Randy Jackson talks American Idol Season 11

Last week, I took part in a conference call with various media and press outlets to ask Randy Jackson about what we can expect from American Idol this season. From Hollywood Week to competing with The Voice to the new groove he and the other judges have found themselves in, Jackson gave us some insight.

Randy Jackson: Yo yo, what’s goin’ down? How’s everybody doin’?

Joey Guerrero, Houston: I wanted to ask you specifically since I’m in Houston, about Houston. I know we’ve already seen the audition around here, but we didn’t actually get to see a lot of the people that made it through, because I think there was something around 54 or 55 singers that were put through, and I wanted to know if you had any sort of specific recollections or commentary about the singers that maybe we didn’t see, like Wendy Taylor or Alicia Pace or Krystal Almandy, some of the people who did in fact make it to Hollywood.
Well yeah, we remember Wendy, because she tried out a bunch of times for the show, and I mean, I actually had a lot of fun. We actually judged those Houston auditions in Galveston. Initially we were in Houston for the big call, but we ended up in Galveston, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been there in a long time, since I was a kid, because I’m from the south, from Louisiana as you know, but yeah, we had a good time. I mean, it was very interesting, there were a lot of characters for us this time in Houston, cause you know, we hadn’t been back to Houston in some years. I think the last time we were there, a contestant poured water on Simon’s head (laughs). We always have fond memories of when we’re there, and Wendy Taylor, I specifically remember, because she auditioned a couple of times. Yeah, so she was definitely ready and pumped for it. She did very well in that audition, I remember.

Steve Gidlow, Life & Style Weekly: First of all, I want to get a reaction. Have you spoken to Paula regarding the X Factor shake up? Why is it you think your panel works so well together?
I have not spoken to Paula, I mean, we texted back and forth, and I’m sad to hear about what all is going on with that show. All of those people are dear friends of mine, as you know. Let me just say this, Idol started with me, Ryan, Simon and Paula, and that’s what really brought us to our prominence, you know what I mean? Those people are in my life forever, because we had something very unique, and we had a chemistry that we lucked out with. I think that when you do these shows where they need these judging panels, what you’re really looking for is that chemistry. I think we lucked out with it on Idol, and we lucked out again with Steven and Jennifer. Ryan and I sat down with them before. We did anything with them, we had dinner together, and it just clicked minutes in, because we all knew each other for a long time. I think we just all have kind of a common interest. We see it differently, but that’s a good thing, but I also think it’s really about having a chemistry, you know what I mean?

Tim Malloy, TheWrap.com: I was wondering if you had any thoughts on why the ratings are down this season. Obviously it’s still a very successful show, but we’re seeing drops this week.
Listen, I think Idol’s doing well. It’s still the number one show on television, not by the huge margins it once was, but I think you know just in the term of time. And also what I think now, I think the space of singing shows is definitely a little crowded right now. I mean, you know, there are, year-round now, with us, The Voice, and X Factor, there’s even singing on [America’s] Got Talent, so you got a lot of singing. That’s what happens when the marketplace gets full, you know what I mean?

Any concerns at all about The Voice joining the landscape on Monday?
No no no no, listen, I’m sure they’ll have huge numbers after the Super Bowl. I think any show after the Super Bowl will have huge numbers, and you know, listen, they’ve got a great show, and I think there’s room for everyone out there, and I think as you will see.

Megan Ward, TVisMyPacifier.com: Can you discuss any creative changes we’re going to see on the show overall this season?
We have a couple little wrinkles that we’re going to throw in, ‘cause, you know, I think it’s always about finding ways to make it better. I mean, one of the things we’ve been tossing and tossing around is that judges save thing. Last season, we saved Kacey, and it was at the right time, because it was the right person to do that with, but I certainly wish we had another one or two, because, you know, it didn’t serve the rest of the team well, you know what I mean?

Christopher Dane, TV Guide Magazine: We’re just wondering over here at TV Guide, who do you think would be a good judge on X Factor? I know the name Mariah Carey has been floating around; do you think she would make a good judge for the X Factor?
Yeah, I mean listen, she would be amazing. I mean, I manage her, of course I’m going to say that, but she’d be amazing. I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen or whatever, but I think there’s quite a few people. You know, look, Simon is one of smartest guys I know, I’m sure he’s got some very interesting ideas up his sleeve.

