By Lori Acken
Here’s what Randy Jackson thinks you should know about American Idol’s ninth season, which bows with a two-hour premiere this Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 8pm on FOX.
• It’s gonna be a good one:
“Interesting, wild, crazy … .” And thanks to the series’ new judge, longtime Jackson pal and fellow Louisiana native Ellen DeGeneres, really really funny.
• If you think Ellen has nothing to bring to the AI judges table, you’re wrong:
“We’re going to have a lot of laughs,” Jackson told reporters during a conference call on Friday. “Welcoming Ellen to the fold is a good look. She’s funny, she’s charismatic, she’s really cool. … She’s a die-hard music fan. And she’s a performer herself, so she knows what’s it’s like to perform and entertain.”
And yeah, she’ll speak for us armchair AI quarterbacks at home — cause after all, it’s us who call the game in the end, am I right?
“She brings the lay person point of view. … She will give the at-home viewer a real voice on the judges panel.”
• But he still misses his girl Paula:
“The Paula thing is near and dear to my heart. We speak all the time. She was one of our best friends and she still is. I miss that. Sometimes we look down the judges table and and go, ‘Where’s Paula?’
• He’d be tickled if a woman took the win:
“The last couple seasons boys have won and I’m sitting there scratching my head and going, ‘Dude, where are the girls?’ I think there’s some really talented girls that showed up this time.
• He’s equally surprised by who didn’t show up:
“You would’ve thought a lot more Adam Lambert and Kris Allen types would’ve showed up, but that’s not what happened this year. We were expecting a lot more theatrical types, but it didn’t happen.”
Who did show up?
“We’ve got some really good, bona fide, stand-in-your-shoes singers.”
• You never know where the good ones will appear in any given season. This year, Dallas and Atlanta were hot. Orlando … not:
“I gotta tell you — for me, Orlando was really strange. Just in terms of the talent and who came out and what was going on there. It was a little strange. Dallas was good. Surprisingly Atlanta was really good — and I’m saying “surprisingly” because that’s the hometown of Ryan Seacrest. [laughs].”
• He has a checklist when it comes to finding a Superstar:
“I’m looking for The Big Three. You gotta have undeniable talent. You gotta have something that makes you unique.” And you gotta have star persona.”
• He’s a big fan of the season’s guest judges.
“I like that they all come from some singing live performance background. … Their success is based on that they really do know what they are doing.”
On Victoria Beckham, who judges the season’s Boston auditions on Tuesday. “I gave her the nickname Lady V. I’m hoping she uses that.”
On the “fear factor” of Mary J. Blige: “Mary is a serious stand-in-your-shoes performer. She’s not a performer that is going to use a lot of props to make you enjoy the show better. You are really just going to enjoy her voice. A lot of kids who came in know that — it was a good thing for these kids to step up and rev up to.”
• He may not be a fan of Rat Pack Week either:
“I really like to hear the kids sing current music, contemporary music and see what they can do with it.”
But we’re going to sit through Rat Pack Week anyway, aren’t we?
“We have a couple of interesting wrinkles for you this season.”
Give us a hint.
“Watch. On Fox. [laughs]”
• He isn’t sure Carrie, Kelly and Chris Could have found fame without Idol:
“This show is definitely a rocket ship to the top. … Is it the only rocket ship to the top? No. But for those that need this boost, those who didn’t have it all together, these people that never would’ve been discovered in a small town where you don’t have a hit song and that exposure. We’re very blessed and very proud of every single one of them.”
• He thinks Simon is “stern,” not mean:
“He’s honest from his perspective. Sometimes it’s a bit harsh, but some people call that real. I’m not sure I would call it mean. I would call it very stern.”
• And no, he doesn’t know if Simon’s leaving the show:
“Until I really hear it from him, I’m not going to believe anything. We have an exciting season going on with the show. I’m just looking forward to the season.”
• He thinks the Idol magic will last, despite a glut of competitors:
“I think Idol is the best show of its kind, ever, and I think it can go on quite a long time. I don’t know when the end is. I haven’t really thought about my end for it. I’m contracted for a couple more seasons and it’s really hard to predict, but I think the show can really go on for a long time.”
Photos: Michael Becker / FOX