One of the biggest questions of FOX’s January TCA Press Day is sure to be whether Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey will pretend to be friendly at their first “American Idol” panel or if they’ll pretend to fight.
Will they sit next to each other?
Will they make out?
Oh, the excitement… Click through for the full live-blog…
10:41 a.m. To the surprise of everybody [nobody] the “Idol” panel is running a bit late. You can blame “The Following” panel for running long if you like. Sepinwall is writing about the panel now.
10:57 a.m. The first question is about how country music has grown on the show. “We’ve always embraced all styles of music,” insists Randy Jackson. He adds that Keith is “a tremendous super-star talent.”
10:58 a.m. If you’re curious, Keith Urban is currently the country music filling in the Mariah/Nicki filling on the seating chart.
10:59 a.m. A questioner accuses Mariah and Nicki of a fake feud. “Whatever feuds there’ve been, it isn’t just between Nicki and Mariah,” says Nigel Lythgoe. Randy and Keith have been fighting as well. Apparently. “It’s authentic. There’s passion in this group,” says Mike Darnell.
11:04 a.m. Mariah asks where the questioner is from, before echoing that “this is a very passionate panel.” She says there are “a lot of strong personalities.” “One thing that I think is great is that it’s such a diverse group of people,” she insists. “The fighting is what it is. This is ‘American Idol.’ It’s bigger than all that,” Mariah says. “The opinions are different, but that’s what we want,” Ken Warwick adds. “We’ve always, every season, had passionate people,” maintains Randy Jackson. “We’re all passionate about these kids and these contestants,” Jackson says. Producer Trish Kinane says that “the kids” told them that they want “honest” and “passion” from the judging panel. “They’re not shrinking violets. They say what they think and we encourage that,” Kinane adds.
11:04 a.m. Is Mike Darnell worried about view fatigue? And what is the new twist for this season? “I think it’s actually a renewal every couple years,” Darnell says, swearing that the new panel and it’s “energy” have reinvigorated the show. “This is still the King of the Shows,” Darnell says, adding that “Idol” is the only show that makes stars.
11:06 a.m. Lythgoe says that “Idol” went to smaller towns this year. “We found new ways to find the talent,” he says. “The girls are pretty strong this year, stronger than the boys,” Nigel says, acknowledging the “spate” of “White Boy With Guitar” contestants. Well, at least he reads some of the criticisms. “I think it’s a girls’ season to lose this year,” Randy says.
11:07 a.m. “Can you each say something you liked and admired about the other?” a report asks Mariah and Nicki. “I say nice things about Mariah all the time,” Nicki says, calling Mariah “one of my favorite artists of all times.” “To be on a panel with her, it’s kinda crazy, because all these singers who come in, they aspire to be a Mariah Carey in terms of their talent and in terms of their career length,” Nicki says. “That was obviously a very sweet thing to say,” Mariah says, apologizing for “a little sinus infection.” Mariah then recalls working with Nicki early in her career and then she says she’s grateful to hear anything nice anybody has to say.
11:10 a.m. “Nothing to write about now,” Seacrest says.
11:10 a.m. Nicki admits that she was “still not 100 percent sold” on “American Idol” up until days before she signed her contract. “I just realized that I’ve made a lot of difficult choices in my career,” she says, knowing that she might never get a chance to be on something this big. “It’s a credible show. I know it’s really going to produce a superstar,” Nicki says.
11:12 a.m. The thing Keith found most surprising was how quickly they got down to business. They all had busy schedules. Mariah recalls when “Idol” was just the little show Randy was going to be doing. “I was really tough for me to say ‘No’ in the beginning,” Mariah says. “I used to duck my head like, ‘No,'” Mariah says, remembering how tough it was to get rejection when she was young. Keith Urban says that in his experience, the negative people have been more influential in his motivation than the positive. He doesn’t want to be “brutal or cold or callous,” but they want to be truthful. “When I watch these shows and somebody says ‘Yes’ to somebody who clearly doesn’t deserve it, it bothers me. It bothers me in my soul,” says Nicki, who had no trouble saying “No.” Of past experience watching judging on the show, Minaj says, “I didn’t like when people would be overtly passive about the talent.” She says that merely having a sob story shouldn’t benefit a performer.
11:16 a.m. “We’re actually giving them a lot of amazing advice each week,” Randy says of performers getting the chance to grow. [Seriously, Randy? Have you watched you?] “It’s tough when they don’t listen and they come back and they do the same thing,” Mariah says. “It’s hard, but that’s what it’s like,” Jackson adds.
