of the next American Idol:
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Kansas City, Missouri
Salt Lake City, Utah
San Francisco, California
San Juan, Puerto Rico
They winnow down the competitors to a select group of semifinalists who sing their hearts out each week for a studio audience and television viewers.
The judges have their say after every performance, but it's the viewing public that determines who will advance to the next round of competition and who will go home.
Voting via telephone and text-messaging begins immediately after each performance show, and the results are announced during the following night's broadcast.
Eventually the competition is narrowed down to two finalists who compete for a major recording contract and the American Idol title.
Past winners Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks and David Cook have become household names and have risen to the top of the recording industry.
American Idol is created and executive-produced by Simon Fuller, founder of 19 Entertainment. The series is executive-produced by Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO, FremantleMedia North America, Inc.; and Ken Warwick, Executive Producer, FremantleMedia North America, Inc.