Sonia Lima (?), OK! Magazine: I just have a question, because this is the second time around for Jennifer. Did you feel like she acted a little bit differently with everything that’s going on in her life?
No, I think, listen, she’s very cool, I mean, she’s very professional, you know, she comes to work and she comes to work, she doesn’t carry anything with her. But I must say, her and Steven, this being their second season, I mean, you’ll see Hollywood week, you know, starting next week, I mean we put these kids through the paces. We were a little tougher, all of them were a little tougher on these kids. We’re challenging them a lot more, so I think, as far as the judging goes, which is what I can really speak about, what their role is on the show, I think they both really, really settled in. We’re in a real groove now

Rodney Ho, Atlanta Journal Constance: Except for one episode, I don’t know if you actually watch the episodes, but most of them have shown very little conflict between you and the other 2 judges. Either all three of you think a person shouldn’t go through or all of you think that they should go to Hollywood. Is that really what happened across the board, or is that just the way it was edited?
It’s just probably the edits that you’ve seen. I’ve not all of them, I’ve seen a couple of them. I mean, you know, I… my ego is really good, I don’t need to watch myself on TV (laughs). You know, like some others, maybe Ryan loves watching himself back. I’ve heard rumors that he gets a bowl of popcorn, and he’s like, “Oh my god, I’m good there, oh my god, look at my teeth!” Or whatever! So no, you know, listen, we disagree a lot. I mean, you know, it’s hard when you do those, because we don’t see everyone the same way, you know, so you’re probably just seeing a different edit sometimes. But you know, you’ll be getting to see that, in people that we champion, we champion them straight up. As soon as that person starts singing, you’ll see, “Yeah, yeah, oh yeah.” If not, you see a little hesitancy from all of us, you know what I mean?

____ with Xfiniti: There’s been speculation about Ryan Seacrest leaving. I was just wondering, what about yourself ever moving on? How much longer do you think you’ll stand with the show, and what would you do in that case?
Listen, I mean, I think the show can go on for quite a number of years.  I think and hope and wish and pray that Ryan’s definitely going to be there. You know, as I said earlier, he and I, Simon and Paula started this thing, I can’t imagine doing the show without him. I don’t think anyone else could either. He’s the best at what he does, you know what I’m saying? It’s hard to find these hosts that can really wrangle all of us and do all of the stuff that needs to be done. But yeah, I think I won’t be there for a while, at least my contract’s been here for a while now, and you know, listen, you never know what the future brings, you know what I mean? Both Ryan and I work on ideas together, we work on ideas separately, and there’s a lot of territory out there still to explore, TV-wise, show-wise, movie-wise, and everything, so who knows. I could become the next Brad Pitt or something, be a leading man (laughs).

Terry Morrow, Knoxville News: I wanted to ask a little bit about earlier in the season, Amy Brunsfield, do you remember her, the girl who lived in a tent?
I remember the tent, I don’t remember…I remember there was someone who lived in a tent, yes.

Yeah, well she has quite a past, arrested a lot in the last couple of years. I’m wondering, obviously you didn’t know that, would that have affected way you voted had you known about her entire background?
Listen, I mean, you know, all we can really judge is the singing and the singing ability, I mean, I remember a story about the tent. I didn’t know, none of us knew anything about the rest of the background, but you know, look, Idol’s a show that’s an open audition. It’s almost like saying at the main street in Knoxville where you live, we show up with a FOX TV camera and microphone and we go sing (laughs). So it wouldn’t have changed whether she’s a great singer or whether I believe in her voice or not, I must say, but certainly, I mean, it’s not like we condone having any sort of criminal past, it’s not what we do.

