NEW YORK — Steven Tyler says he's exiting "American Idol" to put rock `n' roll first.
Tyler said he's leaving the hit show after two seasons to rededicate himself to Aerosmith, the band he fronts. The rock star said he loved every minute on the hit Fox singing contest but added, "it's time to bring rock back."
"After some long ... hard ... thoughts ... I've decided it's time for me to let go of my mistress `American Idol' before she boils my rabbit," Tyler said in a statement, making a joking reference to the 1987 Michael Douglas-Glenn Close thriller "Fatal Attraction."
"I strayed from my first love, Aerosmith, and I'm back – but instead of begging on my hands and knees, I got two fists in the air and I'm kicking the door open with my band."
The band is currently on a nationwide tour with Tyler and has an album due out in the fall.
Tyler's "Idol" departure leaves original judge Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez, but the singer-actress' future with the show is cloudy.
In a phone interview with The Associated Press as the news about Tyler broke, Lopez said she was saddened to hear that he was leaving.
"I can't even imagine anyone else there right now because I've just spent two years sitting next to him," she said. "I love Steven, and we became close during that time. We were a great support for each other, on an adventure that neither one of us knew what it was going to be. So it's hard to hear that he won't be doing it."
Lopez also said Tyler's departure will play a role in her decision to stay or go. She has already expressed that there is a good likelihood that she will not be back.
"All hope is never lost, not all hope, but at the same time, there are too many things that I need to think about," she said. "I know they want me back, I know that I want to go back, but it's not as simple as that. When I started `Idol' ... I signed on for one year. I didn't even think about doing it for two years, let alone three years. To make the decision to go back a second year was a big deal for me."
The change in the judging panel comes as "Idol" comes off a season of ratings erosion. Its finale, which saw Phillip Phillips crowned as the new "American Idol," drew 21.5 million viewers, the lowest in its 11-season history.
The Fox competition, which started off with Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul as judges, has made various judging changes over the years. Ellen DeGeneres joined one season, and songwriter Kara DioGuardi was added as a fourth judge while Cowell and Abdul were still a part of the panel.
The addition of Tyler and Lopez two years ago added fresh star power to a show that, while still a powerhouse, was seeing its audience slowly wane, due to its long tenure and the flood of other talent shows on the TV airwaves.
Tyler added a raucous and sometimes flirtatious personality to the mix, while Lopez was much like Abdul's role as the nurturer and supporter. No one has had the acerbic tone that made Cowell the celebrated villain of the show for years; he's now on his own show, "X-Factor," which recently went through its own judging shakeup and added Demi Lovato and Britney Spears.
"Idol" creator Simon Fuller lauded Tyler's contribution.
"Steven Tyler is a real `Idol,' a rock legend. If you had told me 10 years ago he would be a judge on `American Idol,' I would have thought it impossible," Fuller said in a statement. "The fact that this became a reality and we had the pleasure of him gracing our stage for two seasons makes me very proud. I completely understand his desire to get back to his life as the singer in America's greatest-ever rock band. `American Idol' will miss him!"
AP Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP's music editor. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi