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American Idol: How About Those Judges?

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After watching the first few weeks of American Idol season 12, I actually feel pretty good about this season’s panel of judges, consisting of Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, and Randy Jackson. Well, for the most part. There’s definitely one judge I would vote off the panel. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

AMERICAN IDOL: SEASON 12: L-R: Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Ryan Seacrest, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. CR: Michael Becker / FOX.

Although I haven’t seen last week’s Hollywood Week round with the female contestants, I think the big difference with this new panel of judges is that they’ve been honest with the contestants when it comes to giving them their critiques. That’s a quality that I think is really key and it is also a sentiment I apparently share with the show’s executive producer Nigel Lythoge, which he addressed during a press call.

“What makes a good judge, I believe, is somebody who is honest. Honest with integrity, and not honest just telling somebody they suck and go home and pack their suitcase. Honest in the fact that you are good, but you can improve by doing this. Any information that they can feed in to helping the kids in that short period of time they’ve got to judge I think is great,” Lythgoe said.

During the last couple seasons, there have been certain contestants that could do no wrong in the judges’ eyes, but at one point or another could have benefited from some constructive criticism. The fact that we’re seeing solid constructive criticism from the new faces on the panel leads me to think that Idol is definitely out to prove that they are in it to win it. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself!)

Having seen Keith as one of the coaches on the first season of The Voice Australia, I knew that he was going to be a great asset to the judges’ panel this season. He has a great ear for what works and what doesn’t and he knows how to properly deliver criticism. Plus, with the influx of contestants that lean towards country music in season 12, it’s nice to have someone on the panel that will be able to relate musically to those contestants and help them hone in on their skills.

I have been pleasantly surprised by Nicki Minaj. I think a lot of people had just written her completely before the season ever started, and I hope they tuned in and saw just how phenomenal she is in her new role as one of the Idol judges. She has a strong opinion, isn’t afraid of interacting with the contestants, and she’s so compassionate. And as an added bonus, she’s hilarious. The bit of quarreling they’ve shown between herself and Mariah Carey isn’t my favorite thing to watch, especially since they love to antagonize one another, but right now I’m willing to overlook it, because her judging style has been so on-point. She’s an absolute rock star, as far as I’m concerned. The contestants need someone that’s going to keep it real with them and Minaj fills those shoes quite nicely.

I’m not quite sold on Mariah Carey just yet. Like I said, I’m not a fan of the back and forth between her and Minaj, but I do feel like she has something to offer to the contestants. I think she’s given some solid feedback and gets her say in, but I hope as the season goes on that she gets more comfortable on the panel and really embraces this role as an Idol judge. I feel like both Minaj and Urban have conveyed a sense of passion behind their feedback to the contestants, and I think they’ll just shine when the live rounds begin. I think we’ve seen a little bit of that from Carey, but I’m still wondering what kind of impact she plans on making during the live show rounds.

After the initial audition rounds, the only thing I wanted to say to Randy Jackson was, “You are the weakest link. Goodbye!” Seriously, it’s time. The show should have transitioned him from being a judge to being an in-house mentor alongside Jimmy Iovine. But for now we’re stuck with him telling people who aren’t meant to be singers how “terrible” they sound, which does them zero favors, because he doesn’t offer up anything constructive. 

After hearing a variety of voices featured on Idol this season, as far as I can tell, I think the judges are looking for a well-rounded performer with either a big voice (i.e. Jessica Sanchez & Joshua Ledet from season 11) or someone with a throwback kind of vibe to their voice a la Amy Winehouse or Haley Reinhart (season 10). 

“I think Nicki is looking for an artist. I think Mariah is looking for the complete singer/songwriter. Randy is looking for somebody that sings on pitch, and Keith isn’t just looking for a country star. Keith is looking for an instrumentalist, a good singer, and somebody that can capture that sort of magic charisma, if you will, and connect with the public. They all have their own agendas,” Lythgoe shared.

This week the audience will get a better idea of what the judges are looking for as the first part of the semifinals begins on Wednesday, February 20. Still split up by gender, 10 girls will perform that night and 10 guys will perform the following night, Thursday, February 21.

After each night of performances, the judges will eliminate five singers from each group. This process will repeat the following week on Wednesday, February 27 and Thursday, February 28 and the Top 20 (10 girls, 10 guys) will move onto the second part of the semifinals where the audience gets to have their say during the first voting round of the season.

So let’s hear it – what do you think about this season’s panel of Idol judges, and what kind of singer do you think they’re looking for?

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.
  • Ruth Eddy

    Well I think you are right on spot with your views on the judges; I think I am really enjoying Keith Urbin the most. I do however enjoy Randy and I think once the live shows start it will be good, all lthoughsomeone has to play Simon so maybe Randy will. They probably transition Randy to a mentor next year. I enjoyed some of the singers and also not so much.
    This was a great article and I really enjoyed it, but, I more interested in the live show competition before I can make any decision regarding he contestants.

  • jane

    i hate the blonde. Whats her name anyway? You r a bitch

  • runnernflorida

    This is absolutely the worst season of American Idol I have watched. With the exception of Keith Urban, the judges are cooked!!! Especially Nicki whatever her name is…she is an insult to this show!!

  • lasgr

    where THE HELL is Simon?
    this panel SUCKS – unbelievable.
    only Keith saves it this season,
    but not really…….

  • soropop

    This has got to be the worst season since the show started, because of the female judges and their bimboness!

  • rick parks

    How could you keep charlie after he didn’t even get all the words right and obviously had the worst vocal and get rid of the only experienced contestant much less any of the 5 that were voted off. It shows favortism and it was supposed to be sudden death one song one chance and he wouldn’t have even been a good karioki contestant with that vocal. Bad judgement especially that nicki chic and whoever else agreed with that crap! I’ve been a idol watcher since the beginning and that was the worst screw over of contestants I’ve ever seen. Not right!