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American Idol 2014 Judges and Auditions: Harry Connick Jr. Speaks on Randy Jackson Departure

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First Posted: Dec 20, 2013 01:59 PM EST
Urban, Lopez and Connick Jr.
(Photo : Reuters)

First-time judge, Harry Connick Jr. is spilling  details on season 13 of American Idol, including how he likes his new gig, which gender is bringing the most talent and how the departure of Randy Jackson made for a brand new Idol.

When it comes to judging, Connick isn't playing the victim. He admits that he's got it made.

"It's not rocket science, right?" he said during a conference call Thursday. "It's a very simple concept. They hired us to judge, and all these young performers sign up to be judged. That's it. They sing. We judge. It's pretty easy."

Connick's fellow panelists, returning judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban, make the job even easier. Their diverse background gives the judging table a new vibe.

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"From the very first contestant we saw, it just felt very natural," Connick said. "I really love being up there with them ... We're completely different. We're different brains, different personalities, different philosophies."

Every judging panel needs a troublemaker, and Connick has no shame in filling that role.

"We're all kind of troublemakers in a way. We all kind of goof around and are silly sometimes ... but if you had to pick the person who's goofiest, it would probably be me..."

Judging is not all smiles and laughs, however. Often judges have to crush a hopeful contestant's dreams and, if they were Simon Cowell, tell them that they suck. Connick says the best way to handle these situations is to be both "diplomatic" and "real."

The judge recalled a "horrible" audition that took place in Hollywood on Wednesday.

"... I don't think you have to make personal commentary to people ... it's got to do with the performance, and I thought it was terrible, and I said that was terrible," Connick remembered. "I couldn't wait for it to end, and then you move on to the next one, and they come out and give a killer performance. It's a very healthy, honest, spontaneous environment, and it feels right to me."

Connick was a guest mentor on season 12 of American Idol, and was known for putting emphasis on the importance on understanding songs' lyrics. This season will be no different.

"That's huge for me," he said. "You need to know what you're singing about, and interestingly to me, it's not that important to a lot of singers. They can sing, but they're not connected to the lyric. That's profound to me..."

So do girls rule, or do boys school this season?

"There is some crazy guy talent, for real. No joke," Connick told The Hollywood Reporter. "There are some guys that are really good, and some great young women too. So it's hard to say if it's a 50/50 split. We certainly would not never try to reach a kind of quota ... I get the feeling it's about half and half."

The last original Idol judge, Randy Jackson, will be a mentor for season 13. Since Jackson left the judging panel, Connick says American Idol became a new program.

"He's a great musician, and he's legendary in this show, and he's an icon for the many years of great television he provided to all of us, but it's a new show," Connick explained. "It's got new producers, different directors, different panels, different contestants. It's got a new look. It's got a new feel, and it's a new day for this great show. Fortunately for all of us, Randy is still a huge part of it as a mentor, and I think the kids are going to be very lucky to have him on their side."

Season 13 of American Idol premieres on Jan. 15 and Jan. 16 with two-hour-long episodes at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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