Idol's seventh season starts tonight

Reality TV powerhouse "American Idol" is ready for all the off-key glory of a seventh season.

The horrific audition phase starts tonight with a two-hour episode on Fox at 8 p.m. Auditions continue with another two-hour episode Wednesday at 8 p.m. You'll see contestants in Philadelphia and Dallas, respectively.

Many critics believe this season is critical for the singing competition, especially in light of the minor ratings drop (1 percent) it suffered last season. That's paired with lackluster record sales from Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis, the most recent respective winner and runner-up.

Moreover, two "Idol" champs (Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks) and one runner-up (Katharine McPhee) have lost their record contracts.

To counter, "Idol" producers have said this season has more talent than what viewers saw last season. They've also vowed to renew an emphasis on contestants' back stories, as opposed to the heavy focus on celebrity mentors that dominated the sixth season.

Catch up with all the news on the "American Idol" blog at www.ledger-enquirer.com. Reporter Sonya Sorich will blog each episode "live" so you can weigh in with your best Simon Cowell imitation throughout the show.