The judging panel for American Idol Season 12 took to the stage at the TCA Winter Press Tour today to present a united front. Sort of.
While FOX head of alternative programming, Mike Darnell, assured assembled critics that the much-publicized feud between freshman judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj wasn’t drummed up to lure disillusioned viewers back to the show, he added that all of the judges disagree with one another — only because they are so passionate about finding America’s next music superstar.
“They fight all the time,” Carey then quipped about fellow newbie Keith Urban and the judge’s sole remaining vet, Randy Jackson. “I find it offensive.”
A little later, when talk of the catfight continued to weave its way throughout the conversation, Carey grumbled that the discord was really “sort of a one-sided thing.” Minaj, who was quiet early in the session before hitting her stride, retorted, “No, it wasn’t.”
Finally, asked to say something nice about each other by a charmingly parental critic, Minaj called Carey one of her favorite artists of all time. Carey reminisced about their sole, and very early, collaboration called — comically — “Up Out My Face.” Asked flat out how detente (if there is one) was reached, Minaj didn’t miss a beat: “I put out my sex tape!”
“And there it is,” said Carey.
Despite the prevalent feud talk, there was also much to be learned about the musical end of Idol‘s new season, which will premiere over two nights, Jan. 15 and 16.
Executive producer Ken Warwick said that 256 contestants from across the nation made it to Hollywood, with Darnell noting that there is no specific guideline to how many singers the judges put through. The panel agreed that the Season 12 ladies are outshining their male counterparts thus far.
The new judges also talked about how they approached their judging style.
“I feel like I learned — and had to learn — so much sitting with people who knew the show so much better than I did,” Carey said, particularly of Jackson. She also said that having experienced so much rejection as a young artist herself, “it was really tough for me to say no in the beginning. I used to duck my head.”
Still, Minaj and Urban agreed that offering realistic criticism is beneficial to all of the artists — the talented, and the not-so-much.
“The fuel for the fire for an artist is often not the people who believe in us,” Urban said, noting that a lot of mediocre performers surround themselves with sycophants and family members who shield them from the truth. But he said his own experiences being judged as a young performer on Aussie talent shows Pot of Gold and C’mon, Have A Go taught him to choose his words carefully in advising contestants.
Minaj admitted that it upsets her when Idol judges advance singers whom she felt hadn’t earned it via their musical skills. “Because people who are talented, it diminishes them. … I don’t feel the need to send someone through just because of a great story.”
The panel, which also included host Ryan Seacrest and executive producers Trish Kinane and Nigel Lythgoe, did agree that merely having a stellar voice did not guarantee hopefuls a ticket to Hollywood, noting that street performers who are a little a rough around the edges can be every bit as entertaining as classically trained warblers and that often performers don’t blossom until they got further into the competition — a la last season’s runner-up Jessica Sanchez.
There is, however, one cross-section of the music industry that Minaj believes won’t ever be well-served by American Idol — her own. “I wouldn’t encourage someone who is a rapper to come on a show like this,” she said. “America loves that it’s an honest singing competition and I don’t have a problem with that.”
American Idol premieres Wednesday, Jan. 16 and Thursday, Jan. 17 on FOX.
Photo credit: Frank Micelotta/FOX