By Jay Bobbin - Boston Herald 1/4/2015
If it’s January, it must be time to start seeking a new “American Idol.”
The twice-weekly Fox talent competition launches its 14th season Wednesday, and Thursday, as host Ryan Seacrest again introduces the initial audition rounds that also involve returning judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban. A notable change is the absence of founding participant Randy Jackson, who’s succeeded as the contestants’ professional mentor by Scott Borchetta, the Big Machine record-label chief who nurtured Taylor Swift’s career.
“We have a very strong Hollywood Week this year,” Seacrest promises of the season that will find the “Idol” who follows last year’s winner, Caleb Johnson. “We came out of it with some great talent and great characters. I think we have a diverse group, so I’m more anxious than I have been — even in the last couple years — to introduce them to America.”
As Connick enters his second year seated beside Lopez and Urban, Seacrest believes the judges “know exactly what they’re looking for. They all mutually respect each other so much, but when we started (taping) this season, they all got together and identified what the ingredients were for the kind of performers we needed. And I think they found them.”
This time, the audition trail covered such cities as Nashville, Tenn., New Orleans and San Francisco, but Urban missed the New York-area tryouts due to the passing of wife Nicole Kidman’s father. While enjoying a hugely successful run with his current album, “Fuse” (“It’s gone beyond all my expectations,” he says), he’s pleased to return for his third season of “Idol” duty.
“I love doing it,” the friendly country star maintains. “Each year, the rhythm feels a little more fluid to me. I feel a little better about what I’m listening for, what I’m feeling for, what I respond to, and — hopefully — how to articulate that.”
Urban’s assessments have proven specific and constructive, though he allows, “Everybody’s in a different place to hear feedback, particularly if there’s any kind of criticism ... which is a strange word, because it already sounds harsh. I think the hardest time is when you already know you gave a subpar performance, so you already know you’re struggling with certain things.
“The main thing I don’t want to do is humiliate anybody in front of everybody,” Urban notes, “but I do want to point out things. At the end of the day, there’s always something to work on, so I try hard to look at that. And the other thing I never forget is that when anybody gives advice, it’s often something they need to hear themselves. I’ll often do that and then think, ‘Hmm. I think that was more intended for me.’ ”