Idol: Randy Jackson Will Discourage Overdone Songs, Be More 'Hands-On' in New Mentor Role

american-idol-randy-jackson-season-13-mentor-“I Have Nothing,” “Hallelujah,” and “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now),” consider yourselves on notice.

American Idol‘s former judge and new in-house mentor Randy Jackson said he will “absolutely” try to dissuade Season 13 contestants from tackling done-to-death songs when the live performance shows begin next week — especially if said ditties have been covered in memorable fashion by prior standouts.

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In those instances, “you can’t help but get that comparison from the audience [to previous versions],” Jackson explained during a conference call with reporters this afternoon. “And you always want to try to come off a little unique and a little different [with regard to song choice]  — unless you have a really different twist on that song.”

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On the same note, Jackson added that he “loves” the kind of unique arrangements championed by former contestants such as Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, David Cook and Candice Glover, “and I want more of that. We just had an an intense workshop with [the Season 13 Top 30], and I talked about that. For instance, if you want to do ‘Hallelujah,’ do you have a different version of it? What it does for the judges and for the public, it lets them know the real range of [a contestant’s] talent. If they can take something and move it around, make it really creative, you go, ‘Wow! I didn’t know your talent was that deep!'”

Of course, Jackson continued, there’s always the debate about how far to go with an arrangement — and how to prevent it from becoming “too unique.”

The Idol Institution Sometimes Known as “The Dawg” noted that for years, he’s wanted the show to offer a contestant boot camp prior to the live shows — and he’s hoping this year’s inaugural attempt will be the first of many to come. He enlisted Season 8’s Lambert and Season 5’s Chris Daughtry to help run the workshop because “they were actually in the trenches as people we were judging, so they could [give advice] it from a completely different side.”

The workshop, added Jackson, is just the first of many differences you’ll see between himself and previous Idol mentor, record exec Jimmy Iovine, who held the role in Seasons 10-12. “I really want to be more hands-on and nurturing,” Jackson said, noting he’s likely to tackle everything from song choice and arrangement to clothing, movement and performance.

Ultimately, Jackson said, the wisdom he hopes to impart will echo what he and other past judges have been saying for years. “If you really pull back and listen when the judges speak, they’re trying to give insight about what to do and where to go,” he argued. “‘That’s the wrong song for you or the wrong key.’ ‘Stop singing so many runs.’ ‘Work on your vibrato.'”

The problem is, Jackson added, that when a contestant is on stage and getting critiqued, “You have cameras in your face, you have 500 people in the audience, you have all the chatter from social media, you have friends and family and millions of people watching on TV.” With all of the distractions that come with being on stage, Jackson added that he wonders how much of the feedback contestants actually retain. “Twenty percent? Thirty percent?”

Jackson teased that long-time viewers should expect “a little bit of a twist” on the oft-criticized (and frequently dated) theme weeks. “They’re not as narrow as they used to be,” he said.

Jackson’s role on the show may be different this season; his take on the current crop of contestants, however, sounds very familiar. “The edge seems to lean in the girls’ favor, but the boys could come up and surprise everyone,” he predicted. “It’s a very young pool for the most part.”

Do Jackson’s remarks make you optimistic about his upcoming mentoring stint — or do you wish Iovine (or someone else) had scored the job? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Marko says:

    I remember Randy encouraging Jacob Lusk “never to hold back” and disliking Kris Allen’s “Falling Slowly”.
    Great mentor :)

    • Gailer says:

      I remember Randy hating Jason Castro’s different takes on songs. His I don’t wanna cry, the Beatles etc. Who’s he fooling?! 😄

    • grover says:

      Yes, but though I loved Kris singing “Falling Slowly”, he sang it like the original. His twists on songs came with “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Heartless”

      • Brille says:

        The original FS is a duet, and he departed from that. Also, All She Wants to do is Dance was a departure from the original, Remember the Time he did with guitar, She Works Hard for the Money was a lot different from the original, and his What’s Goin’ On was pretty cool with the conga drum – pretty-well everything he did was different.

