IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

‘Idol’ judges say there’s no cruel streak this year

“American Idol” judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul say they’re no crueler than usual this year, and that people who audition should know what they’re going to get.
/ Source: The Associated Press

“American Idol” judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul say they’re no crueler than usual this year, and that people who audition should know what they’re going to get.

“If you don’t want to hear that, don’t show up,” Cowell told television writers at a news conference on Saturday.

The talent show returned with a storm this past week, with episodes on Tuesday and Wednesday attracting around 37 million viewers. The episodes featured auditions by the good, the bad and the awful from Minneapolis and Seattle.

Cowell, whose reputation for blunt, nasty put-downs was established at the series’ beginning, was in peak form, telling one contestant that his singing was horrendous and he looked like a “bush baby.” Jackson told one contestant his audition was awful and perhaps ruined his business.

“You shouldn’t be a vocal teacher,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t take vocal lessons from you, I wouldn’t tell anybody to take vocal lessons from you.”

On ABC’s “The View” this past week, Rosie O’Donnell lashed out at the way contestants were treated by “three millionaires, one probably intoxicated.”

“If you keep serving people crap and telling them it’s a meal, they’re eventually going to think it is a meal,” O’Donnell said.

Jackson said the judges are continually surprised at how people who should know they can’t sing show up thinking they have a chance. They should see what it takes by the people who have won before, he said.

“I think they’re aware that they’re not very good and they’re going to have a bad time,” Cowell said.

Jackson cited William Hung, who won fame through his famously bad “She Bang” audition a few years back. “Do you think that William Hung is mad that he came on the show?” he asked.

During the Seattle audition, the show aired a performance of “God Bless America” by Jonathan Jayne, who was criticized by the judges. The New York Times later reported that Jayne had said he had appeared in Special Olympics, an event for the mentally challenged.

Ken Warwick, one of the show’s producers, said it was not possible to look into the backgrounds of everyone on the show.

Abdul also faced questions Saturday about a television appearance, circulated through a YouTube clip, where she appeared loopy. She blamed the appearance on technical difficulties that made her hear questions from two different reporters in her earpiece at the same time.

“I was being light,” she said.

Peter Liguori, Fox entertainment president, said the judges know what makes “Idol” and that this is just the continuation of a successful formula.

“Let’s face it, the show has been on the air six years, the judges have been critical for six years,” he said.

The judges’ harsh assessments also were defended by Geffen Records chairman Ron Fair, who is about to take on a Cowell-like role on an upcoming talent show for the CW network, “Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll.”

“In order to have a reputation and continue in a healthy manner in this business, you have to tell people ‘no’ all day long,” he said. “I’m telling people ’I’m not going to sign you, that song is not a hit’ ... And there’s no gracious or wonderful way to tell somebody, whose hopes and dreams are on the line: ‘no.”’