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Ed Loves Bacon - Speakeasy with ... Randy Jackson

For eight seasons America has sat glued to their televisions each week as judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and late comer, Kara DioGuardi shape the fate of finalists on American Idol. Now in its ninth season, the show is hoping to endure a series of controversies, shake-ups and new additions.

Loyal fans were shocked and saddened when Abdul announced prior to the season eight finale that she was leaving the show. Weeks later, comedian Ellen Degeneres confirmed rumors that she’s taking over the fourth chair at the judge’s table. And just yesterday, Cowell announced that this will be his final season as he sets plans to bring his other global hit, X Factor to America next year. Last Friday, Randy Jackson spoke with the press about the new season and shared his opinion on the issues surrounding the show.

American Idol's two-part season premiere kicks off tonight, Tuesday at 8:00 PM featuring guest judge, Victoria Beckham.  Part two of the season premiere airs Wednesday at 8:00 PM with guest judge, Mary J. Blige.

W Hotel – Midtown (188 14th St., Atlanta, GA) will host an American Idol premiere viewing party tomorrow night starting at 7:00 PM. The party is open to the public. The hotel will feature specialty drinks and complimentary appetizers from Spice Market between 7-8 PM.

(Photo courtesy of Fox Television)

So we’ve seen on the cover of Entertainment Weekly that Ellen is calling Simon mean.  Is he really mean or is he just a big teddy bear behind the scenes?  Is this going to be ongoing?

Look, he’s not really mean.  I love his phrase.  You can quote his phrase, “I don’t mean to be rude, but.”  He’s honest from his perspective.  Sometimes it’s maybe a bit harsh, but some people call that real.  I don’t know if he’s meaner than he’s ever been.  I’m not sure I would call it mean.  I would just call it very stern.

What do you think specifically Ellen is going to actually bring to the show?

I really, really think, and I know it’s been talked about a bunch and what she’s going to do and how she’s going to judge and all of this.  I think her being just a die-hard music fan and loving music and just being a really smart, talented person herself because she’s a performer and entertainer as well, so she knows about performing and entertaining because this is how she’s made her career and a very amazingly successful, great career.  So she knows about that and her loving music, I think she’ll give the expertise from being a fellow entertainer that’s hugely successful where all of these kids want to go.  They want to be entertainers, as well as great singers.

I think she’ll give that lay person at home view.  That somebody sitting there saying I know about entertaining and this, but you guys may think these vocals aren’t good.  But I actually thought it was really good.  So I think she will give the home viewer a real voice to be on the judge’s panel.

Talk to us about some of the guest judges that will be on the show this year, specifically Shania, Neil Patrick, Katy, Joe Jonas, what were their strengths as judges?

Listen, they all brought something different to the table.  The first few you’re going to see on Tuesday starts in Boston with Victoria Beckham.  People know her fame from the Spice Girls.  They probably know more of it as being Mrs. David Beckham.  These are all performers in their own right that have achieved high acclaim and massive success in the entertainment field.  I think they all brought something different.  I think you’ll see even their judging styles are a little different.  I think Simon has said he thought that people were a little bit more in the Fear Factor zone of Mary J. Blige just because of her presence.  She’s like that kind of demanding artist.  I think all of them, I think Shania brought something different, I think Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne brought something really different and unique.  I think surprisingly for some people, they probably would be surprised at what Joe Jonas’ input was and also Neil Patrick Harris and Kristen Chenoweth.  So they all gave a different perspective.

What I like about the guest judges is that they all come from some singing, live performance background, so they know what it’s like.  So it was a really good audition season, I have to tell you.

Was there a particular city that stuck out for you as being just a real hot bed, gave out a lot of golden tickets or conversely one that was maybe was a little thin on talent?

I have to tell you for me I thought Orlando was really strange, just in terms of the talent and who came out and what was going on there.  I thought it was a little strange of a place, but I think Dallas was good.  I think surprisingly Atlanta was actually really good.  I’m just saying surprisingly because I know it’s the hometown of Ryan Seacrest, little dig, all fun and games.  But I actually think probably Atlanta was one of the standouts for me, actually.  Dallas was really strong as well, I felt.

