Attention American Idol producers: When stars of the show that made them famous start throwing you shade, it might be time to cue the swan song.

Let’s recap, shall we?

Jennifer Hudson – the seventh-place, season-three Idol finalist who has since become a Golden Globe and Oscar Award-winning actress – recently told Celebuzz that while she’s “proud to have come from American Idol,” television’s once-dominant singing competition “should go out on top.”

“Everything has its time,” she added, suggesting that the Ryan Seacrest-hosted reality show is not as popular as it once was.

And she’s right. The Season 12 premiere earlier this month was down 19% from last year’s premiere.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us, though. In fact, there are so many reasons for the decline in viewers that it’s hard to decide where to start.

First, let’s get the revolving door of judges out of the way.

Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul had chemistry from the beginning – there’s no doubt about that.

It’s part of what made Idol the juggernaut it was when it debuted and for many years after.

But it wasn’t long before a brilliant talking head in the back decided to muck up the formula by adding the dastardly Kara DioGuardi to the mix, which ultimately threw a wrench into the wheel of this perfectly oiled machine. Before you knew it, Paula was out, Kara got to stay (HOW did that happen? Oh, yeah – thanks brilliant talking head), and Ellen DeGeneres was added to the panel to take Paula’s place. One season later, Simon abandoned the sinking ship, both Ellen and Kara walked the plank, and Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler hopped aboard. After two seasons of Steven’s screeching and J. Lo’s crocodile tears, they both parted ways with the show. Which brings us to the current panel: Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, and mainstay Randy Jackson.

And therein lies the problem – incompatibility.

What American Idol did for J. Lo (made her likeable again and, dare we say it, charming even) seems to have had the opposite affect on catty schoolgirls Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, both of whom already have a terrible reputation for being divalicious.

While Mimi’s on-screen personality is bearable (we’ve been dealing with her theatrics for over two decades now, daaaahling), Nicki comes off pretentious, bossy and bratty – traits that won’t sit well with most of America.

Frankly, it’s baffling that Miss Super Bass was chosen for a place at the judges’ table at all, given her brand of music, loud mouth, and frequent industry feuds. That’s simply not gonna fly with the wholesome-family-values crowd that accounts for a significant number of Idol’s viewership.

Of course, that’s precisely why Keith Urban was invited to the panel – to provide balance and broaden appeal. It’s just too bad he doesn’t get a word in edgewise. Not that he has much to say anyway. Dude’s boring – with or without clown faces constantly talking over him.

Still, while it’s clear that this latest crop of judges lack chemistry, there’s another thing they seem to be missing, too: Authenticity.

Idol producers teased a brewing battle between Mariah and Nicki for months, which came to a boil when video of a mid-audition meltdown between the pair was “leaked” online. Plenty of people bought into the ruse given the girls’ personalities and penchant for drama – hey, it was possible – but when the season premiered, it became clear that this was all a setup. A poorly orchestrated (and acted) one, at best.

Whether or not Mariah and Nicki genuinely like or dislike each other remains to be seen – perhaps they truly hate each other’s guts – but they’re not doing well to convince viewers of the tension. Their childish back-and-forth banter is too over the top, too frequent, and too early in the season to give the feud any cred. It’s completely disingenuous. If they really hated each other, they would pick their battles – it’s a long season, after all. Instead, they’re picking every battle with each other – which became tedious and tiresome 30 minutes into the season premiere.

The biggest issue that American Idol has this season, though, isn’t its inability to properly pair compatible judges or coaching its ‘mis-picks’ on the art of authenticity. Rather, it’s the quality of the contestants and the judges’ willingness to send to Hollywood singers who clearly don’t make the grade.

Take Tenna Torres, for instance. The promotional model and Camp Mariah alum (yes, there’s an actual place for people to worship Carey) butchered James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” with her own high-pitched, nasally rendition. Of course, Mariah acted like Torres’ voice was akin to angels ascending from heaven (you think she’s gonna tell a Camp Mariah alum that she sucks on national TV? Fat chance.) and the others followed suit. It was a head-scratching-but-telltale moment of the new season that solidified that the current installment of AI is merely a memory of its former self.

Sad, but true.

It’s also true, mind you, that American Idol changed the face of talent competitions on TV. It changed the way superstar singers are discovered. And it gave us some of the most popular, successful, and talented artists in the industry today, including Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

Lately, however, the only thing it’s doing is forcing us to quietly wonder, “Are you people deaf?”

If only we could be so lucky.

Have an opinion on this lower-rated season of American Idol? Let us know in the comments below.