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Judge Mariah

Mariah Carey joins Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson to judge Season 12 of American Idol. A t2 email chat...

Why the decision to judge American Idol?

Initially, I had my reservations but my husband (Nick Cannon) really wanted me to do this. I didn’t know how I would adapt to this situation. It’s a huge deal. But then I said to myself, ‘Just do the show. It has produced stars who have had major careers.’

American Idol is loved the world over. Any special moment you remember from the fanchise?

American Idol is the biggest show. It has changed trends in music. It’s created massive superstars and I think people are going to have massive careers. There was one time in particular when a girl sang one of my songs; I thought that she was really good and she was beautiful and I was like, ‘This girl has a chance’.

Which has been your favourite season and your favourite contestant?

That’s really hard to say. A lot of them are very different, you go from a Carrie Underwood to a Fantasia and they’re very different in their approach and their style, but they’re both amazing. But I would just say I have so much more respect for the process of this whole thing that just sitting here and seeing people go through it, I’m like ‘wow’ for the people that have gone on this show and gone on to have a career afterwards. Whether they won or didn’t win, that’s just amazing.

What will be the biggest challenge as a judge?

I find it harder to say ‘no’ (to a contestant) once we start making connections with people.

What will you be looking for in a contestant?

I feel like I get really attached to certain people for different reasons. You know, sometimes I see myself in some of the contestants. Like when I first started.... I don’t know if I have a judging style. I try to speak as frankly as possible, but as kindly as possible, not sugar-coating the whole thing because that does nobody any good and that’s boring to watch.

You are judging the show with Randy Jackson, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj. What is your equation with them?

We have to go against each other sometimes to say, ‘But wait, this person has something amazing! Maybe you’re not seeing it. It’s a little bit beyond your comprehension at this moment, but there’s something great about this person.’ We’re also unanimous about a lot of great people that are here! We’re excited about the people that are here right now. We all feel that they’re above average in talent and personality.

Your face-off with Nicki Minaj, which prompted you to beef up your security, has been publicised widely…

This is a very passionate panel. There are a lot of strong personalities. The fighting is what it is. This is American Idol. It is bigger than some stupid trumped-up thing. It is about the next superstar.... The whole thing is convoluted. It is a distraction from the show and the contestants.

American Idol symbolises the fulfilment of a dream for one lucky talent. Growing up, what was Mariah Carey’s biggest dream?

I have been blessed to live my dream for more than half my life, so I want to help give that back to someone else.

His songs get stuck in the head –– Somebody Like You, Days Go By, Once In A Lifetime, Making Memories Of Us, Sweet Thing –– and he has as his wife one of the sexiest faces in Hollywood (Nicole Kidman, silly). And now, Keith Urban is judging American Idol. An email chat with t2...

First things first, what made you sign on as judge for American Idol?

I wanted to do Idol because I love the opportunity to not only help somebody, but when you see somebody come in with raw talent and you know that with just a little bit of shaping and guidance he or she can blossom over the course of the whole series. That’s exciting stuff.

American Idol has had some fantastic participants –– Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Fantasia Barrino. But has the show changed the way singers get spotted?

American Idol has given birth to legitimate artistes; not just people who were popular for a particular season and then faded away. In a lot of cases, those who didn’t win — the (Chris) Daughtrys, the Adam Lamberts — have gone on to sell records and have “real” careers. There was this credibility factor...

Your equation with Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj –– your co-judges?

We’re putting the “fun” in dysfunction. It feels like I’ve joined this band in some ways. We’ve got two girl singers and two guys in the band. It just feels like a band to me. The whole thing is fun. With eight studio albums to your credit, how do you want to make your music evolve? I want to play those big indoor stadiums. To have 10,000 or 15,000 people out there having a ball — that’s what it’s all about.

Any new sounds that have interested you since the release of Get Closer in 2010?

You know, I think people are becoming more accustomed to mash-ups and things like that these days. Hearing unusual sounds that you think would be unusual together… but then again they don’t sound so strange when played back to back.

Have your daughters (Faith Margaret and Sunday Rose Kidman-Urban) changed the way you compose music?

I lead a much healthier life these days. I’m an “athlete” making a living because our shows are long and incredibly demanding… physically. But it also keeps me in good shape for our daughters, who desperately want to have daddy swing them way up high at 6am… even if dad got home at 4am!

Over the years you have had several guitars. Which are your favourites?

The red Strat was my main guitar when I came to the States (from Australia). In 1989 I arrived with my manager for a music seminar in New York and saw this amazing 40th anniversary custom-shop Telecaster. It was unbelievable, and it had my name “written” all over it. I think it cost maybe $2,500, which was a fortune. So I borrowed money from friends, took it back to Australia, and used it to cut my first solo album for EMI (Australia) in 1990. The guitar was so precious that I didn’t want to play it live, so I played my beat-up old Strat. I just kept the Tele under the bed.

Finally, what’s playing on your car stereo?

The Afterlife by Paul Simon.


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