Harry Connick Jr. can’t wait for the final season of “American Idol.” The judge, singer and actor sat down to talk about the upcoming season while attending a sneak peek event at the iHeartRadio offices in Burbank on Thursday afternoon.
Connick started out by praising the overall depth of the group of artists that had made it through the audition process for this final season.
“The greatest thing about this group of 24 is that they’re more ready for this ‘Idol’ experience, I think, than some of the top 24s in the past. For example, there were some kids that we hoped would do well that petered out over the competition in previous years and we would put people through based on how well we thought they would do, which is a lot of pressure to put on somebody,” Connick said. “So this year we decided, ‘Look, let’s put people that we think are more suited to the competition, as opposed to super raw talent that’s not quite ready for this.’ So that’s a big difference and the 24 that we have are very good.”
The reality show kicks off its fifteenth and final season in January. “We’re savoring the moment as best as we can,” Connick said.
He also explained that he remains as much in the dark as most of the fans are about what is coming up in the new year. “I am literally the last person to know. Somebody just said that the first three judges are coming back and that’s the first I heard of it about ten minutes ago, so that’d be great, but they don’t tell us that stuff.”
Host Ryan Seacrest and judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban will join Connick on the panel for the final season. Seacrest has also teased appearances by former judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and others throughout the season, and Nigel Lythgoe is returning to exec produce the final episode.
Connick reflected on his previous two seasons as a judge on the show. “I like the experience. I like coming out to L.A. and sitting on that panel and being around that excitement of seeing new talent for the first time. I mean, we get paid to sit up there and listen to music all day. I love that, I love to listen to music.”
He also joked about the downside of being associated with a show that discovers new musical talent. “I’ve been on airplanes and people will come up to me and say, ‘Listen to my daughter.’ That gets a little old after a while.”
“I would like people to remember my small contribution as one of sincerity and honesty. Because the only thing I care about is that I can be truthful and spontaneous with these kids,” Connick said. “The first year, I would say things, and a lot of people would boo. It didn’t bother me, it just was interesting and over the last two years I’ve noticed that that doesn’t happen. Because I think people start to realize that I’m not trying to hurt them.”
Before he introduced the 24 semi-finalists for sneak peek performances, Connick summed up his experience on the show. “It’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I’ve gotten a chance to meet some incredible entertainers such as my co-judges Jennifer and Keith and hang out with Ryan, who I think is absolutely the best in the business.”
He concluded by reiterating his excitement about the final crop of “American Idol” contestants. “I’m able to hear some of the greatest musicians that I know playing. I can assure you that this group of 24 is not only one of the most remarkably talented that I’ve been privileged to hear, but, I think, per capita, they probably have the highest percentage of performers that are ready to go.”