    • tom22 says:

      Randy talks a fine game but his tastes and ability that we have so far seen to express his thoughts advice give him no credibility for the job he describes. .. well… maybe he has a pulse for some market segment s.. but would he have ppraiseda grace potter not yet on the radar…does he love zzward ? He seems to like a lot of Sachin stuff that fits neat molds of the past

      Tha5. And I don’t think he has a lot to give teaching stage persona or even music.. he needs to be abke to pick up mutiple instruments or quickly sing a phrase how hed like it done to be other than the crass darkcside of the business that should not be glorified … the way simon relishes in making money off ogvpoor talent for a few years of their teens

      • What are u talking about? He’s got more experience in these areas than almost anyone. Plus he was Mariah’s manager for years. He is a musician. Anyway, I hope Adam and Chris do most of the mentoring. These two guys are who most ppl are tuning in to see.

    • Andrea says:

      Speaking of Kris Allen, tonight’s show featured at least three songs Kris performed on Idol: “Come Together”, “To Make You Feel My Love”, and “Falling Slowly”…

  2. danin says:

    Oh brother

  3. Fern says:

    Randy might actually make a decent coach. I mean, he is a successful producer. I think he just completely failed to think of something useful to say on the spot, every single performance.

  4. Name That Tune says:

    Look at the good side. You get Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry.

  5. Kate says:

    I’m sorry, ” a little unique”, Randy?!? Unique, by definition is singular, one of a kind. Things (or people) can neither be a little unique or very unique. It’s a binary attribute. Rant over.

    • ben says:

      Hello grammar Nazi. English evolves. Believe it or not, one time there was no such thing as the wors unique at all. Some words have completely changed meaning in just a few hundred years. Now, even taking it literally, a performance might have many qualities that are very familiar, and one particular quality which is unique. What this would ultimately mean is that the performance would differ just slightly from any way you had heard it performed before. You could say that makes the performance unique. However, that wouldn’t fully express the concept you are looking to describe, which is the ultimate purpose of language. By saying ‘a little unique’ you are describing that concept in a very simple way. Taking this approach to words is the linguistic equivalent of being an extreme political conservative – just think ‘do I really want to be like Sarah Palin’ and your ailment may be fixed. My rant over!

      • dan says:

        But do we really want Randy Jackson to be the one to evolve the language?

      • Jo March says:

        I bet you’re one of those people okay with the word “conversate”. There’s evolution of a language and then there’s bastardization…

        • ben says:

          I’m a lawyer in a specialist field of, essentially, making sure people use language correctly. Conversated, orientated etc has to be one of the worst things out there and I hate hearing it. Unlike ‘a little unique’ it adds nothing to clarity of discussion. But, ultimately, language has also been bastardized for centuries, and we of the last 100-200 years have taken as English gospel plenty of words that were, originally, bastardizations themselves.

  6. Larc says:

    When I first saw the headline on this item, I misinterpreted “overdone songs.” I was thinking overdone performances of songs. Cutting back on those that have already been sung too many times on Idol is a great idea. Maybe with Harry’s help, the other angle will also get some attention.

  7. Blinged Up says:

    Hmmmmmm……I give this…….a hopeful side-eye.

  8. It all sounds peachy on paper. Is he actually going to be a good mentor?


    Let’s not kid ourselves.

  9. Kate says:

    Mike, you did an admirable job of holding back on the snark. 10 save the rocker points for you.

  10. Gailer says:

    Does anyone know if idol did away with their message boards? I can’t seem to find them. Any help would be appreciated.

  11. MamaLis says:

    I was thinking about The Voice vs. Idol the other day and all the comparisons. Idol has had a few “tired” years, for sure, and The Voice absolutely has been more current with their Coaching, song choices, production, etc. BUT…. Idol hands-down spends more time with the public (and private) vetting process. Or maybe they just do it better?

    But we get to look at these contestants, over and over again, as they compete across a GROUP of other contestants and as they perform towards their “personal best” rather than an immediate “knock-out round,” etc. Idol spends a LOT of time (and money) in assessing and “vetting” and then re-assessing again. The Voice – they get a 2-minute look and it’s not a collaborative process.

