Harry Connick Jr. is not exactly new to the judge’s table on “American Idol.”
Connick has been a guest mentor on the show in the past. But last season, he made a brief though memorable appearance alongside the judges when Keith Urban dragged him from the audience to the stage when it became apparent Connick had something to say.
Taking a seat, the crooner made it clear that he didn’t think the four remaining finalists understood the melody or lyrics of the American standards they were singing, such as “My Funny Valentine” and “Stormy Weather,” well enough to take liberties with the songs, like eventual winner Candice Glover’s church-inspired runs.
Connick’s point led to a clash with judge Randy Jackson that nearly overshadowed the ongoing feud between fellow judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.
It also got the attention of producers.
“You know, they kinda wanted to know if I would be interested in it,” Connick told E! in May, following his appearance on the show. “It’s a fun show. It’s been talked about before. Who knows what’ll happen in the future. What I’ve done thus far on the show has been really fun, so I’ve had a great time.”
Connick sounded off on what he thinks are the judges’ responsibilities.
“I think you need to be completely honest, and I think you need to be diplomatic. I think there’s no reason to be mean, but it is called being a ‘judge.’ You have to judge. That’s what you do,” he told E!
M.J. Santilli, who writes about the show on her widely read blog MJ’s Big Blog, is looking forward to having Connick on the panel.
“He’s a straight shooter and not afraid to be constructive in his criticism,” she said. “He’s also not afraid to mix it up with other judges.”
“If he disagrees with them, he will let know, but I don’t think you’re going to have toxic atmosphere of last season,” she added. “They are all professional.”
Though the panel is made up of three singers, Santilli pointed out that they come from “really different musical worlds.”
Urban emphasizes storytelling and expressing emotions through music, Lopez excels at the glitz and glamour and stagecraft, and Connick will bring the musicality and tradition. “I think he will demand a lot from the contestants,” she said.
Santilli said the reaction from readers of her blog to Connick joining the panel has been overwhelmingly positive, unlike when Nicki Minaj was announced last year.
After the Minaj-Carey gamble, “the talk was that ‘Idol’ was going to shake things up, but they didn’t really. Everyone on the panel has been on the show before,” Santilli pointed out.
Even Jackson will be back, though this time in the mentor role that Jimmy Iovine once held.
With MTV veterans Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager at the helm of the show this year, Santilli expects to see a different look to the live performances and some fiddling with the Hollywood rounds.
Already the show’s logo got a Super Bowl-style overhaul, as in “American Idol XIII.”