SimonÂs exit makes the judge "really sad." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)
And then there was one. Next season, barring any last-minute twists and turns, Randy Jackson will be the only original "American Idol" judge left sitting. Paula Abdul is now gone and in a blockbuster development earlier this month, Simon Cowell announced he was leaving the nation's most popular, if aging, television series to start his own show, "The X Factor."
"Idol" made Jackson a household name and the former session bassist turned pop producer leveraged his fame to expand his brand beyond the hit show. He's the creator of "America's Best Dance Crew," which is in its fifth season and takes over "Jersey Shore's" 10 p.m. time slot tonight on MTV. He even has his own line of eyewear.
Jackson was happy to chat about Ellen DeGeneres' judging style and "Idol" without Simon. But on the looming question of whether the last sitting member of the original Simon-Paula-Randy trifecta is committed to a future on the "Idol" bench or is ready to join his buddies and bolt, Jackson may just keep us guessing.
We have a theory that -- with Cowell leaving, Paula Abdul being a free agent for now, and (as reported) you signing a three-year extension in 2006 -- the original "Idol" dream team could reunite on "The X-Factor." Care to respond?
You know, there's a song by the Fray that I really love. It's called "Never Say Never."
That would be quite a coup. Cowell seems to have a magic touch when it comes to business acumen. Would you compare him to a David Geffen or Richard Branson?
I don't think he compares to anyone. Simon Cowell is a very smart guy, he's got some of the best intuition in the game. He's one of my dearest friends, and the thing I love most is that he's not afraid to take risks. Everyone is copycatting everything to death. Simon gives people what they want before they even realize they want it.
Where were you when you heard the news that Cowell was leaving "Idol" to launch an American version of "The X Factor?"
I didn't know [ahead of time]. I got an announcement from the Television Critics Assn. So I called him and was, like, "Dude, you gotta tell your boy, come on!" He said it was so crazy that day.
Word is he was seriously considering judging both.
I think it would have been hard for him to do both. How many of these shows can you do a year?
Is there room for two very similar singing competitions?
Not happening at the same time, but I think there's definitely room for two to four music competition shows if they're done well and people have an emotional involvement in these contestants.
Can you imagine "Idol" without him?
I'm really sad about it. This is a journey that me, Ryan, Paula and Simon started together and it's changing a bit.
In the couple of weeks you've worked with her, how has Ellen DeGeneres surprised you?
Obviously, Ellen is very quick and has great timing, but what will probably shock people is how good a grasp she has on the music and what really works. And she's great at imparting wisdom and judgment on the contestants to help them correct their performance. In the entertainment game, whether you're a comedian, an actor or a musician, performing is performing. There are things you have to know to move through this jungle, and the people at the top are there because they're really, really good.
You had a bit of a Twitter snafu a few weeks back where you seemingly asked for input on the Grammy ballot, a no-no according to the Recording Academy rules. What happened?
It wasn't me. My assistant does my Twitter and Facebook, she didn't know the rules and just made a grave error. And I apologize for any hurt feelings -- especially to the Grammy people . . . it was just unfortunate. You just can't do that.
The two projects you've attached your name to outside of "Idol" -- "America's Best Dance Crew" and a men's eyewear line that is Wal-Mart's No. 1 men's brand -- are curious choices. What does Randy Jackson know about dance posses or designer frames?
Well, I wear glasses all the time and finding the right frame is like an obsession of mine. I would always search high and low for the coolest, dopest glasses that would fit my face, and people would often ask me where I got them. So I wanted to come out with something, got approached about doing a line and I'm just so happy that it's taken off. . . . And the dance thing sort of started the same way. I was at this hip-hop competition in Long Beach and thought back to growing up in Louisiana when everyone had a crew. So I saw the union, camaraderie and spirit that's in every inner city community -- be it the black hood, Italian hood, Chinese, Korean, blond, whatever! -- and thought, "Somebody has to expose this art form on TV." You've got "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars" for the older demo, this is for the kids because I'm mad young at heart -- with two Ds in "madd!"