On Thursday night, it was announced that American Idol's new top two are Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson. They'll be moving on to Season 13's week's finale, but before they do, Idol's in-house mentor and former judge, Randy Jackson, has some advice for them.
"You've got a week left on this show," he warns. "Who are you going to be after this? Honestly, the show is one giant, huge win, but the next level is, what sort of artist are you going to be, after this show?"
Addressing criticism that Idol doesn't create pop stars like it used to, Randy tells Reality Rocks: "I think you have to really break that down a bit. What that really means is you win Idol, you get to jump into the boxing ring with all the idols and people that you love… Say Caleb loves KISS, he loves Aerosmith, he loves the Darkness. Well, guess what, Caleb? You now are going to take your song and go up against KISS, up against Imagine Dragons, Aerosmith, the Darkness, Jack White. Will your songs stand against that? Is Jena's song better than Paramore or Sia? That's the next huge hurdle to get over.
"The real truth about who gets success from any of these shows is, did you make an amazing album that I have to have? Is it compelling, is it amazing? Did you make a song as good as [John Legend's] 'All of Me' or [Pharrell's] 'Happy'? You have to be super-competitive."
While it's likely that fans of certain past Idol winners who never reached a Clarkson or Underwood level won't appreciate Randy's tough, almost Iovine-esque words (there are multiple reasons that singing-show contestants' albums fail, including a lack of promotion/radio play, rushed recording jobs, and a lack of input regarding which songs even get recorded), he continues: "We've had winners on this show — some of them became successful, some of them you haven't heard from in a while. Some of them don't even have record deals anymore. The reason for that? The music wasn't great, and the public didn't respond. You can say they're great singers and great talents, but being a great singer and a great talent is only, like, a fourth or third or half of the whole apple."
As for all of the contestants that Randy mentored this season, some of whom were resistant to critiques, he says, frankly: "You hear a lot of them saying, 'Oh, I just gotta believe in myself and go the way I'm going.' Well, you can go the way you're going… but then why did you need to do Idol? Obviously you didn't know where you were going before, so you needed this show to get going. So wherever you were going before wasn't good enough, because it didn't happen for you. Take the advice and learn and grow."
So, will Randy return as a mentor for American Idol Season 14? He answers that question with a coy "we'll see," but if he does come back, he may give Jimmy Iovine a run for his money.