‘American Idol’ Judges Explain What They’re Looking For

Rappers on 'Idol'?
Nicki Minaj says they don't belong on the FOX show.
FOX’s upcoming twelfth season of American Idol is sure to draw some curiosity with three new superstar judges whose backgrounds couldn’t be more different.

“It will be quite fun as you watch their different styles of judging and what they’re looking for,” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, 63, told the audience during Wednesday’s premiere screening event in Los Angeles.

Mariah [Carey], I think, is looking for that singer/songwriter, that’s a true star, Nicki Minaj is looking for somebody that isn’t just there for their voice, but there for their performance, their charisma and everything else. Keith Urban is looking for an authentic singer, someone who is credible. Randy Jackson, I’d say, is looking for someone who sings on pitch,” he continued.

Their backgrounds couldn’t be more diverse. Jackson, 56, the veteran Idol judge has been with the show since its debut season more than a decade ago. Carey is a power vocalist and arguably one of the most celebrated voices of our time. Thirty-year-old Minaj is a relatively new celebrity (compared to Carey). She’s a rapper and pop princess who likes to employ several personalities, sometimes simultaneously. And Urban is an Australian country singer. Each has different styles, different perspectives, and different ideas on what they’re looking for from this year’s hopefuls.

Jackson seems pretty confident about his formula for finding the right contestants. “There are three things that are really big characteristics for me,” the musician said. “They are uniqueness, unbelievable talent, and star power. Those are the three things a great artist needs and will give you a shot at a great career.”

On the other hand, Urban is a bit more emotional about what he’s looking for in contestants. “The reality is that we all react differently to different things and so I think for me, at the end of the day, it has to speak to me,” he said.

“If a person is creating art and saying something in a way that I’m captivated by that person and I can’t take my eyes off that person, that’s it for me.”

Minaj confirmed Lythgoe’s assertion that she’s looking for an all-around entertainer more than a standout vocalist saying, “I think that it’s something where you’ll know it when you’re in the same room with it.

“If you named the 10 biggest stars out right now, who would you say has a Whitney Houston voice? That’s just not where we are right now,” the hip-hop artist elaborated. “So, I think that because of this day and time, I’m looking for an overall entertainer. [I’m looking for] someone who is going to captivate people with or without music.”

Carey, 42, says she’s still learning what she wants in a contestant. And so far, her choices have spanned from favoring street performers to strong vocalists.

“To me it doesn’t matter, “ she said. “They can be unique in some way, different in another way. It’s a learning experience for me and what I’ve seen is that diversity plays into it in a deep way.”

American Idol returns to FOX on Wednesday at 8PM.

– Cortney Wills

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