LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez will be harder on contestants this year, and veteran Randy Jackson said he's retiring his "in it to win it" catchphrase.
Jackson said on Thursday that Tyler and Lopez were feeling more comfortable in their roles on the No. 1-rated U.S. TV singing contest this second time around. The trio were often criticized last year for being too soft on contestants, in contrast to the barbed comments from former "Idol" judge Simon Cowell.
"Maybe they are being just a little more stern. Not tougher, stern. They are a little more comfortable with it," Jackson told reporters on a conference call. "I think you will see some change in that, in them. It may surprise you".
Jackson, who along with host Ryan Seacrest is the only original member of the "Idol" show, now in its 11th season, said he was also making changes himself.
"I might not be saying this year 'in it to win it!' I think that one has been retired, man. It's so last season," Jackson said.
"Idol" audiences have fallen off this year in what Jackson called a crowded market with "The X Factor" and "The Voice". Wednesday night's auditions episode was watched by just 18.2 million U.S. viewers and was down more than 30 percent in the 18-49 age group compared to the same edition last year.
But Jackson said next week's Hollywood round would have plenty of drama.
"There was a lot of fainting ... This Hollywood week was the toughest we have ever had on the kids.
"The talent this year is a little bit different. It was across the board - the singer-songwriter, a jazzy person, a church kid. Really, people who had it all down. This time I saw a lot more kids stand up for almost every other performer," he said.
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)