Harry Connick Jr to return to American Idol as judge

Singer Harry Connick Jr, who joined as an American Idol judge this season, is set on returning next year. -- PHOTO: MATTHIAS VRIENS-MCGRATH AND STARWORLD
Singer Harry Connick Jr, who joined as an American Idol judge this season, is set on returning next year. -- PHOTO: MATTHIAS VRIENS-MCGRATH AND STARWORLD

American Idol judge says it trumps other reality TV singing shows despite slide in ratings

As the latest American Idol winner is crowned this morning, it is hard not to notice that the show has been fast losing its shine - ratings have plunged over the years and the show received its lowest viewership ratings ever this year.

Several recent episodes in its latest 13th season this year pulled in seven million viewers - a far cry from the show's heady days, when it had up to 37 million viewers a show.

Singer Harry Connick Jr, 46, who joined as a new judge this season, appears unfazed by the show's decline.

"I'm going to do the same thing I'm doing whether there're 50 million people or five million people. It hasn't affected me," he says of the ratings.

Speaking in a telephone conference with the international press, the three-time Grammy winner from New Orleans adds that American Idol trumps other similar reality television singing shows such as The Voice and The X Factor.

"It's the best of these shows in terms of format. It's the cleanest, it's been around for a long time and it's very familiar to people. Most importantly, it's produced the most stars. You could go on and on about the people who have come through this show and had huge careers and recognition and I think it's a testament to the simplicity of the show and to the creators for constantly reinventing and making it relevant year after year."

Today's show will determine which of the two aspiring singers - Jena Irene, 17, or Caleb Johnson, 23, will emerge the show's 13th winner and join the likes of past champions such as Kelly Clarkson (2002) and Carrie Underwood (2005). The results show will be telecast live on Star World (StarHub TV Channel 501, SingTel mio TV Channel 301).

In 2010, Connick appeared on American Idol for the first time as a mentor to the top five finalists in the ninth season. He did a similar stint for the 12th season's top four finalists last year.

His stint as judge this season, alongside singeractress Jennifer Lopez and country star Keith Urban, has received praise for bringing in advanced musical theories and ideas in his critique of the contestants.

"I always just wanted to be honest and specific. It wasn't like I'm going to go out there and give a music lesson every week. I wasn't trying to do that but there were some instances when I thought it was appropriate to maybe get a bit more technical," says the man who is best known to music fans as the top jazz singer in the United States, with 11 albums which have topped the jazz charts.

"But you have to do that in doses because it is a primetime entertainment show as well as a music competition, so finding a balance was, I think, an important thing for me."

Participating in the growth of the contestants from the auditions to the finals has been an insightful experience for Connick, a father of three daughters aged 11 to 18 with former Victoria's Secret model Jill Goodacre.

"Watching the evolution has been nothing short of mind-blowing. It's just incredible to see what they choose to do every week, to see them reach new heights, to see them have their setbacks, it's been incredible."

Connick, who has sold 16 million albums worldwide, is already set on returning for the show's next season next year.

"I had a blast, I'm gonna be coming back next year. It's just an amazing journey and I look forward to doing it again."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg

American Idol's Season Finale Part 2 airs live on Star World (StarHub TV Channel 501, SingTel mio TV Channel 301) today at 8am. Encore telecasts at 6 and 8pm.

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