With a new judge (Ellen DeGeneres) on the panel, Randy Jackson predicts that "American Idol's" ninth season will be "interesting" as well as "a very, very cool, nice year...an exciting, different time."
"Hopefully we can find a girl who can take the crown from the boys who won the last two years," Jackson tells Billboard.com, referring to 2009 champ Kris Allen and 2008 winner David Cook. "I'd love to see a girl come up."
Though DeGeneres won't be part of the "Idol" judging process until the Jan. 12 premiere on Fox, Jackson expects her to be a "fun" addition to the show. He adds that he and returning judges Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi enjoyed having guest judges for the regional auditions in June and July and call-backs in August and September, a corps that included Mary J. Blige, Joe Jonas, Shania Twain, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, the Spice Girls' Victoria Beckham, Neil Patrick Harris and Kristin Chenoweth.
"They all really did their thing," Jackson recalls. "Of course, Mary J. Blige was really amazing. I was impressed with Joe Jonas; I didn't really know how he would be, but he was great. Shania was brilliant...Even Neil Patrick Harris and Kristin Chenoweth, who were both from the theater world, were really amazing and had great things to say."
Jackson was also surprised by what he heard in front of the judges table during the audition process. "I think generally what happens is whoever wins that season, you get more and more of that. But this season's a little different. I would've thought you'd have a trillion Adam Lamberts show up, or a trillion Kris Allens. But that's not what happened. It was very interesting. This is a whole different bunch."
Jackson says he'll miss Paula Abdul this year -- "She started this thing with us. It's a sad thing...not to have her there." -- but noted that DioGuardi seems more comfortable after having an "Idol" year under her belt. "I think she's got a different grasp on understanding what it is and what happens and how to do it," he says. "It's one of those things, like golf or tennis; it looks easy on the outside, then when you try and actually hit the ball you go, 'Whoa, OK, it's a little different than what I thought.' But, yeah, she's having a good time."
As for rumors about Cowell leaving "Idol" to bring his British "X-Factor" to the U.S., Jackson says that "I won't believe it 'til I see it. I haven't spoken to him about it. You just never really know; there are a lot of alleged things going on, but who knows, right? We'll see what happens."