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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 9

'American Idol' judge Randy Jackson: Simon Cowell talk distracting

By Christopher Rocchio, 01/09/2010 

While he personally hasn't been distracted by reports that Simon Cowell is leaving American Idol, Randy Jackson says it has impacted the show.

"In terms of the show I'm sure it's pretty much a distraction because I think people get a little sidetracked with that. Listen, there are contestants. This is a singing competition. What is this really about?" Jackson told reporters during a Friday conference call.

"Let's also focus on what we're judging and what the actual more meat of the show really is. It's about finding that next superstar talent."

Rumors have been circulating that Cowell might leave the Fox reality competition after his current contract expires at the end of the upcoming ninth season to instead focus on launching his U.K. The X Factor reality series stateside.

While even Cowell's older brother has definitively stated that he is leaving Idol at the end of the ninth season, Jackson said he won't believe it until he hears it straight from the horse's mouth.

"Until I really hear it from him, I'm not going to believe any rumors or anything -- there's so many rumors and speculation about everything going on. The thing that I've just been saying is we've got an exciting, very different season going on for the show," Jackson told reporters.

"I'm just looking forward to the season because the rumors just get so wild and crazy, you just don't know what to believe."

Despite all the chatter about Cowell's Idol exit, Jackson said he hasn't been pondering his own swan song with the show.

"I haven't really thought about my end," he told reporters. "I'm contracted for a couple more seasons. It's really hard to predict."

American Idol's ninth season will premiere on Tuesday at 8PM ET/PT with the first of several audition episodes, and Jackson acknowledged he is starting to grow "a little impatient" at the lack of talent displayed by some hopefuls.

"You've watched the show, you know what the show is, you see every year that somebody great wins the show -- the top three or four or five or 10 people are all great singers -- so you just wonder, 'What are they seeing that I'm not seeing?' It's like we're not on the same page," he said.

The audition episode broadcasts will have Jackson, Cowell and Kara DioGuardi working alongside a series of guest judges after Paula Abdul announced last summer that she was leaving American Idol.

"All the guest judges on the Idol auditions gave a different perspective because they've all been performers of all different types, and different types of music and stage and record and everything," Jackson told reporters.

While he enjoyed working with the guest judges, Jackson said it was difficult without Abdul since she's "really near and dear" to him.

"She's one of my best friends. I talked to her a couple of days ago, we speak all the time. The whole thing started with me, [host Ryan Seacrest], Simon and her -- so it's like she's one of our best friends, and she still is. I miss that," said Jackson.

"I look down the table sometimes and go, 'Wait a minute? Where's Paula?' I expect to hear something from my left, and I go, 'Wait a minute? That doesn't sound like Paula.' So it's going to take a little getting used to. We're really sad about that."

Ellen DeGeneres was tapped to replace Abdul, and Jackson described her as "funny, charismatic, and really cool."

"She's great. We've had a relationship for a long time -- I've known her for quite some time, so has Ryan Seacrest, we're really good friends with her," he said. "I think we're going to have a very funny, interesting season ahead of us. They'll be a lot of laughs."

While Jackson, Cowell and DioGuardi won't work directly with DeGeneres until the "Hollywood Round" -- which is taking place next week and will be broadcast early next month -- Jackson assured viewers that there will be a different feel to the judging panel.

"It's definitely going to be a different dynamic with completely different people. Ellen's different than Paula, and she's going to interact with Simon and interact with me and Kara very differently," he explained. "It's going to be very interesting, wild, crazy, exciting season I think."

Since Idol's last two winners were both males, Jackson said he's expecting big things from female contestants.

"The last couple seasons, boys have won. I sat there this last season scratching my head going, 'Dude, where are the girls? Where do all the ladies live?'" he said.

"I think there's some really talented girls that showed up this time and I also think that what changes the show from year-to-year are the contestants that we get.

Jackson added he was surprised that more ninth-season hopefuls didn't emulate eighth-season winner Kris Allen or runner-up Adam Lambert.

"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," he explained.

"Usually whoever wins or comes in No. 2, the next season of auditions you have a lot of those kind of people -- it's almost like it was a signal to everyone at home like them, 'Now it's time to tryout for American Idol!' But it didn't happen like that this time."

While the contestants change, Jackson said he uses the same criteria to judge the hopefuls.

"I'm looking for the big three," he said. "You've got to have undeniable talent, you've got to have something that makes you unique, and you've got to have some star persona."

"American Idol" judge Randy Jackson said on Friday he did not know whether fellow panelist Simon Cowell would be leaving the show but fevered speculation on his future was a distraction from the TV singing contest's mission of finding the next superstar.

Jackson also told reporters ahead of Tuesday's 9th season opener of the top-rated U.S. show that he missed departed judge Paula Abdul, and that the dynamics on the panel had changed.

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