Michael Becker/FOX

The judges preview a talented top 24 as the show premieres with auditions

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January 19, 2012 11:00 AM

American Idol isn’t hurting for talent. But this season’s crop of singers are bringing a whole lot more than their voices – presenting themselves in a much more rounded way after years of growing up with the show.

That’s according to the judges, who spoke Wednesday – ahead of the show’s season 11 premiere – at a press conference in Las Vegas, where they are currently in the process of cutting the field of 42 down to 24.

“I think each year it gets better and better,” said Randy Jackson. “We have so many amazingly talented artists here. And we have the variety we had last year, maybe even more so. And I gotta tell you, the talent level is even better.”

He added: “There are some young kids with some giant voices that have really impressed me. That under-20 crowd is stronger than ever.”

“Not only the voices, but they have the whole package,” added Jennifer Lopez. “The performance needs to be there, the way they dress.”

Steven Tyler said this year’s group has “a lot of soul. These kids have been listening to this in-your-face music for the past 20 years, and they’re coming out like this, and we ask them, ‘Were did you learn this?’ And they’ve just grown that way by virtue of what they’ve heard on the Internet and radio stations.”

And the momentum seems to be building. Said Lopez: “Some of the people who hadn’t come out of their shell yet are now surprising us beyond our wildest dreams.”

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