You only have to look at the high turnover of reality pop-star shows that flood both US and international TV stations to figure out that bad (and good) singing sells. Original judge Simon Cowell may have left the American Idol panel in 2010 for the arguably more credible X Factor franchise, but the series is still going strong. Now into Season 11, the judging panel includes the long-standing Randy Jackson, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and, of course, celeb-crazed host Ryan Seacrest. Here, Jackson talks about Mariah Carey, his mentor and his biggest competition: X Factor.
Except for one episode, there is very little conflict between you and the other two judges – is this really how things happen or is this just the way the show is edited?
It’s probably just the edit that you’re seeing. So, no, listen, we disagree a lot. It’s hard because we don’t see everyone the same way. You’ll begin to see that we champion people straight up. As soon as that person’s done singing [we say] “Oh yes, yes, yes.” If not, you see a little hesitancy from all of us.
This is the second season Jennifer Lopez has been on the panel. Did you feel like she acted a little bit differently in the past considering everything that was going on in her life?
No. She’s very cool. She’s very professional. She comes to work and she comes to work. She’s doesn’t carry anything with her. We put these kids through the paces and we’re a little tougher. All of us were a little tougher on these kids. We were challenging them a lot more. As far as the judging goes, I think they [Steve Tyler and Jennifer Lopez] are both really settled in. I think we’re in a real groove now.
Any thoughts on the passing of music producer Don Cornelius (in February)? You must have known each other and worked together at some point? What Don was to urban music and just black people in general – other than the great Berry Gordy, Don is right next to him – he was the nicest guy in the world. He always did it with a smile, always loved music, loved people, helped me, helped everyone I know in their career. So, I’m just really, really sad about that. Don Cornelius was an amazing, amazing guy.
You go all over the US: are there areas that are more musically rich than others? Is there somewhere you feel has a hotbed of talent? Being from the south – I love the south and I love the Midwest. I love those more homespun areas. That’s what I really love, but there’s amazing talent in San Diego. There’s amazing talent in Jersey, New York, Boston. There’s just amazing talent everywhere. But of course, I will always give some big-ups for the south where I’m from.
Have you spoken to Paula Abdul regarding the X Factor shake-up that has seen both her and Nicole Scherzinger axed? And why is it you think that your panel works so well together? I have not spoken to Paula. We texted back and forth. It’s sad to hear about all that’s going on with that show, but all of those people are dear friends of mine, as you know. And let me just say this: American Idol started with me, Simon, Ryan and Paula and that’s what really brought us to prominence. I think when you do these shows with any kind of judging panel, what you’re really looking for is that chemistry – and we lucked out on Idol and we lucked out again with Steven and Jennifer. Ryan and I sat down with them before we did anything, and we had dinner together, and it just clicked, minutes in, because we’d all known each other for a long, long time. I think we just all have a common interest.
Who do you think would be a good judge in X Factor now Paula Abdul is gone? Mariah Carey’s name has been floating around. Yes, she’d be amazing. I manage her and of course I’m going to say that, but she’d be amazing. I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen, but I think there are quite a few people. Look, Simon Cowell is one of the smartest people I know. I’m sure he’s got some very interesting ideas up his sleeve for the next season of X Factor. American Idol airs every Thursday and Friday at 9pm on OSN First