    Maybe I’m not remembering right but… that’s how it seems to me.
    And to this day, still, The V sill has not produced anyone the likes of Kelly, Carrie, Adam,
    J Hud, etc.

    • Name That Tune says:

      And Idol hasn’t produced any serious star since Season 6. You could probably take that back to Season 4 in terms of earning potential . . .

      The viewing public doesn’t care any more and there are way too many of these talent shows. I don’t care two whits about vetting the participants. Let’s get down to business and start voting. Because I don’t care about the drama someone like Jessica Meuse went through during Hollywood week. Just let me hear her sing and I will tell you if she deserves to go on or not.

      • james says:

        I think I’d have to disagree. While maybe not superstars in the vein of Kelly or Carrie, there have been several standouts the past 6 seasons that have experienced plenty of success.

      • Jeremiah says:

        Phillip Phillips isn’t a “serious star”?

        • Jeremiah says:

          Or Scotty McCreery? Scotty might not be a Kelly Clarkson/Carrie Underwood level star, but he still seems to have done very well for himself.

      • Nan says:

        Adam Lambert- enough said.

      • tealeaves says:

        “You could probably take that back to Season 4 in terms of earning potential . . .”
        To be clear, you are suggesting that many, many, many, many 10’s of millions of dollars of earning potential is the only criteria that matters. That is the only way you need to go all the way back to season 4. I’m not sure everyone else agrees that should be the bar.

      • tealeaves says:

        Carrie Underwood is literally one of the most successful musical artists of the last 10 years. There is a wide spectrum of success and the subjective term ‘stardom.’ Everything short of Carrie’s level is not all the same. Idol has launched the careers of dozens of very successful musical artists. It has never stopped doing that.

    • ben says:

      @mamalis – I agree that this is what sets Idol apart. It’s why I continue to believe it is a far better show than the Voice, and their claim to being the gold standard is fair.

    • Twyla Tharpe says:

      Lambert? Pshaw. More like Kelly, Carrie, Phillip Phillips. JHud simply got lucky with that Oscar but hasn’t done jack crap with her “R&B” career.

    • DJ says:

      I think you may be over-simplifying The Voice’s (TV) process a bit. TV singers perform three times before live rounds (Top 20). AI singers sang 4 or 5 times this season (with or without “the hangar” exemption) before going live (Top 31), so they’re not really singing more.
      I think you see AI as “vetting better” is only because there are more people to vet. Over 200 people reached Hollywood this season; so the judges saw maybe 300-400 singers (or even more!) during the initial auditions. 48 singers (four teams of 12) made it past the blinds; so the coaches maybe heard 100-120 singers in that process.
      So it’s not that AI “vets better,” TV just does all of its vetting before the cameras even start rolling, and if given the choice, I’d much rather keep track of 64 than 200+, especially when 64 becomes 12 after only four rounds. (Comparatively, after Group Night – AI’s fourth round – there were still 77 singers remaining!)
      In the end, I prefer TV’s vetting because only the best of singers in their pool perform for the judges/coaches. Is it worth AI’s drama/entertainment and the viewers’ time if we know they’re no good? It might be for them, but it isn’t for me. That being said, so far this season is the best since Simon’s departure, and I’m happy that I can sit through AI for the first time since S8.

  12. Timmah says:

    I wonder if Randy’s ever said to a contestant “Stop singing so many runs”.

  13. Karen O says:

    That’s all well and good but the difference between what they say and what ends up on tv is frequently MASSIVE.

    However, Adam Lambert’s years of expertise and his easy run through the show’s obstacles, and Chris Daughtry’s dedication to creating artistic covers to keep himself in the news are great things for any contestant to learn from. Here’s to them being more hands-on than Randy, who is likely to be no more than a producer puppet as always.

    • Didn’t know Chris did mainly covers. I do know he’s lost his singing voice maybe he has had surgery but last time I heard him sing live he could hardly sing at all. Steven Tyler warns that singing rock music like Chris does constantly will destroy your voice quickly.

