Steven Tyler and fellow members of his rock band Aerosmith took the stage during and after the "American Idol" season 11 finale on Wednesday to promote their upcoming album and the co-judge could not avoid the burning question on many people's minds.
Backstage, a reporter asked him if he would be upset if Jennifer Lopez, who joined the series along with him back in 2010, would not be back for season 12. She recently said she is unsure if she will return to "American Idol."
Tyler told reporters: "Yeah, probably. Everything evolves. Who am I going to sit next to that makes it really worthwhile?"
"Don't take that out of context!" he added, drawing laughs.
The Aerosmith rocker and actress and pop singer had joined veteran judge Randy Jackson on the panel as part of a series shakeup aimed at boosting ratings. They have been on the decline for at least the past five years. Tyler had in 2011 signed a multi-year contract, reportedly worth $18 million, to continue his job on "American Idol."
Lopez had told Ellen DeGeneres, a former judge, on her talk show earlier this month that she was unsure if she would return. Lopez's music career has picked up since she joined "American Idol" and she plans to keep busy this summer with a North American tour and hopes to bring along her 4-year-old twins, Max and Emme.
"I really do enjoy it," she told DeGeneres about her "American Idol" job. "I don't know if I can go for a third year. I miss doing other things. It really does lock you down, which was nice the first year, with the babies being 3 and 4. Now they're getting more mobile, they're about to go to school. I just don't know."
"No, I get it," DeGeneres replied. "Believe me."
The talk show host served as a judge alongside Jackson, Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi in season 9. She had replaced Paula Abdul, another veteran cast member. Cowell and DioGuardi left after the season.
At its prime, around 2006 and 2007, "American Idol" was drawing an audience of some 35 million people. Ratings have fallen since then, amid the debuts of other talent contest reality shows on primetime television.
Wednesday's finale, which saw Georgia rocker Phillip Phillips, 21, beat California power vocalist Jessica Sanchez, 16, earned a 6.4 rating among its target demographic of people aged 18 to 49, marking the lowest ratings ever for the show.
This season, "American Idol" lost nearly a quarter of its audience, especially in the 18 to 49 demographic, according to The New York Times. It quoted Kevin Reilly, FOX's president of entertainment, as saying there would be some "creative reinvigoration" of the franchise for 2013.
Aerosmith's new album: 'Oh my God, we're back'
Tyler is meanwhile keeping busy with his own music career. Aerosmith is also set to tour this summer, starting on June 16 in Minneapolis, and plans to release its 15th studio album, "Music from Another Dimension," on August 28. It is the group's first major record in eight years.
On Wednesday's "American Idol" finale, the rockers performed together on the series for the first time since Tyler joined the show. They performed the album's lead single, "Legendary Child."
"It is the first time we ever got a chance to play live, this song, the song off the album, that we think depicts who we are," Tyler told the reporters. "It was halfway done and I was looking at [guitarist] Joe [Perry] and I said, 'Oh my God, we're back.' It's the kind of thing where it represents who you are. Who are you? We don't know. Sometimes our music speaks for us."
"An album is like a wave and the band is the surfboard or the surfer and you ride that album all the way and see what you've got," Tyler told reporters. "Hopefully this album is three, four deep, which means radio will play it. Really happy about it."
The album contains 20 new tracks. Perry said: "We're looking forward to playing all these new songs. We got a lot of great songs."