Harry Connick Jr. on 'American Idol' Changes: "We Are Going to Be OK"
The judge talks with THR about what to expect from the coming season as well as the influence of Adam Lambert on the contestants
Has American Idol found its next superstar? Judge Harry Connick Jr. said based on what he has seen in auditions, the 14th season of the Fox singing competition is in good shape.
“We are trying to find someone who can sell records and become a big superstar,” Connick told The Hollywood Reporter. ”Given the talent we’ve seen, that isn’t going to be an issue. We are going to be OK.”
Connick said Wednesday's Nashville-set season premiere only scratches the surface of what's to come. New York, for example, was a plethora of possibilities, he said.
“We had a ridiculous amount of talent through the door,” he said. “At one point, there were 10 unanimous yeses. That has never happened before. It was really encouraging.”
The New York episodes, featuring Idol breakout Adam Lambert, is set to run next week, and Connick said the season eight alum was a great help in the search for the show's next superstar. Lambert filled in for judge Keith Urban after Urban's father-in-law passed away last year.
“He was terrific, and having the perspective of someone who has been a contestant was really unique,” he said. “It was so unfortunate, the circumstances having Keith not being there, but you couldn’t find a better replacement for him. Those shows were exciting. It was really cool."
Connick said that while he misses mentor Randy Jackson, who left the show after last season, the addition of Big Machine label president Scott Borchetta adds another layer to Idol.
“We’re all sad to see him go, but Idol is constantly trying to reinvent and improve the show, not that Scott is an improvement over Randy, but it is a different take,” he said. “In order for a show to remain successful for as long as Idol has, those things need to happen. You need to reinvent yourself. All of the changes that they made are positive. I haven’t seen Scott work but I’ve talked to him and just sort of philosophically what he is about seems right in sync with the Idol program.”
Certain changes, such as associate musical director Michael Orland’s presence in the audition room, will be a boon to contestants.
“To come in and audition with two a cappella songs is really kind of an oddity, so having Michael there and playing something and giving them some sort of support is really more realistic,” he said.
As for Idol's forthcoming showcase at Los Angeles’ House of Blues, Connick called the event a definite game changer.
“It gives them a chance to get their feet wet and perform in front of us in a slightly smaller context. We thought it was very helpful,” he said.
One thing the show will not be doing is eliminating contestants shuffled off to an airplane hangar (“One of the ideas Idol learned what not to do,” he said), but he noted condensing the elimination show into one night is a great idea.
“This is a fresh new approach and it’s going to be a really energetic, jam-packed show, and I think that is what Idol needs right now,” he said.
Connick also promised plenty of humorous “unscripted moments” still to come, but at the end of the day, the judges are committed to the task at hand.
“I love to have a good time and mess around but at the heart of this thing is a competition, and I need to be a judge,” he said.