This week, the competition on American Idol heats up as the contestants take on the challenges of Hollywood Week. Recently, Idol judge Randy Jackson spoke with various media outlets about how he feels Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are doing during their second season on the show, the new challenges the contestants are facing during Hollywood Week, and whether returning contestants already have the edge on the competition.
It’s no secret that Idol’s ratings have been down this season. According to Fox News, the show has been averaging 20.6 million viewers, which is down 19 percent from last season. Jackson believes this is partly due to Idol not being the only option on the singing competition menu anymore.
“Listen, Idol is in its 11th season. It’s still the number one show on television, not by the huge margins it was before, but just in the term of time and also, what I think now is I think the space of singing shows is definitely a little crowded now. They’re on year-round now with us, The Voice and X Factor and there’s even singing on Got Talent. So, you got a lot of singing. So, that’s what happens when your marketplace gets full,” he explained.
Season 11 is also the second season that Jackson has been on the judges panel alongside Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. Both of the relatively new judges received backlash last season for being too lax on the contestants and not providing proper critiques. Jackson believes that this season the panel is “really, really settled in” and “in a real groove.”
“They’re maybe just being just a little bit more stern. Not tougher – stern, because they’re a bit more comfortable with it. But, I mean they’re having a good time and we’re all having a good time, and I think you’ll see some change in that in them,” Jackson said of his colleagues.
With the panel seemingly falling into place this year, the judges decided to up the ante during Hollywood Week and push the contestants even more during the round’s various challenges. Jackson said that mixing it up this season keeps it fun for the judges, but also forces the contestants to be consistently good every time.
“I don’t think we’ve had a tougher, more challenging Hollywood Week ever. There were tons of people fainting and passing out. It was crazy,” he revealed.
“What’s interesting about this time is that I would glance over to the kids waiting to get up to sing. There was a lot of amazing talent there, but I must say, all sorts of talent. But the talent this year is a little bit different. It’s equally as good this past season as last season, if not better in some respects.”
And in the end, it is the talent that the viewers are tuning in to see. Without Simon Cowell around to say whatever pops into his head, the focus really has rightly so shifted to the talented contestants. Even with multiple singing competitions on the air, Jackson feels that Idol is still getting some of the best talent.
“You hear us say this every year and everybody always gets on us about it, that the talent’s better every year. I think what’s happening now with these shows, because there’s so many of these shows on the air – I think the talent that we’re getting is very different and very unique, which I’m loving, loving, loving. I think last season we had Casey, we had Haley, we had [Scotty and Lauren] that won. We had a little bit of everything,” he explained.
It seems that this season, the “different and unique” talent is coming from contestants that the audience has seen in previous seasons, like Colton Dixon, who just fell short of the Top 24, and Baylie Brown, who made it to Hollywood Week back in season six. When asked about whether he thought that these contestants would have an edge on the competition, Jackson responded by saying, “I think the only edge that they have is that they have been there before wherever they wound up last year or the year before or whatever.”
“What’s really funny about this – I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about ‘Well, there’s so many returning people.’ Well, every year if you watch the auditions closely, we say, ‘You’re not ready yet. Maybe you should come back.’ Guess what? This year a lot of them came back. They actually listened to us and they came back. The thing is if they’ve gotten better or grown, because we remember what their weaknesses were. As soon as we see them and they get up, we go, ‘Oh right, you’re the one that had this, or didn’t have that, or whatever, whatever.’ Other than the fact that they’ve been there before and maybe this helps with their nerves a little bit, but that’s about it. They [have] got to be better.”
The next Hollywood Week episode of American Idol airs Thursday, February 9 at 8 p.m. on FOX.
Photo credit: Warwick Sant/Michael Becker/FOX