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American Idol’s season 13 premiere is less than a month away, and new judge Harry Connick, Jr. promises that the deck is not stacked for either a guy or a girl winner.
The 46-year-old singer spoke with reporters on a production break during the program’s taping of Hollywood Week, and said that the competition is “about even.”
“There is some crazy guy talent, for real. No joke,” he said. “There are some guys that are really good, and some great young women too. So it’s hard to say if it’s a 50/50 split. We certainly would not never try to reach a kind of quota … I get the feeling it’s about half and half.”
He said that the judging panel — which includes Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban — are all getting along.
“I really love being up there with them,” he said. “They are extremely bright people … highly-successful, very strong work ethics and very strong convictions about what they do. They are the best in the business at their respective jobs.”
He said that his role in the show as a judge as opposed to mentor is “different, but not a surprise.”
“I know what the show is, so I was really familiar with what it would be like to be a judge. From the very first contestant that we saw in Boston, the first city, it just felt very natural,” he said. “[You’re] sitting in that chair with two people that you respect very much and like very much, and people started coming in and singing and it all gets turned on. You get zoned in on them, and you critique that performance and that’s exciting stuff.”
He added that the show feels “different” in the post-Randy Jackson era.
“He’s a great musician and he’s legendary in this show and he’s an icon for the many years of great television he provided to all of us,” Connick Jr. said. “But it’s a new show. It’s got new producers, different directors, different panels, different contestants. It’s got a new look, it’s got a new feel and it’s a new day for this great show. Fortunately for all of us, Randy is still a huge part of it as a mentor, and I think the kids are going to be very lucky to have him on their side.”
Connick Jr. noted that the auditions have been very “telling,” particularly with the talent auditioning with guitars — many with mixed results.
“If people pick up a guitar and they’re not a good player, it shows immediately that they should put the guitar down,” he said. “There is this weird ‘ignorance is bliss’ kind of attitude. These people are coming up there playing guitar in front of Keith Urban. That takes some guts, and maybe they don’t realize what they are doing. Maybe their family and friends have told them that they are really good and they should go on American Idol, but eventually they are going to have a realization that ‘Uh-oh, maybe I’m not as good as I thought.’ Then there may be people that sound great with the guitar and that’s the kind of artist they are.”
As Connick Jr. told it, his role is to tell performers the truth, even if it’s bad news. “Sometimes you do have to give bad news, and sometimes that’s the best thing these kids can hear is the truth. I would want to be told and I would want my friends and children to be told the absolute truth. You can be diplomatic about it, but you also have to be real. You have to tell it like it is.”
Additionally, he still thinks singers should be connected to the lyrics, unless it’s a groove-based dance track where the lyrics don’t matter.
“Being a singer, you need to know how to sing a song and you need to know what you’re singing about,” Connick Jr. said. “To me that’s not that important [but] a lot of singers just sing and they’re not connected to the lyric.”
Some performers in the group rounds, he said, have been particularly painful.
“There was one group that came on yesterday that I thought was horrible,” he said. “It’s got to do with the performance and I thought it was terrible. I couldn’t wait for it to end and then you move on to the next.”
As for the biggest trouble maker among Connick Jr., Lopez and Urban? “Since I was a kid, I was a class clown,” Connick Jr. said. “If I had to pick one, it’s probably me.”
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