The Judges Rock American Idol for Fox TV

Keith Urban.

Keith Urban.

The American Idol XIII edition on Fox TV has reestablished its ultra-popular status as a great talent show hosted by Ryan Seacrest. The current season has gone back to the series basic premise of showcasing the best singers they can find and letting the judges guide them towards being the best that they can be.

In recent years it seems there was more drama going on with the judges then there was with the nervous hopefuls. But now with Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. on hand to pass judgment on the contestants, the spotlight is on the talent of top finalists.

Judging can be brutal, but it should always be honest. Simon Cowell did get that right when he was at the desk, although he was way too smug about it. Paula Abdul wanted to be nice and encourage everyone, but sometimes that just leads to false hope. Jennifer Lopez did find a balance with encouragement and honesty a couple of seasons ago, so it’s great to have her back. Also with stellar credentials as performers and mentors are Keith Urban, back for another season, and Harry Connick Jr. who has proven to be funny and entertaining as he embraces or eliminates the American Idol wannabes. Connick says he’s happy to be the blunt one, “because if somebody can’t sing, they need to go home.”

The show is now entering the phase with the top 30 hopefuls and wildcards being culled down to the final 20. Then on Thursday, Feb. 20, the top 10 finalists (five talented girls and five talented guys) will be revealed, followed by the judges’ wild card picks to round out 13 finalists in the first results show live from Los Angeles. And in the weeks to follow viewers will see the best of the best.

Personally, I like how the country artists are emerging thanks to Urban’s influence. He’s a country music superstar and Keith says he’s rooting for a few of the country guys to “go all the way” to the final round. There’s a farm boy Dexter Roberts who had Urban calling him “the real deal” when he played his guitar and sang “Farmer’s Grandson.” Jennifer says, “Every year there’s a lot of country singers. We have a couple of girls this year. But I think America’s going to decide who goes through all the way. They actually are definitely going to decide who goes all the way.”

Yes, America will be tuning in and voting until a new American Idol is named for lucky season 13 of the pop culture show. Jennifer says she’s back because “honestly, I love coming to work every day with Harry and Keith. I am lucky enough to sit between two people who I respect and have a good time with, and we all love music. We love the journey, and we’re all fans of American Idol.”

Connick says, “I love the idea of fostering talent, and American Idol is the best of its kind. The reason that it has the track record that it does is because of the formula. The people who are involved with this show and the way they presented the opportunity to me to be a judge, I was so happy it worked out because we are really having a good time, and there’s some great talent.”

All three judges are at the top of their game as performers, and Jennifer says the commonality they have is “we have similar hearts and a similar feeling for what we’re doing. We love music. We love our children. We have a sense of family. There’s a commonality of a lot of things about us as people. And I think what we have to offer as a judging panel is a level of seriousness for the contestants and giving them the benefit of all our experience.”

Urban agrees and says the three of them “have a shared spirit. That’s what I felt with Jennifer and Harry, Ryan and Randy as well. When you’re a creative person there’s that balance between being very focused and disciplined about the craft and everything, but also having fun with it, because it’s life. At the end of the day, it’s a very short life, and we’re trying to make sure that we have fun.”

Tune in the fun on American Idol on Fox.

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