The sixth episode of season 12 of "American Idol" airs Thursday night at 8 p.m., ET, on FOX. If you cannot get to a television, you can also watch a live stream online for free here. But please, click on that link at your own risk.
It seems the "American Idol" producers wanted to get the auditions over as quickly as possible this season. Instead, the Hollywood round will begin next week and last until Feb. 14, per BuddyTV. That night, the four judges will announce the Top 40 contestants.
Those semifinalists will then advance to the Las Vegas round, where the top 20 men and women will be split up. The judges will then cut half of each group until only the top 20 remain to fight for America's vote. The live shows will begin on March 5.
As Reality TV World notes, "American Idol" held a Vegas round last season as well. However, according to a 2012 press release, 70 singers made it out of Hollywood Week that year. Plus, those contestants were not separated by gender.
Twenty-five of those contenders last season then advanced to the live shows, where America voted for its favorite 10 contestants. Each judge then picked a wild card to create a top 13. No wild card slots will be allotted this season.
At least one "American Idol" writer thinks the gender separation is part of a concerted effort by producers to give the series a female winner. No woman has won the show since Jordin Sparks took the title in the sixth season. Since then, all of the champions have been young, attractive males with pop/rock leanings.
"Despite noises to the contrary, I think the producers are dying for a female winner," wrote MJ Santilli of mjsbigblog. "We haven't had one since season 6, while competitors, X Factor and The Voice have been able to deliver."
Indeed, a young female named Melanie Amaro won the first season of FOX's other music competition show, "X Factor." And while African-American males took home the prize in the first two seasons of NBC's "The Voice," Cassadee Pope bucked that trend by winning the most recent cycle.
In the early goings of season 12, it does seem that more women contestants have stood out. Indeed, both Randy Jackson and Nicki Minaj told PEOPLE earlier this month that they believe a female win this season.
However, Santilli does not think that separating women and men will guarantee a female victory.
"Promoting less talented boys, will simply mean a less talented boy will win," Santilli wrote. " Idol will have more success attacking the 'problem' from a personality perspective. If they can find and promote a talented girl with an appealing personality, they may have a chance. A girl with an all-American appeal and an effervescent (but not cocky!) personality could do the trick."