Sean Daily, New York Post: It looks like, according to my schedule, you have one more audition episode after tonight, that’s going to be the New York/New Jersey auditions in (East?) Rutherford. Can you look a whole week ahead and give us a little preview of what we might look for in that? Is the New York area talent as good this year as it was in previous years?
I mean you hear us say this every year, and everybody always gets on us about it that the talent gets better every year. Yeah, I must say, I think what’s happening with these shows, because there are so many of these shows now a year, I think the talent that we’re getting is very different and very unique now, which I’m loving, loving, loving. I think, you know, last season we had Casey, we had Hailey, we had the two country ones, a little bit of everything, we had like a rocker flavor, but more of a heavier rocker flavor in James Durbin, so we’re getting more of that this year, and I think the talent this time in that Jersey (thing?) was very, very interesting, I think there’s some cool people, you know what I mean? Really cool people.

While I have you, real quick, any thoughts on the passing of Don Cornelius? I imagine you must have known each other, worked together at some point.
Dude, listen, I mean, Don was to urban music and just black people and just music in general, dude, it’s just.. I can’t… I mean, other than the great Berry Gordy, Don is right next to him, dude. I mean, the nicest guy in the world, 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. I mean, one of the greatest guys, and I’m telling you, in this business that we’re in, to be able to do it with a smile and do it with some kindness, yo, that’s…

How did he help you?
By putting all the acts that I was in on his show, by having any acts I was in, a guy from Columbia Records, MCA Records, would call him and say, “Hey, yo, I need my act on Soul Train, man, I need to put ‘em on.” He, you know, would just do it. I mean, to get TV exposure, just you know..my God. Amazing guy, amazing guy.

The Daily News: Sorry to keep asking about Mariah, but I was just wondering, since you manage her, would you object to her going on the X Factor as a judge?
No no no, not at all. She’s her own person, she can of course do whatever she wants, you know, and she’ll always do that, I mean. So of course not, Simon’s one of my dearest friends in the world, so you know, of course not.

Chris Roof, TheVoiceofTV.com: I just had a question, I know in the past, some of our winners, I remember Kris Allen was barely shown at all during the audition season. Do you know, is there anyone from the episodes that you’ve seen that could be great that we just barely saw at all?
I haven’t. As I said, I’ve watched a couple of them. I don’t usually watch back. I’m sure you’ve seen quite a few people that probably could maybe win this thing, you know. What it takes in these shows, and this is a good time to bring this up, you have to be great every time, consistency of your greatness. Because if  you’re great and truly great, you’re not just great once (laughs). Everyone has a bad day, but even your bad days are better than most of the people on their good days, you know what I’m saying? So, I don’t know who or what’s been shown, and I mean, it’s really hard to tell, but I must say, last season, we spotted Scotty and Lauren pretty quickly.

TVGuide.com: I want to see if you could give a few more details about the challenges coming up in Hollywood, because we heard there are going to be, there’s one that’s a 50s sort of number, and there’s one that’s one voice, one instrument? Can you give us a few more details about that?
Yeah, well listen, we kind of switched it up a little bit, you know, because it makes it more fun for us every year, and it brings a little tougher challenges to the kids, so I mean, that’s all I’ll say about that. But let me just say this, you’ll see, I don’t think we’ve had a tougher, more challenging Hollywood week ever. I mean, there were tons of people fainting and passing out, it was crazy. So I think always we want to turn it up a little bit for these kids, you know what I mean? This is not yet singing, but we wanna challenge you. If you are great, c’mon, show us at every turn you’re great. What about this, what about that, try this, try that, you know what I mean?

So the medics were called in a few times then?
(Laughs) Yeah! More than ever, I mean, it was kind of weird! But you know, look, it’s…I think it just shows the intensity of what’s going on.