      • tealeaves says:

        Chris sang covers on the show. His own music is his own and he has had an extremely successful career selling his own music.

  14. Kim R says:

    Oh dear. We shall see. :)

  15. james says:

    As much as Randy bothers me, he’s like that annoying but harmless uncle you like having around once in a while. I’m interested to see how he does in this new role. He sucks as a judge that needs to come up with coherent critiques, but he’s actually pretty good behind the scenes in the real world.

  16. Eurydice says:

    Well, so far the show is a billion times better than last season. If they manage to update their moldy oldy theme nights and discourage the contestants from singing Hallelujah, that’s worth the pain of seeing Randy again. I never thought Iovine was a good mentor, he was great at saying all the cranky things I wished the judges would have said, but I won’t miss him.

  17. Rusty says:

    Randy offering input on clothing? Does he even OWN a mirror?

  18. Gabi says:

    I used to be a big Idol fan and then lost interest for a while, but I tuned in again this year and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. The chemistry between the new judges works and I really appreciate their respectful and insightful critique (so far). Also, quite a few talented contestants caught my attention in those early rounds whose progress on the show I am excited to follow. I love Randy’s idea of a hands-on boot camp and I am excited to see Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry come back to the show as mentors. They both made their mark in music and they have been there! Of course Lambert and Daughtry are only two out of a respectable group of noteworthy artists who were able to use Idol as a platform to success. Speaks for the show (and the contestants of course).

  19. lori says:

    As much as he was an annoying judge, he actually produced a pretty great album by Casey Abrams.

  20. Barbara says:

    I’ve had little to no interest in Idol since Adam Lambert was on. When I heard they were coming out of the gate with him as a guest, I’ve been watching. The judges as a group work well. (Last year was a nightmare) While I never liked Jimmy Lovine, I was disappointed to see Randy replacing him. Now that Randy has shown the good taste to bring in Adam to start off his workshop, he appears to have good plan for improving the show. Idol can count on me as a steady viewer this season.

  21. I will watch because Adam and chis are on, and then we’ll see. Haven’t watched it yet because I don’t like JLo as a judge.

  22. Mollie says:

    Looks like they’re finally going to limit the voting (50 votes per contestant). And you can use any cell phone carrier you want. You’re not limited to AT&T.

  23. Sherry says:

    Great article and very happy Randy is doing this workshop with help from Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry. I just hope Randy isn’t giving most of the advice the other two can help the contestants more than an ex-judge as they have been in the trenches and can relate one on one better than an ex-judge.

  24. Linderella says:

    Can we add House of the Rising Sun to the list of songs never, ever, forever to be sung by any contestant on any singing show but especially Idol? Ever.

  25. Mark says:

    I’ll start the banned list. Feel free to add more.

    House of the Rising Sun
    Let it Be
    Feeling Good
    Rolling in the Deep
    Your Song
    Against All Odds
    Heard it through the Grapevine
    When a Man Loves a Woman
    It’s A Man’s World
    I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing
    I Do it for You
    I Have Nothing
    I Believe I Can Fly
    I Am Telling You

  26. Terry says:

    I still can’t believe they’re bringing him back to mentor. I keep waiting for the punchline. I mean this has to be a joke, right?

  27. darcy's evil twin says:

    Say what you will about Randy but he managed Mariah Carey, he’s a musician, and he spent years on this program. I think he has the potential to be interesting and I can’t wait to see Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert.

  28. joey says:

    Add “Royals” to the list.

  29. joey says:

    Give Randy a chance. Iovine really sucked.

    • I agree with you. Iovine knew his stuff but had little or know charisma and personality. He could be rude at times. Randy will do fine after all he is bringing Adam and Chris to help. Couldn’t have picked better people to mentor these new contestants.

  30. Jetting Benny says:

    Iovine may not have been the best mentor but he held his side of the bargain. I find Randy’s comments laughable.

  31. Kerry says:

    Where does the meme come from that Lambert changed up songs in some meaningful way on the show? The only one I remember is Mad World and that was someone else’s version.

  32. Dakota says:

    I think Randy is a good guy, but his stint on Idol should have been over few years ago.