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Interview:
Randy Jackson Predicts "Cool, Different" Season For "Idol"
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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The Dawg is getting ready to bark again.

Actually, producer, musician and artist manager Randy Jackson seldom barks — or even growls — on the “American Idol” judging panel. Rather, he’s the mellifluous optimist, not as much of a cheerleader as Paula Abdul or as curmudgeon as Simon Cowell, but rather a pointed, balanced commentator who’s able to criticize with credibility while still making it clear he’s rooting for the contestants.

The ninth season of “Idol” gets underway at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 12) on Fox and brings with it one particularly big change — Ellen DeGeneres in Abdul’s place alongside Jackson, Cowell and second-year judge Kara DioGuardi. But Jackson tells us that’s only one reason he thinks this will be “an exciting, different time” in the “Idol” world ...

So what’s up with “Idol” this year?

Jackson: Season nine — it’s gonna be interesting. I think it’s going to be a very, very cool, nice year. Hopefully we’ll find a girl who can take the crown from the boys who won the last two years (David Cook and Kris Allen). I’d love to see a girl come up. We had some good auditions. Ellen’s gonna be fun. It’s going to be an exciting, different time, finding the new. People always ask me, “Well, how’s the show going to be different?” The judging panel’s gonna be different, yeah, but it’s not really about that. It’s always about the kids that you get to show up to audition. That’s what makes each season different.

Did you hear any sort of trend throughout the auditions that might impact on what we hear on “Idol” this year?

Jackson: Y’know, I think generally what happens is whoever wins that season, you get more of that. But this season’s a little different. I would’ve thought you’d have a trillion Adam Lamberts show up, or a trillion Kris Allens. But that’s not what happened. It was very interesting. This is a whole different bunch.

What do you think the chemistry will be like with Ellen in the mix this year?

Jackson: So far we haven’t had Ellen judge yet. She didn’t make the road thing; she just signed on after we finished it. But it was very good; we had a bunch of guest judges on the road, which was interesting as well — Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Joe Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris, Kristin Chenoweth, Victoria Beckham. We had a bunch of different people out on the road, which made it very, very interesting. The great Mary J. Blige was out there, so it was a good. It was a very good time. It was fun.

What did they bring to the table — literally, I guess?

Jackson: (laughs) Listen, I think they all brought a different thing. I would’ve said to you two or three years ago that no star, even though they said they wanted to be a judge, would really want to be a judge because they wouldn’t really want to fairly judge the kids ’cause some kid may say back to them, “Well, listen, I hate your music, too. What do you know?” But I think they all really did their thing. I must say I was really impressed with ... Of course, Mary J. Blige was really amazing. I was impressed with Joe Jonas; I didn’t really know how he would be. Shania was brilliant. Katy Perry. Avril. It was interesting. Even Neil Patrick Harris and Kristin Chenoweth, who were both from the theater world, were pretty amazing.

Do you think Kara is more comfortable going into a second year as a judge?

Jackson: Yeah, I think she’s much more comfortable with it and has a different grasp on understanding what it is and what happens and how to do it. It’s one of those things, like playing golf or tennis; it looks easy on the outside, then when you try and actually hit the ball you go, “Whoa, OK, it’s a little different than what I thought.” But, yeah, she’s having a good time.

Will you miss Paula this year?

Jackson: Oh yeah, yeah. She started this whole thing with us. It’s really, really a sad thing because we love her and she’s still one of my dearest things — and she was before this. She’ll continue to great heights and there’ll be things she’ll do. We kinda started the journey together — me, her, Simon and Ryan (Seacrest) — so we’re definitely going to miss her.

There have been lots of rumors lately about Simon leaving in 2011 to bring his “X-Factor” show to the U.S. You have any insider information on that?

Jackson: I don’t know. (laughs) I won’t believe it till I see it. I don’t believe everything I hear or read — sorry. I haven’t spoken to him about it. You just never really know; there are a lot of alleged things going on, but who knows, right? We’ll see what happens.

How do you feel about the “Idol” albums from the season eight cast — Kris, Adam and Allison (Iraheta)?

Jackson: I haven’t heard all their albums; I’ve just only heard singles that I heard on the radio. I thought the singles were good. I don’t think any of the songs were the kind of songs I thought they would make, but the stuff was good. Obviously, they had a choice and chose a direction. What continues to be the thing for the winner or the runner-up or whoever, you must make competitive records to join into the competitive ring with all the artists that you say you love, so may the best songs win. And I’m not sure they did the best songs (laughs) — I’ll say that. But I thought they were good.

So if you had your way with them ...

Jackson: Part of the issue is that I think we give these kids a lot of criticism and a lot of guidance, but I’m not sure they listen to us much — in fact, I’m sure they don’t. People often bash us and say, “You guys are crazy” or “You’re being weird” or “Dawg, you’re not saying anything, you just say ‘dawg’ all the time.” And if they really just pulled it back and listened to what we actually said, we’re giving them everything they need to move forward in their career. But I don’t think they listen. I think their egos probably got the best of them. They probably forgot everything we said, which is to their dismay ’cause we’re actually giving them the information they’re gonna really need ’cause we’ve only been doing this, each of us, for 25 years — well, not Kara, but Simon and I have been doing it 25 years. Kara’s probably been doing it 15. Not to toot our own horns, but we probably know most of everything, and we’ve worked with some successful artists. So maybe we know a thing or two, y’know? (laughs)

Do you think it’s a matter of them having other voices in their heads — record company, producers, songwriters — after the show?

Jackson: I think the biggest voice in their ear is probably their own, and I think they probably start listening to themselves. What everyone has to remember is there’s a reason these kids needed “American Idol” and didn’t make it without it. Obviously they didn’t know what they were doing, who they were or how to do it — or nobody cared. If nobody cared about you before the show, that means you didn’t have the answers, right? ’Cause if you had all the answers, you wouldn’t need the show, which is a rocket ship to stardom.



Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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