April McIntire, Monsters and Critics: I was just wondering, I mean, I know that you go all over the place, and if there were areas of the country that are more musically rich for you, for your ears, if you feel like there’s hotbeds of talent, I’m always curious about that. Is it genetics or a mix of, you know, the vocal richness in the general population, if you had an opinion?
(Laughs) Well let me say, it’s called American Idol, and I think America’s just chock-full of a lot of talent, I mean, it is! Because you couldn’t have three of these kinds of shows on the air at the same time or at different times of the year, because they all need contestants. In the end, there’s a lot of talk about the judges, who the judges are, what the judges do, but in the end it’s about your talent, about the talent that you have to become successful, you know. Knock on wood, Scotty McCreery’s record’s platinum now, he’s our winner from last year, so he’s doing quite well. (Someone) today is selling 10 million records from you know, seven years ago, but I’m going to say that me  being from the south, I love the south and I love the Midwest. I love those kind of more homespun areas, that’s what I really, really love. But look, I mean, there’s amazing talent we found in San Diego, amazing talent we found in Jersey, New York, Boston, I mean there’s just amazing talent everywhere. But I’m always, you know, going to give some big ups to the south, where I’m from.

What about your friend, Steve Perry? Will he be back or will he sitting as a guest judge, from Journey?
(Laughs) You know, we’ve joked about that from time to time, about every couple months we’ll grab breakfast and catch up. I mean, he’s doing amazing. I know he’s working on some new music, and look, the guy’s just god’s gift to voice. He’s one of the best in the world ever. I don’t know, we  always joke about him coming on as a guest judge, so you never know

Kristin Clerk, PopCulture Mag: So I’m curious. Do you ever try to change up your judging style or criteria from season to season? Especially in regards to what makes a contestant stand out to you.
Well, not really, you know, listen, I mean the criteria always is kind of the same, I think, for finding and discovering and bringing to America amazing talent, I mean are you unique? Do you have any star quality? And is your voice amazing or unique? Whether it’s a Mariah Carey voice, Bob Dylan voice, Dave Matthews voice, Beyonce voice, or Rihanna or Katy Perry or whatever, what stands out about you? And I think those things are always the same. You know what I mean? What I do and what I say always changes, because you know, we’ve grown and we’re changing, we evolve a little bit, you know. I mean, I might not be saying this year, “Are you in it to…” what was the phrase? “Win it?” (laughs) I think that one’s been retired! That was last season, man, it was so last season!

So you’ll come up with a new one this season, right?
Yeah, c’mon, you got to feel it in the air! Come on. (laughs)

Suzanne Lanoue, TVMegaSite.net: I was wondering if there were any special challenges you were facing this year on the show?
No, listen, I mean, Steven and Jennifer’s second year, I think we’re in a great groove now. I think, you know, it’s just about us maintaining who we are and being who we are. And as I said, you know, everyone, all of these shows make so much fuss about the judges, but it really is that talent. If you don’t have that talent, we can be up there talking about anything. People might want to watch for like five minutes and then be like, “Okay!” (laughs) So, I think it’s really about that talent and what we get back from these kids, you know what I mean?

Kristin Coachman, BlogCritics: I was just wondering, you have a lot of contestants this that competed last year, like Colton Dixon, Bailey Brown, and Holly Cavanaugh. Do you think they have an edge coming into Hollywood week and maybe even the new challenges you threw at the contestants this season?
I think the only edge that they have is that they’ve been there before, wherever they wound up last year or the year before or whatever. And you know, what’s really funny about it is that there’s been.. I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about, “Well there’s so many returning people,” or whatever. Well, every year, if you watch the auditions closely, we say, “You’re not ready yet, come back.” Well you know what? This year, a lot of them came back! (laughs) They actually listened to us and came back. But you know, the thing is if they’ve gotten better or grown, because we remember what their weaknesses were soon as we see them. They get up there, and we go, “Oh, right. You’re the one who had this, or didn’t have that,” or whatever, whatever. Other than the fact that they’ve been there before, maybe that helps with the nerves a little bit, but that’s it. They’ve got to be better.

Sherri Block: I wanted to touch a little bit more on the judges, Steven and Jennifer. You said you were really noticing that they’re settling in this year. Do you find a real difference in that? Do you find that they’re more sure of themselves and their comments? Or just the three of you kind of, you know, are a more tight-knit group than when you first started last year?
Yeah, I think that, and also I think they’re just a little bit more…what’s the word for it? A little bit more stern (laughs). Not tougher, stern. Because I think, you know, they’re a little more comfortable with it, but I mean, we’re having a good time, having a really good time. And yeah, I think you’ll see some changes in that in them

So are they asking you, maybe, less advice and questions since last year?
No, you know, listen, I mean we still talk about everything. I mean, Jennifer will always say, “What do you really think?” And you know, I’m always one to go, “Mmmm… I’m not feeling it at all, on any level,” you know what I mean? You know, or I like it. I mean, I think we’re closer in that way, in that we talk about everything. But you may see them be a little bit more stern. They may surprise you.