I know you recently were quoted as saying you really hope a girl wins this year.  Are there a lot of promising women?

Yes, because the thing is the last couple of seasons boys have won.  So I said that at this last season, scratching my head going, dude, where are the girls?  Where have all the ladies gone, come on, what are we doing?  I think there’s some really talented girls that showed up this time.  I also think that what changes the show from year to year are the contestants that we get.  And it’s smart of you to really pinpoint that because this year, you would have thought there would have been a lot more theatrical, a lot more Adam Lambert or Kris Allen types that would have showed up for the auditions.   But that’s not what happened at all this time.  Usually whoever wins or comes in one and two, that next season of auditions you have a lot of those kinds of people.  It’s almost like there was a signal to everyone at home that was like them, now it’s time to try out for American Idol, but it didn’t happen like that this time.  So I think we have a very interesting, unique cast that’s really only unique to this season nine.  I think it’s going to be really, really exciting and very different.

How about Adam Lambert and what he has gone on to do, what did you think of his AMA performance and how he’s eclipsed your winner, Kris Allen, there?

Adam is a giant personality.  He’s unbelievably talented.  The AMA thing, I guess, was something that he wanted to do and try.  An artist is really left up to their own ideas of how they want to do things and whatever.  I think he’s a big personality.  He’s a far bigger, probably, personality than Kris, but I think they’re both equally talented.  Kris obviously won for a reason.  You’ve got Allison, she has her record out, too.  I wish them all well and the best.  They’re all immensely talented, Danny Gokey, we had a lot of talented kids this season.

Let me ask you a question about someone like a Chris Daughtry, an Adam Lambert and a Carrie Underwood that really becomes a big household name.  How early in the competition do you feel like you see them as being standout performers?

I’d like to say honestly for me, I saw Adam day one the day he auditioned.  I saw Kelly Clarkston day one the day she auditioned; Carrie Underwood, day one, the day she auditioned; Chris Daughtry day—I think these people, I truly believe that stars are really born.  I think they’re definitely cultivated and you can help them manifest into bigger and brighter stars, but I think those things are born.  I think you know when you hear them that they have something special and some kind of unique persona.

When you look back on all your seasons on the show and the auditions, do you have to psych yourself up or is it always new enough that it’s still exciting?

As I say, not knowing what to expect, you go into these cities.  I think the first city you’ll see on Tuesday is Boston.  When we were there, we fell into our groove.  It takes us a while because we’re not together all the time, even though Simon, Ryan and I are the best of friends and we see each other off season a lot and we hang out a lot.  But it’s like riding a bike.  You just jump back on, you’re like, dude, this is it.  Yes, what?

This is American Idol’s ninth season now.  Do you think it’s something that can fade or do you see an end to it at least for you at some point?

Wow, that’s a big, loaded question.  I think Idol is the best show of its kind ever.  I think it can go on for quite a long time.  I don’t know when the end for that is.  I haven’t really thought about my end for it.  I’m contracted for quite a, a couple more seasons.  So it’s really hard to predict, but I think the show can really go on for a long time.  I think it’s the best certainly music reality show that’s ever been a music TV show.

We’ve learned that Carrie looks for artistry and Simon doesn’t want a karaoke or cheesy nightclub act, but what are you personally looking for in a performance?

I’m looking for the big three.  The big three to me is you have to have undeniable talent.  You have to have something that makes you unique and you have to have some star persona.

There’s talk that Paula might be up for a spot on the U.S. X Factor, one of Simon’s other shows.  Would you like to see her back in her judging seat for that?

Yes.  Look, she’s one of my dear friends, so I wish her the best in the world.  I know that she’s going to be back in something in a huge way because she’s mad talented.  The thing that I always say about this genre or about anything in the music entertainment side is expect the unexpected.  You never know.

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