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'American Idol' judges talk what sets the show apart from competitors, why Jennifer Lopez came back

By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 01/16/2014 

American Idol's new thirteenth-season judging panel has opened up about what they believe sets Idol apart from other reality singing competitions such as The Voice and The X Factor.

"I don't think about the other shows a whole lot, but I think about the format of Idol. It's the original; It's the cleanest one," Harry Connick Jr. said during a Wednesday appearance with fellow Idol judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

"You start with this many people and you narrow it down to have one winner. It just seems like the most streamline, sort of, Cinderella story to me, and it just works. I think that's why they keep churning up megastar after megastar. I mean, it's a great show for that."

"I mean, it's a simple format that really has so many complex emotions with it, and that's what I love about it," Lopez chimed in.

"You follow somebody and you get to see their dream come true, and you see all these people kind of going forward. It's the American dream, it's what everybody wants -- that one opportunity to do what you've always wanted to do. It's just captivating to watch that, and then as you get to know the contestants throughout, there's nothing flashy about it or over-produced. It just is what it is."

Connick Jr. said one thing that surprised him as a new judge on the show was how much undiscovered talent there still is out there.

"I think the fact that there's so much talent out there, like they just keep coming, [surprises me]. Don't you think at some point there wouldn't be [talent left]? It's like granite. When you go into a new hotel and there's granite lied out, it's like, we're never going to run out! The talent keeps coming. We're going to run out at some point. But I'm telling you, the talent is crazy," the actor and music producer explained.

The talent is apparently a major reason why Lopez decided to return to Idol to begin with. She judged the show's tenth and eleventh seasons but took last year off when the series' twelfth edition aired.

"I never planned to do Idol for more than one year, and then I did two years because I fell in love with all the people there. I always was a fan of the show. And the reason I fell so in love with it is because I loved going to work every day," Lopez said, admitting that she didn't even watch last season.

"I didn't. I didn't get to watch it. I heard a lot about it, but I didn't watch it at all because I was on tour all last year. So I didn't get to see it."

"Because they don't have televisions on tour, Jennifer," Connick Jr. interjected sarcastically.

"You're not watching your regular TV shows like when you're at home. When you're on the road, you don't really get into that routine," Lopez clarified.

When DeGeneres attempted to confirm that Lopez, in fact, did not see the "madness" of last season unfold -- which was a lot of drama centered around former judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey -- Lopez replied, "No, but I heard about it."

Unlike last season, Connick Jr., Lopez and Urban insisted they are getting along great and having a wonderful time together on the judging panel.

"It's a blast. It's so fun," Connick Jr. noted. "The people that are sitting up here are exactly what you think. They're the coolest people, they're laid back, we're having so much fun. It really is a lot of fun."

In addition to joking that Lopez can make it rain when sitting on the panel, Connick Jr. added, "This beautiful woman right here, there's a reason that she's a superstar. She's amazing and I get to sit next to her every day. I get to sit next to Keith. It's just cool. It's exactly what you would want a great show like American Idol to be."

Lopez also raved about her fellow judges and said they're all having "a great time."

"Harry is hil-ar-i-ous. He's hilarious," the singer explained. "And Keith is just the sweetest person, and again, they're just so knowledgeable about music. And I feel like I'm learning things all the time... It's just a great combination. As similar as we are, we're that different and it works."

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