American Idol

It's time for the first-ever American Idol rush week!

In an effort to speed up the competition and raise the stakes, Idol will be putting their 31 semi-finalists through an intense week of eliminations. To help you get prepared for three nights of heartfelt ballads and hip-shaking hits, we've chatted with the reality hit's executive producers and gathered absolutely everything you need to know about rush week.

In a new twist, not every semi-finalist will get a chance to perform. It will be up to the judges, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr., to decide which 10 of the 15 girl semi-finalists and which 10 of the 16 guy semi-finalists earn a spot on the live performance shows. Confused? Let us explain…

Beginning tonight, the judges will select their 10 favorite girls from last week's group of 15 semi-finalists to perform on the new-and-improved American Idol stage, and sing live for their chance to make it into the next phase of the competition—a coveted spot in the final top 13. On Wednesday night, it will be the guys' turn to show their stuff as the top 10 out of 16 semi-finalists grace us with a song in another night of live performances.

That's right, Idol fans, this means that 11 of the contestants will disappear from the competition since last week's big cut without even getting a chance to sing for their survival!

Executive producer Per Blankens explained, "Five [of each gender] don't perform, but we're rehearsing all the kids and ready for all the kids. The judges will decide in the live show which 10 go through to the next phase."

American Idol, Top 30

Michael Becker / FOX

So how will the judges be making the tough decisions to cut out a third of the competition?

"They base that decision on everything that has happened so far and the workshop that we had with Randy Jackson a few weeks ago," Blankens revealed. "Then on Thursday, we see America's Top 10 in terms of votes. But we need a Top 13, so the judges will single out five kids to sing again, sing live in front of the judges. And from that show, the judges will pick three from the five. And then we have our Top 13."

Throughout this week, fans will be able to vote for their favorite singers and on Thursday's first live results show of the season. With America's help, the top 20 will be narrowed down to 10 and then the judges will reveal their three wild cards picks, creating a grand total of 13 finalists.

Sheesh! Is anyone else's head spinning?

Despite this season's somewhat-confusing elimination process, there are some other new changes that fans can get excited for. The brand-new American Idol stage, designed by Baz Halpin, houses roughly 600 fans and will immerse at-home viewers into this year's performances.

Executive producer Jesse Ignjatovic explained, "What we wanted to do was tap into the energy of live music, so we created a 360 environment here in the room. The idea is not just keeping everything to this stage but really mixing it uphaving entrances from different positions and just utilizing the whole of the room this season."

There will be a main stage and a B stage, which will make its debut during this week's rush week. It will provide "intimacy" for eliminations and options for using both stages during performances. Centered in the middle of the stage is the judges' desk which can turn 360 degrees so that no matter what stage the show will be using, the judges will have a front row seat. And lastly, the band this season will be split into sections on both the left and right sides of the stage, providing a surround-sound experience.

American Idol will reduce the Top 31 to 13 starting with the Top Girls performing tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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