American Idol: Judges Catch Us Up
Big changes lately with the “Idol” crew (and ex-crew). Simon’s “X-Factor” hasn’t burned up the airwaves, Jennifer is a mom, Ryan is hooked up with hot Julianne Hough, Steven Tyler has a new memoir out etc.
Reporters gathered in Pasadena to get the scoop from Seacrest and the gang. Will they be tougher on contestants? Why do they tell some “Come back next year?” New season starts on Fox Wed. the 18th.
Q: Ryan, you have a very tough job, and I’m not sure you always get credit for it. Doing live television is not something a lot of people do anymore. What’s the secret to that? And do you think people appreciate the challenges that you face MC-ing the show?
Ryan: I haven’t really given a lot of thought to the appreciation of it. I hope, when you watch “American Idol” at home, the idea is to have the audience feel like the show is seamless and they are comfortable watching the show. So that’s the goal each week. The trick for me is just listening. I think that the one thing I try to do is pay attention to everything that’s happening on that stage and listen to what they are saying, what the contestants are saying. [I have to balance] the contestants, the judges, and the audience, and a rhythm, a cadence to the program.
Jennifer: I have to say you hit it on the nose when you said, “appreciation for what he does,” because, when I’m watching the show, I just can’t believe it. I mean, he really is the master of ceremonies and because of him, the show runs as seamlessly and perfectly as it does. We just kind of all follow him. It’s the truth. He’s amazing at what he does, and he doesn’t get enough credit for it.
Q: So what’s different this time around? I mean, Jennifer, for example, you were really emotional during the auditions last season. How has it changed for you and Steven in your second season?
Jennifer: It hasn’t changed. We are still the same people. You know, I’m still an emotional person. We are a little more comfortable. We are still having fun. We have amazing talent [on the show] so that always makes it more exciting.
Randy Jackson: Jennifer does a lot more “Nos”.
Ryan: [teasing] There are more dresses this season, more dresses.
Jennifer: Yeah. I think I should wear one, at least, each show.
Q: Usually the female gets to be the flashiest dresser on the panel. They showed one episode where Jennifer, you had a kind of a basic T shirt and Steven was a very “vision in purple”.
Jennifer: The hat, the feather. I love it. I love that all three of us are so different. And Ryan as well. We have different personalities. We have different senses of style. And it’s just who we are. It’s nothing that’s really that calculated. We have fun with it. That’s what we always try to remind each other. Let’s have fun and let’s do our job; right? We take it seriously, but not too seriously. It’s important to us.
Steven: I always wear Jennifer’s clothes anyway.
Jennifer: He’s always asking me, “Where did you get those pants?”
Q: Steven, what’s the reaction been in the rock community to your participation on “Idol”? Pro or con?
Steven: Well, it wasn’t really accepted up front, I must admit, mostly from my own bandmates because they didn’t know what was going on with the Aerosmith thing at the end. But, you know, it’s brought nothing but younger kids to our music anyway. We haven’t had an album out for a while. We are working on it now but I can’t go anywhere now because of the show, because of the notoriety. It took Aerosmith sales up 260 percent last year. It’s been nothing but good.
Q: Judges, after a season of getting the thrill of helping people pursue their dreams, do you feel like, this year, you might be a little harder on people and be very, very critical?
Steven: I’m not so sure if harder is what should be done. We’ve massaged them. People have come in and the talent is in front of us, and we’ve got our eyes on the ones that are good. The ones that have that magic that we’ve seen in either ourselves or other people through the course of our careers, we see that in these kids. So to be hard on them and tell them to, what, practice and go home and come back next year? How far do you go with that?
Randy: I also think that what I love about this show is it’s the most authentic talent show. The judges should always call it as they see it. These two [Jennifer and Steven] being unbelievably great professionals and legends in their field, this is what should happen, because some people say, “Well, it should be tougher. It should be this. It should be that.” You have to call it as you see it. Part of what we do is to try to help and mentor and nurture the talent. When we tell people to come back next year, we actually mean that.
Jennifer: And as far as mentoring them through the process, yeah, we try to give them advice as we would want it to be given to us. That’s how I always deliver what I’m saying. I want to do it in a way where they hear me. At the same time, you know, there’s nothing wrong with a little tough love. But there’s nothing wrong with a little encouragement either. We all have our own styles and personalities in how we do that, but at the end of the day, we are trying to get them through to be the winner no matter what we say to them.
Q: A girl hasn’t won “American Idol” in a while. Why do you think that is?
Randy: This is not a show that we are saying a girl has to win, or a guy. This is not some, like, sexist kind of whatever thing. May the best talent win. If it’s another boy this year and that’s the most talented person, in my eyes, from my profession that I’ve been doing for 30 years at the top of the game, that’s who should win. It’s not like, “Oh, my God. A girl didn’t win.”
Q: But in early “Idol” years women were winning.
Randy: If you look at the charts, you can look at the success of Justin Bieber. There are a lot of girls who vote for boys. I mean, that’s just kind of what happens. Do you know what I mean?
Q: When you say “Come back next year”, what do you see in the person to say that?
Jennifer: Some people are just not ready. They have the beginnings of a great voice. They can sing. It’s obvious, but they are lacking confidence, or they are lacking direction; or, as an artist, they really don’t know who they are. It’s different things. You know, you can have somebody who is 15 who knows all of that; where it’s just a natural thing for them. Then, and you can have somebody who is 25 who doesn’t. We just see it.
Q: Jennifer, you’re working on another reality show? Is it hard to balance your time?
Jennifer: Yeah, we’re working on a show called “Que Viva.” Splitting the time, it’s worked out well. I’m producing that show, so I have a little bit more leeway on when I do things and when I don’t. And now that we’re more into the live part of “Idol” coming up, it’s only two days a week, so we’re going to have time to work on both at the same time. It’s an exciting project.
Q: Steven, how is the new Aerosmith album going? What kind of songs are you developing for it? How many are written so far?
Steven: I’d say half of it’s been written. All of it’s been written, but I’ve got to lay lyrics on it, and I haven’t had a lot of time. Joe [Perry] gets to town next week. But what I’ve listened to so far just knocked me out. I know a good song. I know what’s going to get played on the radio. I’m not that pretentious to say I think we’ve got hits, but I think we’ve got something. And that’s all that matters.
Q: Jennifer, you are so busy with the two shows, how do you manage to raise your two kids? They’re so little.
Jennifer: They are so little and cute. It’s a juggling act. Just like any single mom, it’s just balancing everything out and making sure that they’re okay. They come first, though. They come first. I sat down to look at my schedule for the next few months with my manager, and I was like, “Okay. This, this, and this I’m doing with the kids at this time.” That comes first. And then everybody works around that. That’s how we do it so they feel loved, happy, and what they are; the most important thing in my life.