Focusing on talent is key

American Idol Season 13 judges (from left to right): Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr.

UNITED STATES - Slipping ratings and strong competitors aren't stopping American Idol.

Now in its 13th season, it has outlasted former Idol judge Simon Cowell's splashy competitor The X Factor US, which was canned two weeks ago after three seasons.

Former Idol judge and now-mentor Randy Jackson said that is because it is still the best reality singing show on TV.

"When you look at what the show set out to do, which is to find people and turn them into artists, we're still the only show that can say we have successful contestants from this format," he told reporters in a phone conference from Los Angeles last Thursday.

The 57-year-old musician and producer will appear on Idol's first live shows this season, airing specially this week from Wednesday to Friday at 6pm and 8pm on StarWorld (SingTel mio TV Ch 301/StarHub TV Ch 501).

Granted, bold upstart The Voice, whose sixth season will premiere later this month in the US, did a one-two punch last year by beating Idol's ratings for the first time and then picking up the Emmy for Outstanding Reality Competition Show.

But Jackson will have you know that Idol can boast alumni like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert.

Daughtry and Lambert will be helping out with Jackson's "Boot Camp" this week on the show.

"I wanted to have them there," he said. "They were actually in the trenches as people we were judging…they can tell it from a completely different side. The two of them are so different, but they are also so equally, really, really talented. Both of their seasons, I thought both of them would win."

And speaking of differences, Jackson was asked to weigh in on a historic moment on the show - a contestant coming out as gay on last week's Hollywood Week episode.

Not 'typical American Idol'

He said he was "really proud" of 20-year-old Emkay Nobilette, who responded to the doubts that judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr had about her not being the "typical American Idol" by stating: "I'm very obviously gay."

"We've never said, 'You can't do this, you can't do that,'" said Jackson. "It's never about who you are or what you do or what you choose or where you're from. It's always really about the talent."

He added: "Who would've thought in 2014 that you'd have to do that? I'm just always surprised...we should've come a lot further a lot faster. But it is what it is."

Focusing on the talent is key for Jackson's new role as a mentor, one he relishes because he says it's much closer to his daily work as a musician and producer.

Or, in his own terms, he "wasn't feeling it" on the Idol judging panel, after a dozen years on the show.

"I'm really excited to work more hands-on with the kids and pass on more of my wisdom of 35 years," he said, name-dropping Mariah Carey and Madonna with whom he has worked during his illustrious career.

"As a judge, I thought I'd said everything I needed to. It was time to do something else."

julrasul@sph.com.sg


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