Even if you’re the most ardent America Idol fan, odds are good you remember the Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj crazy train that derailed Season 12 more than you remember Candice Glover, the soulful South Carolinian who won.
This year it’s all about the music promises new judge Harry Connick Jr. who joins Keith Urban and a returning Jennifer Lopez in search of Season 13’s superstar-in-the-making.
“We are all so about these contestants,” the singer/actor says. “We also happen to really like each other. We eat lunch together and show each other pictures of our families. I watch the Saints games with Keith and hung out with Ryan [Seacrest] in the gym. People like to see people have a good time.”
Connick also points out that he, Lopez and Urban bring three completely different frames of music-industry reference to the table — a boon for the hopefuls, whether they take the Idol title or not.
“None is more valuable or valid than the next — it’s just three completely different perspectives, which is an amazing opportunity for these young performers,” Connick says. “They have Jennifer with her wealth of knowledge about her journey to become who she is today. That’s crazy for these kids to have her ear and to get her opinion — and Keith being the [guitar] player that he is and having that experience, too. It’s really cool!”
Connick says his own good experiences as an Idol mentor and guest judge, plus the chance to carry on the legacy of the master musicians who guided him to success, made taking the gig a no-brainer.
“For me, it’s about as natural an environment I can be in,” he explains. “It’s unscripted, it’s about music and it’s a hyper-creative atmosphere with tons of creative people — and the most creative are up there on the panel with me. All the check boxes are checked. There are no marks to hit, there are no notes to hit, there are no lines to memorize — it’s just you listening and responding in front of a live audience, which are all things I love to do.”
While the judges’ easy camaraderie is readily apparent in early clips FOX offered to reporters, Connick says his goodwill extended only so far to the pranksters who regularly impinge on Idol auditions to the delight of some viewers and the disgust of others.
“I am not a fan of that,” he says. “[They] are just wasting everybody’s time and I will tell them that. Then there’s this other group that have been told by friends and family that they are really good and I think it’s important to stop the bleeding — ‘You have many gifts, but this is not one of them.’ It’s not a personal commentary. It’s purely based on what is presented in an artistic context.”
Still, he says, finding a winner isn’t solely about determining the person with the most pristine set of pipes.
“They call it American Idol for a reason — it’s not ‘American Singer,’” Connick explains. “I remember one very attractive young guy who looked like he would be one of these guys in a boy band. Unless he has something up his sleeve, I really don’t think he is vocally good enough [to win], but when he comes out onstage, like Elvis, people will scream because he is so pretty to look at. That is an important part of the competition. I’m looking for people who will make it a very difficult choice. And I promise you the Top 10 will be a dogfight because of the people me, Jennifer and Keith are putting through. It is going to get pretty intense!”
American Idol Season 13 airs Wednesdays and Thursdays beginning Jan. 15-16 on FOX.
Photos: ©2013 Michael Becker/FOX James Minchin III/FOX.