Today, the American Idol team finally confirmed who controls the fates of America's most talented (and least talented) singers. They are returning judges Keith Urban (Season 12), Jennifer Lopez (Seasons 10 and 11), and new judge Harry Connick Jr. The new hire comes as no surprise as Connick Jr is no stranger to the American Idol stage.
He first appear on American Idol in 2010, during Season 9. On the May 4 episode, Connick Jr mentored the Top 5 during Frank Sinatra week. Then, on the May 5 results show, sang "And I Love Her." He returned last season, Season 12, to mentor the Top 4 through a week singing from the Great American Songbook of standards, returning the next night to perform "Every Man Should Know."
"American Idol has always been about discovering the next singing superstar, and next season our judging panel will deliver a most impressive combination of talent, wisdom and personality to do just that," said Kevin Reilly, Chairman of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company. He went on to say, "Jennifer Lopez, the triple-threat global superstar who loves Idol and whom Idol fans love; Harry Connick, Jr., a bona-fide musical genius and fantastic Idol mentor whose honesty and expertise can help turn these hopefuls into stars; Keith Urban, a multi-Grammy-winning artist who was such a positive force on the show last season."
He also went on to say something that came as a bit of a surprise. "We are also very excited to have our friend Randy Jackson now in a new role as mentor, and the captain of our team – the heart and soul of Idol – Ryan Seacrest returning as host.”
No, the surprise is not that Seacrest was returning. But Jackson? Randy Jackson, who cited a desire to seek out other business ventures as his reason for leaving Idol? Apparently, Jackson will return as in-house mentor, replacing Jimmy Iovine, who's held the spot since Season 10.
Now there's no question that no one knows Idol like Jackson, who, like host Ryan Seacrest, has been a part of the series since its inception. But there is some doubt as to whether he brings the same level of industry expertise to replace someone like Iovine. As a musician, Jackson's credentials speak for themselves. He's recorded, produced, and toured with artists including Mariah Carey, Carlos Santana, Journey, and Bruce Springsteen. But that's why he was right where he belonged on the panel of judges. Those judges all have extensive recording and producing experience, which gives them a keen awareness of what it takes to perform to a certain standard in the music industry, judging the contestants performances.
But that's not exactly the role Iovine played. Jimmy Iovine is not a performer. In fact, his awkwardness on screen was one of his most honest and endearing features. As co-founder of Interscope Records (now Interscope Geffen A&M label group) his experience as a music industry mogul is second to none. Which made his pre-recorded soundbites where he gave his often brutally honest two cents on where the competition stood was different than the sometimes softer critiques from the judges. It came from a different perspective, making it something additional for America to take into consideration when they voted in the future.
For the in-house mentor's opinion to be worth our time during an already bloated Idol format, Iovine would have to have been replaced by people like L.A. Reid, Quincy Jones, Russell Simmons, or even Dr. Dre. The appointment of Jackson begs the question, what new element does he bring to the table, making his specific opinion, beyond that of the judges, worth hearing? The answer is... nothing. Is this just an excuse for Jackson to still function as a judge without having to put in the time, sitting through the lengthy live recordings? Is he really worth that? The truth is, many critics were pleased with his choice to leave the show. The Dawg's critiques had become caricatures of themselves, made up of a series of cliched catchphrases and gestures. Fresh blood has reinvigorated the series, a series that still is the only singing competition to produce long lasting mega-stars of it's winners and losers, including Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Carrie Underwood.
Only time will tell whether or not Jackson's new role will be a positive change. But in the age of DVRs and other recording devices, at least it'll be easy to skip if it proves to not be worth your time. Other changes announced this season include a new logo and the fact that hopefulls being able to audition with guitars. The new panel of judges will travel to Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Detroit, Omaha, Salt Lake City and San Francisco for Season 13. The American Idol Audition Bus will also be touring this season. For locations, check HERE. This new incarnation of Idol makes its televised debut during the Winter/Mid-Season, in January, 2014, on FOX.