Jennifer Lopez told an audience of “American Idol” fans at Royce Hall on the UCLA Campus that if she were a contestant and could choose her own judges, she would pick the “nice ones” — Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Abdul, and herself.
“We all love Ellen,” said new judge Harry Connick Jr. “Ellen’s pretty fun.”
Idol’s newest panel, Lopez, Connick, and Keith Urban, all participated in a town hall meeting moderated by host Ryan Seacrest for a live audience and live streamed from other locations including Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Nashville. Additional questions were fielded from Twitter.
Off camera, Season 12 winner Candice Glover made an appearance to promote her debut album, MusicSpeaks, which she told the Los Angeles-based crowd will be released on Feb. 18. She read some Idol trivia questions and gave away prizes before Seacrest and the panel appeared on the stage.
The live audience clearly enjoyed the camaraderie of the panel, with one fan complimenting how well they all were getting along, and Connick agreed.
“There were about 20 times when we got into it,” he said. “But we love each other and it’s based on respect.”
Prior to the Q&A portion, the audience was treated to a pre-taped taste of the new season. The audience had a strong reaction to a contestant who was originally from Pakistan but based in Sugar Land, Texas who wowed Connick with his audition-and ended up being cradled in the judge’s arms “like a baby.”
Questions were fan based, including inquiries about the show, personal preferences, career decisions, and ended with Urban jumping into the audience and draping his arm around a woman who just wanted a hug from her own idol, Lopez.
Highlights included a question about which judge is the hardest to impress, with the entire room shouting “Harry,” and the judge agreed, admitting that it looks that way because “I listen so intently to every single contestant.”
“I think we have a pretty low standard right now and yes I am hard to impress because I think we can do better than what’s out there,” he said in the most candid moment of the show. “Let’s get really real. It has nothing to do with talent. It has to do with a standard. This is America man…It’s the greatest country in the world. We have access to get any musical education…It’s all on your phone.”
He then threw down a challenge to young performers to “work at your frickin craft!”
As far as advice Urban would want as a contestant? He already got it when he was 16, but the harsh criticism didn’t end his career.
“I had a lot to learn about my craft,” he admitted, adding that the judge told him “You kind of just open your mouth and sound is coming out, but I can tell you enjoy it. Learn more about singing properly.”
Urban added that he was enjoying contestants auditioning with instruments, and acknowledged that finding raw talent can be a challenge in a time when there is a lot of “trickery” masking voices that are not necessarily stellar.
What he is looking for, he said, is a “feeling that connects with me.”
But what it’s really all about, Lopez said, is finding a star.
“Somebody that will have a sustained career over a long period of time,” she said.
- This article first appeared on THR.com