11:18 a.m. Darnell says this group’s adaptation process, “They knew what they wanted pretty damn quick.” Nigel and Mike agree that the pool of talent going to Hollywood depends on how much talent they saw. Nigel agrees there were fewer boys advancing to Hollywood. “I was there to the bitter end fighting for this little 16-year-old kid,” Mariah recalls of a specific favorite who didn’t advance. “It’s only human nature that you’re going to have favorites,” Nicki says, remembering a couple instances of telling contestants to step it up because she couldn’t go out on a limb for them anymore. She mentions one contestant she calls “Obama Girl,” who nobody else thought could sing, but who was full of personality. “It must be remembered that the judges are not mentors,” Nigel tells us, helpfully. Mariah is not a fan of excuses. She says that there’s diversity in the type of voices they got this season. “For me, I felt that that diversity was hugely important,” she says, but she notes that it makes it harder to know where to put the bar for judgment. “You wait for them to bloom,” Randy says, remembering that Jessica Sanchez didn’t blossom until the Las Vegas round last year.
11:23 a.m. More babble about tensions between Mariah and Nicki, including the video that came out. Did things get better? And how? “You know what it is? It’s a distraction from the show and it’s a distraction from the contestants and I think that’s unfair to them?” Mariah says. Nicki and Randy agree that “Idol” isn’t a show that should be about the judges. Nicki keeps babbling something about a sex tape. “We’re professionals. Have you ever had an argument with someone you’ve worked with?” Nicki asks. “It was sort of one-sided,” Mariah says. “No it wasn’t!” Nicki says. “Hi Keith Urban. Hi Keith,” Randy says to his fellow judge sitting quietly between the divas.
11:26 a.m. A reporter asks Nicki if it’s time to have an “American Idol” who can rap or MC. “I definitely don’t think a rapper should be in this type of competition. Rap and hip-hop is completely different from ‘American Idol,'” Nicki says without hesitation. She says the hip-hop community values credibility in a way that isn’t required by “Idol.” “I would never go on a show like this as a rapper and I wouldn ‘t encourage anybody else to,” Nicki says. “I think America loves that it’s an honest singing competition and I’m not here to change that,” Nicki says.
11:28 a.m. “I personally would never have wanted to do this type of show, no offense to this show,” Mariah says. She valued the tough learning process she had to go through. She relates to these kids and their youth. “I think I was a little bit shy and unpolished in the beginning in order to be on one of these shows,” Mariah says. “These shows are not necessarily for everyone,” Randy says, prioritizing “nerves of steel” for this process.
11:31 a.m. Keith Urban actually did three talent shows as a kid, including “Pot of Gold” and “Stairway to the Stars.” “I don’t think you ever get out of paying your dues,” Keith says. While “Idol” gives artists a platform, “You’re gonna have to learn the ropes,” Urban says.
11:32 a.m. They agree that “it’s just life” to see somebody with talent who can’t quite make it to the finish line and become a success. Randy repeats that a lot of what keeps people from becoming stars is not listening to them.
11:33 a.m. Jimmy Iovine will be back.
11:33 a.m. Keith did “The Voice” in Australia. He enjoyed that experience and loved helping artists share their talent. But he also loves the warmth and family atmosphere he’s found with this group.
11:34 a.m. Who are the newbies’ idols? Jay-Z and Bob Marley are among Nicki’s idols. Mariah lists folks like Stevie Wonder and Aretha and Whitney Houston and many, many others, but she adds “I have an eclectic background.” “I was going to say all of my idols are sitting up here,” Randy insists. Keith grew up on American country, but he loved specific songs from Elton John to ELO. “From a performance standpoint, I still look to Springsteen,” Urban says. “Without these three, I have no career,” Seacrest says.
11:37 a.m. Are there any tweaks to the format? There were 276 people who went to Hollywood this year, if you care. There’s no quota year-to-year. Nigel says that tweaks include the bus they sent around America, as well as the “I Nominate” process. In Hollywood, they separated the boys and the girls, to focus on the different talent. They’re also going to be separated in Vegas and until we get to the Top 10.
11:39 a.m. Are the judges worried about taking time and energy away from their own careers? “I’ve actually been balancing my career with the show the whole time,” Nicki says. “It’s not like we come to work Monday through Friday 9-to-5,” Nicki says, adding that she’s going to record verses for other peoples’ albums later today. Mariah agrees. She’s working on a new record right now, but this has been good for her, because it has required her to stop and take a break. She’s also got two babies, but she adds, “Yay nannies.”
That’s it for this panel… Exec session next…