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American Idol Season 12: Fresh and potent

With a new panel of judges, TV viewers can expect rejuvenated vibrancy on American Idol Season 12. -NST

Mon, Jan 21, 2013
New Straits Times

American Idol Season 12 judges from left to right: Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, host Ryan Seacrest, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.

While rocking Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and sexy Jennifer Lopez have sashayed off the American Idol judges panel, the show must still go on.

And it will... with a "big explosive bang" as Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban fill the hot seats together with Idol veteran Randy Jackson as the new judging panel on a mission to uncover more talent for Season 12 of the long running show.

With a career spanning two decades, Mariah, 42, is one of the best-selling music artistes of all time having sold more than 200 million records worldwide. Her song, One Sweet Day, spent a record 16 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100, making it the longest-running No. 1 song in US chart history so far.

The inclusion of the versatile R&B and soul diva with a powerful five-octave vocal range will definitely make the new season of Idol a must watch.

Trinidad-born Nicki, 30, is an American singer-songwriter known for her machine-gun rapping, multiple alter-egos and outlandish attire complemented by peculiar wigs.

Although she has, to date, released only two hit studio albums, the award-winning Nicki, whose music straddles between the hip hop, R&B and pop genres, has made an impact on the music scene with some media describing her as the most influential female rapper of all time.

Multiple Grammy Award winner Keith, 45, completes the new line-up. The US-based Australian country singer-songwriter and guitarist has produced more than a dozen No. 1 hit singles since his debut album in 1991.

The affable TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest will return as host.

This is the third time the show is featuring a quartet of judges. The others were Season 8 and 9, which had Jackson alongside Paula Abdul, Kara DioGuardi and Simon Cowell.

Considered one of the most impactful shows in the history of TV, American Idol has remained at the top as a TV ratings juggernaut despite the appearance of other similar reality TV singing competitions.

According to Billboard, the first 10 years of American Idol resulted in 345 Billboard chart-toppers and produced an army of pop idols such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert.

At a Press conference in New York, the judges and Ryan talk about the upcoming season:

When you look back at the start of your career, would you have passed a younger version of yourself during auditions to head on to Hollywood?

Nicki: You know we were talking earlier that when a contestant says "this is my only shot", it's actually not. If they only knew how many doors were closed in our faces at the start, they'd totally get the big picture. The people who I winded up working with later on in life were the same people that told me "no" initially, so I probably would have passed on myself as well. Back then I wouldn't have had the confidence to stand in front of people who had done so much. But I always give credit to these contestants who audition, for just being here.

Keith: When I was 9, I did a music talent show in Australia similar in a way to American Idol and one of the three judges completely crucified me. He told me to just forget about country music and to get into some real music.

Many other shows have tried to replicate what AI started. Now with X Factor being your biggest competition, what do the judges plan to bring to the table to make people watch AI instead?

Randy: The show's got the hip hop superstar, a vocal legend who is not just a singer and a country legend, so you're going to hear and see a different kind of show already.

Nicki: I think the contestants are coming into a business that's very different from 50 years ago. With social media, things are so different and can also be so very angry, judgmental and negative. I feel like I've gone through so much of that and I'd love to be able to tell the contestants honestly and truthfully what they can expect.

Sometimes you got to tell people, "hey you might really not want to be in this". There's a reason why it's called "the business" - it takes a lot of tenacity and all those things that some people might not have. So that's a part of what I bring, just being a part of the now moment in pop culture and being able to share it with people who want to do it now and realise that sometimes you're going to be ripped apart, and you got to take it and prove who you really are and how bad you really want it.

Randy: If you're going to take this shot, the whole idea is that you want to have a career and not just one hit, for just one year. We've produced some career artistes like what you have up here with the judges.

Keith: At the end of the day everybody is going to have to learn what they have to do. Some have a lot of experience, some not at all. What I love about the show is hearing or seeing people perform who have such a natural artistry about them, who maybe haven't perform before but they look incredibly comfortable up there and confident, and all they're needing is that break and the show gives them that.

What made you say yes to being a judge?

Nicki: I'm just a big fan of the brand. You don't even have to live in America to respect AI. I remember watching the first season and feeling inspired. This is such a credible brand, the real deal in looking for talent and I'm down with it. Keith: It's such a legendary show. What I like about it is that it's the American dream. And that's why I moved here. The fact that I could come from nothing, a small tiny town in Australia called Caboolture, with this deep love for American country music and be able to move here and have the career I've got, really is the American dream. With the show it could give someone from the middle of nowhere that opportunity as well.

Mariah: I've never been a fan of this type of thing but I realise that this show has given talented singers wonderful careers and created superstars who'll have lasting careers. Then there's that certain panache that goes along with the brand and name.

What kind of judge do you think you'll be?

Mariah: I'm just going to be honest and someone who the contestants can look to for guidance as opposed to being the mean one or the nice one - it's not about that. I'm just me. I'm a producer, I've made a lot of records in my life and wrote songs. I know the studio (I've lived there all my life) and I've performed all over the world. So it's about them and what I can bring to them to help them or guide them in the right direction if that's possible. I just want to help someone along the way. That's something I always appreciated when I was working to get to do what I love to do. I won't be judging, I'll be guiding. I don't like the word "judge." Keith: Hopefully authentic. I don't think I'll be like that judge who crucified me back in Australia but I think we also need to know really truthfully what we're doing right or wrong. Hopefully, when it comes from an artiste, it'll be a slightly different thing.

What does Nicki bring to the panel?

Randy: I haven't worked with her before but I've known her for awhile. I think she'll bring a lot of beautiful insight and she'll bring people into a whole different world that nobody knows - intrigue and mystery. Ryan: She brings pizzazz, a sense of style and stardom, as well as the series' relevancy - a combination that I think the contestants will be excited about.

Ryan, do you recommend not singing Mariah songs during auditions?

I can't wait for a contestant to come and sing a Mariah song. I can't wait to see how that moment goes. I'm losing sleep over that.

What do you think of the new panel of judges?

Randy: Mariah and I go way back, like babies with pacifiers. I'm so excited that she's here. More than half the girls who walk in for auditions want to be her, so now it's time for them to face the music! I'm happy that Nicki's here too, she brings a whole new vibe. And Keith, he's unbelievably talented, so it's a really fresh Idol 12.

Ryan: There's diversity in this panel. The heritage of Mariah, the relevance of Nicki, the singer-songwriter component of Keith, and of course the history that Randy has as the glue on the show. I think we're ending up with a powerful, colourful and knowledgeable group of judges. And now that we've got four, it'll make the circus even more fun.

American Idol S12, which premiered yesterday airs every Thursday and Friday at 6pm (live) and 8pm (repeat) on Star World (Astro Ch 711) and Star World HD (Astro Ch 722).

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