Hard truths from Harry Connick Jr

Has American Idol found its next acerbic-tongued Simon Cowell?

In the reality singing show's latest season which premieres on Jan 16 at 6pm on Star World (SingTel mio TV Ch 301 and StarHub TV Ch 501), Hollywood star Harry Connick Jr joins Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez on the judging panel.

Ryan Seacrest returns as host in the 13th season while former judge Randy Jackson will lend his expertise as an in-house mentor.

Connick said he is going to serve up the hard truth whether the contestants like it or not.

The 46-year-old US singer-actor said over the phone from Los Angeles on Thursday evening where the Hollywood Week of the auditions was taking place: "Sometimes you do have to give bad news and sometimes the best thing that the kids can hear is the truth.

"Sometimes they are terrible and if it were me in their position, I would want to be told the absolute truth.

"You can be diplomatic about it but you have to be real.

"There was one group that came yesterday and I thought they were horrible."

Said Connick, who was speaking to US and international press on a conference call: "There's no need to make personal commentaries on the way people look but I thought their performance was terrible and I just couldn't wait for it to end.

"(I've created) a healthy, honest and spontaneous environment."

Connick surmised that some contestants have been deluded into thinking they were American Idol-worthy.

He called this the "ignorance-is-bliss attitude".

"Maybe they don't realise what they are doing.

"Maybe their family has told them they are really good and that they should go on American Idol.

"I mean, these people are actually trying to play the guitar in front of (New Zealand country star) Keith Urban.

"The realisation (that they aren't good) will hit them. It will be telling."

He is big on calling a spade a spade because he has benefited from criticism in the past.

He revealed that his teachers in schools would critique him every day, for years.

He said: "When that happens, you develop a tolerance for it.

"If it's right and sincere, it helps you.

"It's not rocket science right... these young performers signed up to be judged, it's pretty easy."

Urban and US singer-actress Lopez play the good cops to Connick's supposed bad cop.

Connick said that so far, he has loved working with them because they are bright, successful and have strong work ethics.

The chemistry between them, he explained, is a result of the combination of their differences in minds, personalities and life philosophies.

But one thing is clear, Connick is the self-confessed class clown among the three.

He said: "We're all troublemakers. We goof around and are silly sometimes.

"I'm the goofiest but we all can get serious and sentimental too."

Get The New Paper for more stories.