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It's "Hollywood or Home" on "American Idol" Tonight

Michael Becker/FOXHollywood Week gets underway tonight on American Idol, but this time around, there's a twist.  Instead of going straight to the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles and singing for the judges, all the golden ticket holders will instead be herded into an airplane hangar. There, they'll be forced to compete in a new surprise round called "Hollywood or Home," which will result in immediate cuts.

During the "Hollywood or Home" round, the judges will call on some singers to perform again, and if they don't pass muster, they're going to be sent straight home.  After the field is narrowed down, Thursday night will mark the official start of Hollywood Week: cue the group performances, tears, fights and drama.

Returning judge Jennifer Lopez recalls how she's always disliked Hollywood Week, because it's so emotional. "You know, there are so many hopes and dreams, like, on that moment, and they know they only have that one shot, and it’s brutal," she says.  What the judges want to see here, she says, is whether or not the contestants have taken to heart any of the constructive criticism they offered during the audition rounds.

"We say nothing right now," says J-Lo, when asked if they offer the hopefuls any additional advice going into Hollywood Week. "Once they get through, then we can kind of help them get to the finals and stuff like that, but for right now it’s really, 'Who’s the cream of the crop? Who’s going to show up?  Who’s not going to crack under pressure?'"

New judge Harry Connick Jr., meanwhile, loved the opportunity to pick the best of the best out of the huge field of hopefuls. "You know it’s going to be an incredibly tight race when you have to cut really good people. We’ve cut a bunch of people that are extremely good. That leaves the people that are extraordinarily good," he says.  And J-Lo notes that during this Hollywood Week process, "the stars kinda pop out right away...everybody in the room feels it...everybody knows; everybody goes, 'Who’s that?'"

"You feel an energy," Harry agrees. "Like, some people, we put 'yes' within three seconds."

This new Hollywood or Home round is part of the American Idol overhaul that's taken place this season; in addition to new judges, there's a new team behind the scenes as well.  Harry, who's been given a lot of credit for making the show fun to watch, says that they're only giving the viewers what they deserve.

"Especially with a brand that’s so powerful and strong and identifiable as American Idol, they should get the best show on television," he says.  "The way it looks thus far, that’s exactly what they’re going to get."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio