BWW Interviews: Keith Urban Talks Season XIII of AMERICAN IDOL
Keith Urban returned to the judge's panel for the 13th season of FOX's AMERICAN IDOL. Today, the country music star spoke with the press about the singing competition's current season, his fellow judges, Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Lopez and who he believes may be the current frontrunner!
This season it seems there has been a lot more country music being represented, not only in the talent, but in the songs that are being chosen. Have you been pleased with the way country music has been represented so far?
Well, I think country has always been fairly well represented. I think it might be a little more prominent now. I don't know if that's because I'm there or what it is. Last year was good with that too, and this year I like that we've got diversity in the country area this year because you've got somebody like C.J. who can fit into that genre. You've got someone like Jessica that can fit in that genre. And I like the diversity that we've got. I also think that Idol has always played very, very well in those places, Midwest and the sort of rural states that have huge country audiences, so I am really grateful to be on the panel because of that, and hopefully we can discover some exceptional country talent this year too.
Because of your background in country, do you find that you have a preference for the contestants who fall into that genre or are you able to be objective and look at all of the performances equally?
Oh, absolutely equally! I just respond to feeling. It's not even about genre; it's got nothing to do with genre. It's got everything to do with the sense of believability and authenticity and a feeling. It could be a non-genre. It could be something someone comes in and performs that doesn't really fit any particular genre, but I am just going to react and respond to how it makes me feel.
I recently read in People magazine that you occasionally bring your kids to the set with you. I was wondering, what kind of music do they like?
Well, they love "Let It Go", of course by Frozen, right now that's the number one song, but they like all sorts of stuff. They tend to just sing to whatever is on the radio. We play the radio a lot in the car and they respond to different things, but up-tempo things they particularly love, both of them. Sunday is 5 ½ and Faith is 3, so you never know what they are going to be cranking in their room. They have an iPod in their room that they play a lot, so I love that there is music coming from their bedroom all the time.
Would you let your kids go into showbiz, and why or why not?
Absolutely! If they are willing to work for it, if they have an aptitude towards it and a real desire to work towards really anything, whatever they have a passion for, they just need to work at it. That's the big thing that I find constantly with Idol even, is that it's not just about having the talent, it's about having the passion for it.
Who do you think is the front runner this season and why?
I've got asked that question at the end of the show last Thursday night and I truly can't say, I don't really know at this stage. I don't have a personal front runner because we've already seen, for me, the surprise of who ends up in the bottom three each week and it's not really been consistent. So I think what I am liking about this season is America's responding to the performances from night to night. It doesn't seem like there is such an intense fan club for any particular artist where those will override the performance and I like that. I think that's what makes the show interesting for me from week to week right now, is anybody can be the front runner. So it's going to be interesting to see who's in the top three, let alone, one and two. I really don't know who that will be.
As far as the contestants making the transition to the big stage this year, have you seen any challenges with that on their part?
Definitely. I think it's one of those places where you can be very, very young, 15, 16, 17, and have a great voice, be a great singer, have a good look, be everything like that, but if you don't have any experience in front of an audience, it can really throw you and I think we have seen that a little bit this year. I notice even from rehearsal to the show that night, it's a particular thing to be able to perform in front of an audience with the energy and the cameras on and all that sort of stuff.
It's been an interesting group, because now I am watching a lot of them really rise to that. I think the very first show threw a lot of them, and then the second week got a little easier for them and I think most of them are in their groove now and we are seeing that consistency starting to rise.
As far as eliminated contetants MK and Majesty, do you think it was their time to go or would you have liked to have seen them around a little bit longer?
It's tricky because on one hand, if we don't use the save, everybody boos us, but you could really answer it also by saying we agree with America, because that's why they're singing because they are at the bottom based on everybody's votes. I think so far, the three of us haven't agreed across the board on saving somebody, so in a couple of cases, at least one of us would've wanted to save that person, but I think we are really coming down to the wire now, so this week or next, it will be interesting to see who we have to use our save for.
Can you talk about how much song choice matters when it gets down to the bitter end like this?
Song choice matters a lot for some more than others. I mean, I think there are some artists in this group who can sing most things, and I think their vocal and their artistry comes through no matter what they are singing. But I think other ones really have to pick their songs carefully to play to their strengths. I think we saw that with Ben Briley choosing a song that didn't quite fit who he was and what he was doing. So it's tricky, because I know it can seem contradictory that we ask for everybody to show us something different, but you also have to know how to be different and still remain yourself, you know, it's not just different for different sakes. It's showing another side of you; not just this complete other thing that's got nothing to do with who you are, so I think song choice is particularly crucial especially as we go into these last eight weeks.
What advice will you give the winner in May?
For me, it's the same advice across the board. It's the same advice for the person who came 8th. You know, it's the person who goes home tonight. It's all the same advice which is it's what you do with this going forward now that's going to make it either work or not work, because winning Idol doesn't automatically catapult you into the stratosphere. You have to then set about finding the songs and making a record, then you've got to go out and do all the interviews. You've got to be able to do all the work. It can get you to the front of the line a little quicker, but it doesn't mean that it's going to happen right away.
It has been interesting with this show that over the years we've seen just as much success come from the non-winners as the winners. So I think that's also testament to the people that that judges have chosen over the years, obviously the Chris Daughtry's and the Adam Lambert's and the Jennifer Hudson's, etc. who have gone on to have exceptional careers, so it's really what you make of it after the fact.
Do you think this year's more open-ended themes have had an impact on performances as compared to past seasons.
I think that at the end of the day, you've still got to choose the right song and no matter what the themes are, each one of these guys and girls has to figure out how to choose something within the theme that still works for them and plays to their strengths. Some can do that better than others. I think that is what we have seen.
Has being on the panel with Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Lopez changed your own approach to judging in any way?
Not at all, no. I mean, I respond to what I feel, what I see. I don't overthink it. I respond to something. The only time for me it gets sort of into the thought is like if I can then pinpoint what it is that I am missing in this performance and how they might be able to fix it. I mean in some cases you've got people that just hit a wall, you can just see they've hit a wall where they now need to go and live life. And they need to keep either writing songs or they need to keep performing live; they need to do something, but now they just need all the experience. And I find that there is not a lot of advice that you can give other than you've just got to get out there and live life and it's just going to take some time now.
I think that is what happened to Majesty last week, is that we felt like we were starting to see the same thing. And she's got and extraordinary talent, she really is gifted, but she now needs life. She just needs to get out there and really define who she is and find herself as an artist.
MK was the first LGBT contestant who has ever been in the competition. What did you think of her and what do you think of her story and is the story more important than singing?
Well I mean the story is beautiful and it's very inspiring. I think she is, as far as a singer, she has a really beautiful voice and I think where MK hit a wall with the show was simply in regards to the performance and the fact that it is a visual medium too, it's not just audible. And some sort of visual way of performing is really important. It doesn't mean running around the stage, it just means performing in such a way that it sort of like goes through the camera and connects with people. I think she is obviously going to keep working on this because she is really, really gifted, so I will be interested to hear more from her.