Mike Waco, FOX affiliates: All right, we need to talk about this. Fainting? What are you doing to these contestants?
(Laughs) Listen, man, we’re just trying to judge them to best of our abilities!

Wow! So it’s gotten.. . I mean, we see this all the time. We see how stressed they get, if they can handle the pressure. What type of pressure did they go through, and I mean, we really saw fainting?
There was a lot of fainting, Mike, I mean, this Hollywood week was the toughest I think we’ve ever had for the kids, and just more challenging in a weird sort of way. And I mean, what’s interesting about this time is, I would glance over at the kids waiting to get up and sing, there was a lot of amazing talent there, but I must say, all sorts of talent, we say this every time, but the talent this year is a little bit different. I mean, it’s  equally as good as past seasons, as last season, but better in some respects, but across the board, it’s a singer-songwriter, it’s a jazzy person, if it’s a church kid, if it’s a pop singer or a country singer, I mean, just really people that had it all down. So, I think the pressure even just sitting and waiting, because this time I saw a lot more kids stand up for almost every other performer. So it’s like, “Wow.”

So it really is a training grounds, man, this is a process that they get ready for a live show.
Well, not only that, look, this is a process that you get ready for the future. I mean, people are put through the rigor, so that you think Idol’s hard, just wait until you become an artist and you’re trying to put a record out, because you remember, everyone forgets. Everyone who wins this show, or any show for that matter, you just get the grand shot to jump into the super giant ring with, like, the girl whose video we’re premiering for her brand new single, Madonna, on the show tonight, you get to jump in the ring and duke it out with Madonna, with Rihanna, with Katy Perry, with Gaga, with Mariah, with whomever, so remember, you’re setting yourself up for the competition of life, and the competition never ends.

Alex Gonzalez, La Prensa de Houston: For our readers, I know last year there was a Spanish speaker/singer. Did you see any of those on the road so far or will we see any?
Yeah, yeah, we saw quite a few of those. I mean, I think, you know, look, in America now, as you know, this is part of the fabric and the culture, and I think last season, I was really happy. I was even really happy a couple years ago when we did auditions in Puerto Rico, we should go back there someday. But yeah, I mean, really happy about that. I mean, it’s American Idol. This show’s for everyone.

Ryan Harris, KOMO News Radio: Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like you guys are giving out a lot more golden tickets this year. You mentioned some challenges in Hollywood week, so how is that affecting Hollywood week?
Well, you know, listen, you’re right on target. But actually, last season we gave out probably the most tickets ever (laughs). This season we didn’t give out quite as many, but it was close (laughs). I think it’s affecting Hollywood week in the way that it’s just tougher for us, it’s way longer hours, but I think it’s more challenging for these kids. You have to see a lot of talent that goes before you, and when you’re sitting there, your nerves in a bunch, and you’re hearing great voice after great voice, talent after talent after talent, I think you really start doubting yourself. I mean, but as I said to Mike Waco earlier, this show is to set you up for the competition of life, because you’re competing on the charts with whatever person who’s at the top of the game. Whomever now, you’re competing with Adele.  She sold 10 million records in the world, get ready. Can you really go toe-to-toe with her and win some of those fans, you know what I’m saying? You know, the number of tickets, I actually like. Maybe we should have a higher number (laughs).

Hey, you know, Randy, well I’ve got to ask, with humor, why do you guys keep dissing Seattle? Especially since Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis came out of that audition?
(Laughs) Dude, I love Seattle, dude. My boys in the Dave Matthews Band up there making a record right now, and I’m actually going to be back up there in a couple of weeks. Listen, I love Seattle. We’ll be back.

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