When it first aired back in 2002, who’d have thought that TV talent show American Idol would become one of the most popular shows in US TV history? The show, itself a spin-off from UK series Pop Idol, has since spawned numerous competitors, most notably The X Factor, and has launched the careers of a slew of singing stars: Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood are all American Idol alumni.
Nine years after its launch, the latest series of the phenomenally successful show (season 10, if you’re counting) makes its debut on UAE screens this month. The new season features some fresh faces on the judging panel, including Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, while long-standing judge Randy Jackson is back for more punishment. We caught up with J.Lo for some backstage gossip.
How excited are you to be a judge on American Idol?
For nine years I’ve enjoyed watching artists compete to get a meaningful chance to achieve their dreams. I know from my own experience how hard it is to succeed and I’m looking forward to nurturing that spirit in the American Idol contestants this year.
How different are the dynamics on the panel now that long-time judge Simon Cowell has left?
We’re more of a collaborative judging group. We’re always leaning over to each other and saying, ‘Wow, I think she’s good,’ or ‘Ooh, I don’t get it.’ We don’t talk in a way that’s disrespectful to the contestants, but we discuss things. We have a totally different style to the past judging tables.
Did you ever anticipate taking on the role of an Idol judge?
When I was a dancer, was I going to be an actress? Yeah. When I was an actress, was I going to be a singer? Yes. This is another evolution of that.
What about your judging style? Will you be kind like former judge Paula Abdul, or will you be mean like Simon?
I can’t say. But I’m going to give it my whole heart, soul and passion, as I do with everything.
On a personal level, how will the job affect your family life?
For the first time in a very long time, myself and [husband] Marc will finally be able to spend more time together like a regular family. We’re really happy that we get to be in one place with the babies [two-year-old twins Max and Emme] for a while. It’s unheard of for us. The babies can do dance class and soccer practice. We’re excited about being a normal family for a little while.
What sort of idol are you looking for?
I’m looking for the next Michael Jackson. We’re looking for the best idol ever. I’m so excited. It’s so much fun, exactly as I thought it would be.
How hard is it critiquing the contestants?
It’s easy when they’re really good and it’s easy when they’re really bad, because you just say no. It is what it is. It’s when they’re in the middle that it’s hard – they may have a good voice, but they don’t have that ‘it’ factor, or they have a look and a vibe to them, but their voice isn’t all the way there.
Can you relate to the contestants that get really nervous?
Yes, totally. I’m an artist too. I know how it is to get up there and audition. I try to go, ‘Listen, I can hear in your voice that you’re nervous. Take a deep breath. Come on, we want you to do great. We love you. If you’re the next American Idol, I don’t want you to mess up this audition.’
American Idol season 10 airs on OSN at 8pm every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Talent show successes
TV talent shows have produced a gaggle of singing stars in recent years. Remember this lot?
After beating frontrunner Gareth Gates in the final of the inaugural Pop Idol in 2002, Will’s first single, ‘Evergreen’, became the fastest-selling debut in UK chart history. He’s since scooped two Brit Awards and sold eight million albums.
They started off as wannabes on Popstars: The Rivals in 2002; today they hold the record for most consecutive Top 10 entries in the UK by a female group. Cheryl Cole is also one of the most famous women in the UK after her stint as a judge on The X Factor.
As American Idol’s first success story back in 2002, Kelly went on to win two Grammys and sell 23 million albums worldwide, making her the world’s highest-selling Idol contestant.
An X Factor UK winner from 2006, she’s a three-time Grammy nominee and was named Top New Artist by Billboard mag in 2008. Her 2007 album, Spirit, made her the first British solo artist to top the US Billboard 200 with their debut album.