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Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez join 'American Idol'

September 03, 2013|By Gerrick D. Kennedy
  • Returning "American Idol" judge Keith Urban, left, will be joined by Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Lopez.
Returning "American Idol" judge Keith Urban, left, will be… (Getty Images / Los Angeles…)

After another summer filled with rampant speculation, Fox has finally confirmed the ever-changing “American Idol” judges' panel will be a mix of familiar faces from the show.

Country statesman Keith Urban, the sole returning judge from last season’s revamp, will be joined by pop diva Jennifer Lopez, who reigned on the aging show in 2011 and 2012, and Harry Connick Jr., who has previously mentored contestants.

The good? First, those endless reports of who the network was considering can stop (a deal with pop mastermind Dr. Luke reportedly fell apart in the eleventh hour).  And fans can drop that idea of former "Idol" alumni as judges. However enticing, the idea of previous contestants picking current ones would be best reserved as the series’ swan song.

A revamped judges’ panel has started to become the norm for singing competitions these days, as “The X Factor” and “The Voice” have also traded out one star for another.

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But “Idol’s” update comes after an especially tough season in which sluggish ratings and tension on the judges’ panel (that Mariah Carey versus Nicki Minaj beef was tired) overshadowed the show.

This panel won’t have any of the unpredictability that Carey and Minaj brought, but its understandable the network decided to go with familiar, much more reliable faces.

For the two seasons Lopez reigned as Queen Diva on the show, the multitasking pop singer was a fan favorite. She has charm, wit and a keen industry knowledge that she passed on to hopefuls.

This is also why Urban worked so well last season, despite the chaos. The singer-songwriter also brought a much needed country pedigree to the franchise that has attracted a swath of Nashville hopefuls over the show’s more than 10-year run.

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As for Connick, the first-time judge will fit in seamlessly. The beloved pop crooner previously stole the show as an incredibly candid guest mentor.

The bad? Randy Jackson just won’t go away. Earlier this year Jackson, who was the last remaining judge from the show’s 2002 debut, announced he wouldn’t return in order to focus on his record label and other business opportunities. But the “dawg” is back, serving as an in-house mentor, a role he was rumored to adopt ahead of last season.

Nothing against Jackson, everyone loves his one-liners. But Jackson moving to resident mentor means audiences and, more important, the contestants have lost Jimmy Iovine, who delivered the sort of no-nonsense criticism that only a music man can. Maybe Jackson can dust off his affable TV personality and get down to business. As for Iovine, winners and finalists will still be funneled through his Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records imprint.

The new “dream team” (Fox’s words) will begin production on the coming season today in Boston and premiere in January. And keeping with its sports theme the 13th season has a refreshed, Super Bowl-feel as it’s being dubbed "American Idol XIII."

Gerrick Kennedy


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