THE most successful reality TV show has returned and the search for a new singing sensation continues with season 13 of American Idol.
Currently airing on Star World, the competition sees another round of bombastic performances from hundreds of aspiring singers aiming to be the next American Idol.
Season 13 spells a monumental landmark for the show with a great mix of judges.
Country sensation Keith Urban, who was a first-time judge in Season 12, is returning for his second year on the show while pop superstar Jennifer Lopez is coming back to the judging panel after leaving it at the end of Season 11.
But it’s newcomer judge and multi-awarded singer Harry Connick Jr. who is an exciting addition to complete the panel (American Idol veteran Randy Jackson lends his industry and Idol expertise to the contestants as an in-house mentor this season).
The multi-talented Connick has won three Grammy Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards and is a multiple-Tony Award nominee.
Born in New Orleans, he began his career as a performer at the age of 5 and by 19, was a signed artiste. His stunning piano technique and vivid musical imagination was easily recognised on his debut, self-titled album.
Soon after, he released his follow-up album, 20 and then found multi-platinum success with the soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally.
Connick’s continued musical success has spanned over the course of 29 albums, with album unit sales totalling 28 million worldwide.
His most recent album, Every Man Should Know, was released mid-last year.
Connick is also an actor, having appeared in films such as Little Man Tate, Copycat, Hope Floats, Memphis Belle and Independence Day. On television, Connick is perhaps best known for his recurring role on Will & Grace.
His Broadway career boasts equal recognition, having received Tony Award nominations as both composer-lyricist for the musical Thou Shalt Not and as the lead in the Tony Award-winning revival of The Pajama Game.
Connick talks about his experience on American Idol so far:
Tell us about your journey to being a judge?
My whole life has been a lot of interaction with people who are a lot better than I am, whether it’s in a one-on-one teaching situation, clinic, mentorship or master class. As I got older, I started to be on the giving end of those things — talking to students in high school, college, even professional people about how they can improve. So, when American Idol called a few years ago to ask me to be a mentor, it felt like a very natural thing to do. Then they called me back last year to do it again and I had a great time. So when they called and asked me if I wanted to be a judge, it felt like a natural thing to do and it’s been really good so far.
How does your wife support you when you’re on American Idol?
She’s a big fan of the show. We’ve watched it since the very first episode. Back then, she said it would be great to see me as a judge. When it actually happened she was delighted. It made me feel nice because she supports me in so many ways and I respect her very much.
How are the relationships going with the other judges and what do you bring to the table that’s different?
They’re highly successful, have very strong work ethics and very strong convictions about what they do, and they’re the best in the business at their respective jobs. But we’re completely different — different brains, personalities and philosophies.
I have a lot of experience as a player, as a singer and as a kind of an overall entertainer that’s unique to my own life. It’s like the movies I’ve done are different from the ones that Lopez’s done and the concerts I’ve played are different from Urban’s. So, just by virtue of our own experience, I can bring something different.
How does it feel to be in the room without Jackson?
Randy is great — a great musician, legendary in this show and an icon for the many years of great television that he provided to all of us. But it’s a new show now, with different producers, directors, panel and contestants. It’s got a new look and feel. Fortunately for all of us, Randy is still a huge part of it as a mentor and I think the contestants are very lucky to have him on their side.
Were you surprised at how you judged?
Sometimes you do have to give bad news and the best thing these contestants can hear is the truth. I would want my friends and children to be told the absolute truth. You can be diplomatic about it but you also have to be real. You don’t have to make personal commentary on people about the way they look, it has to do with the performance. So, it’s a very healthy, honest, spontaneous environment on the show and it feels right to me, so no surprises.
How do you deal with criticism?
It depends on the source really. As a child, when my teachers criticised me — and it happened every day for years — you develop a tolerance especially when it’s right and when it’s sincere and when it helps you.
Nowadays, if I do something wrong and somebody I know and love, says ‘hey man, that was a mistake’, I can admit it almost immediately. But criticism because somebody doesn’t like the way I look, sing or talk — it just doesn’t even register with me.
We’ve seen fun clips of the three of you. Which one is the biggest troublemaker when it comes to having fun?
We’re all troublemakers in a way. We all goof around and are silly sometimes.
I do it a lot because I’ve been like that since I was a child. I was the class clown. It’s really hard to label people but I guess if you had to pick the person who’s the goofiest, it would probably be me.
In previous years, many winners came from genres outside of your own. What are the odds of finding the next Harry Connick Jr. this season?
I don’t know. Hopefully there’s only one “me” and you’ll never find the next one but genre really doesn’t matter to me. We’re looking for work ethic, artistry, being telegenic and creative, and just being an artiste. As far as finding the next me, that didn’t cross my mind. �Fox International Channel
New episodes of American Idol air every Thursday at 6pm on Star World (Astro Channel 711) and Star World HD (Astro Channel 722), with repeats aired the same day at 8pm and 11pm.
American Idol 13 Judges. (From left) Urban, Lopez and Connick.