American Idol is set to begin its ninth season this Tuesday, January 12. The show will be going back to the Top 24 format, with three weeks of pre-top 12 performances. Last season the show featured a top 36 who were only able to perform once before the top 12 finalists were revealed. No word on whether the “judges save” will return. Idol judge Randy Jackson took time out of his day to discuss the upcoming season with the media. Jackson says this upcoming season, which includes new judge Ellen DeGeneres, will be full of surprises. Jackson was tight-lipped about specifics but says there are quite a few “interesting wrinkles.”
When asked what Jackson thinks new judge DeGeneres will bring to the show, he said she is the “voice of the home viewer.” She will be judging from the perspective of a fan rather than someone with years of experience in the industry. Jackson says he is excited for long time friend DeGeneres to join the show, but that he misses departed judge Paula Abdul. Jackson stated that Abdul is one of his best friends and was integral to the show’s success when it first started. The judges' panel, which also includes Kara DioGuardi, has yet to work with DeGeneres as she was not present for the auditions.
In Abdul’s absence the auditions will feature a series of guest judges. Victoria Beckham will appear on the season premiere on Tuesday, where she joins the other judges for the Boston auditions. Other guest judges will include Joe Jonas, Shania Twain, Katy Perry, Kristin Chenoweth, Avril Lavigne, Neil Patrick Harris, and Mary J. Blige. Jackson said all the guest judges brought something different to the show and audiences may be surprised by some of their input. He said a lot of people may not expect artists who’ve had major pop hits to be knowledgeable about music, but they are.
Jackson was not specific about any of the new contestants but said the Dallas and Atlanta auditions were standouts for him. To his surprise there were not many Kris Allen or Adam Lambert types auditioning for this season. He said in the past they would usually see a lot of people who were like the previous year’s winner and runner-up. This year he says to expect a lot of female talent, and he kind of hopes for a female winner this year.
Jackson was asked at what point super-successful contestants like Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood stand out to him. He stated that Daughtry and Underwood, as well as Adam Lambert and Kelly Clarkson, stood out to him right from their auditions. He said even though contestants like these have the “it factor,” Idol is still a great medium for starting a career. He said people just have not had the opportunity or luck to meet the right people and Idol is a rocket right to the top. He also stated that he thinks all the winners have been great. When asked if he thought Adam Lambert is overshadowing last season's winner, Kris Allen, Jackson stated that Lambert has the bigger personality, but they are equally talented musical performers.
And what does Jackson look for in an Idol winner? Three things: 1) they must have undeniable talent; 2) they must be unique; and 3) they must possess a star persona.
Oh, and those rumors about Simon Cowell leaving the show?
Jackson says that he hasn’t heard it from Cowell himself, and that’s the only person he’ll believe.