'Duets' Judge Robin Thicke Hopes Middle America Discovers Him

"I'm the underdog of the group. I'm just happy to be a part of it, ” the R&B Singer/Songwriter and judge of ABC's new singing competition said.
Robin Thicke is one of the performer judges on ABC's "Duets."

With American Idol crowning its winner on Wednesday, ABC hopes viewers will tune in to its new singing competition, Duets, premiering Thursday at 8 p.m. And one of its performer judges, Robin Thicke, is hoping that the show introduces him to a whole new audience.

“I’ve really only had one song that played on the pop charts,” Thicke, whose 2006 single "Lost Without U" became the No. 1 most played song in Urban Adult Contemporary and topped four Billboard charts simultaneously, told reporters recently.

“All my music lives on black radio,” he said. “So, TV is a huge opportunity to be seen by everyone in Middle America and all these other places where I don’t really tour.”

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Thicke may be underestimating his popularity or just being modest, but he’s clearly appreciative of the show and his fellow judges, Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. And the 35-year-old said whatever competitive bickering we see them engage in onscreen is all in fun.

“I don’t think any of us are taking it too personally, because we all actually truly respect each other,” he explained. “Jennifer Nettles, Kelly and John, these are great singers. For me, I’m the underdog of the group. I’m just happy to be part of it and give my best I can each week.”

The show challenges its four superstar judges to handpick two contestants, who they’ll share the stage with until only one contestant is left. That person will receive a recording contract with Hollywood Records. Yet, Thicke told reporters that he didn’t even know judging was part of the deal at first.

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“The first pitch they gave me was, ‘Oh, you’re going to sing on every episode in front of millions of people.’ I was like, ‘Hey, I love to sing. I love to make music.’ So, it seemed like an easy decision to make,” he said. “Then after I had already signed on, they were like, ‘Oh, by the way, you’re going to be judging other people.’ I was like, ‘Wait, I thought I was just performing. I don’t want to judge anybody.’ But, you realize it’s not about judging, it’s about inspiring, and trying to give anything I’ve learned in my career back to these young contestants to help with their future.”

In order to find those young contestants, Thicke was given a pool of video submissions. From those, he picked about 10 contestants to fly into L.A. to assess in person and on stage. In the end, he chose Knoxville resident Alexis Foster and Charlotte native Olivia Chisholm.

“When I saw their tapes, I saw these beautiful spirits and I saw this great talent in both of them,” the judge said. “And then when I got to sing with them in person, I thought there was a connection. This show isn’t just about them [singing] on their own, it’s about how we blend together. So once I realized we can look in each other's eyes and create a spark on stage, that was when I made my decision.”

Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro