Season 11 Contestants Discuss ‘American Idol’ Judge Shakeups
On July 23, "American Idol's" Season 11 contestants returned to Los Angeles for a tour stop at the Nokia Theater, where the most recent "Idol" finale took place just this past May. But obviously, a lot has already changed since May. First of all, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, the "Idol" judges who were a huge part of these contestants' Season 11 journey, recently quit the show. And on the very day of the Idols' Nokia concert, it was announced that Mariah Carey had signed on to judge Season 12. So understandably, the Idols had a lot to say about these major developments.
Speaking about the recent exits of J.Lo and Steven, runner-up Jessica Sanchez said, "I was a little bit shocked. It won't be the same." But the other contestants seemed much less upset.
"I'm kind of a rocker kid, and it's bittersweet to see Steven leave because he was a part of this 'Idol' family, but he belongs singing," said 10th-place finalist Erika Van Pelt. "He doesn't belong behind a table judging people. You can tell--he lights up like a Christmas tree when he's onstage getting to sing. So it's cool. I'm happy for him."
Said sixth-placer Elise Testone, "I understand why they'd want to go after a couple years. For Steven Tyler, I feel like it's not where he's supposed to be." And fifth-place country girl Skylar Laine agreed, saying, "With Steven, it's better for him. He has to be a little bit more reserved on the show, and now he can go out there and focus on his first love, which we all know is Aerosmith. And Jennifer, that girl is a mover and shaker, and she's always on to the next thing, you know? That's just how she's always been, and that's how she's gotten as big as she is. We wish her all the luck on her next venture."
Added seventh-place contestant Colton Dixon, "I found out via Twitter, as I am sure everyone did. I can't say I wasn't surprised, but I understand completely. They still have light-years of career ahead of them. So I don't blame them at all. But they're going to be very hard to replace."
As for the newest official replacement, the contestants for the most part seemed enthusiastic about Mariah. "I think it's good. It's cool to have a change and see different artists and see how they have a different feel," said eighth-placer DeAndre Brackensick. "[Steven and Jennifer] had their time, and we had their time with them, and it won't be the same, but there's other artists out there who can give their knowledge too. Mariah is a great singer, and she knows what she's doing. She's been in the business for, like, ever and a day."
Said Colton: "I'm actually pleasantly surprised [with the Mariah hiring], because I think they could have gone in some crazy directions. There's still an empty slot, so who knows? But with Randy [Jackson] managing Mariah, I think it's going to be a great kind of charisma for the show, just in terms of how they play off each other. I can't wait to see how her judging skills are, because I know she can sing. Everyone knows she can sing. So it's going to be cool to see how she critiques."
Erika enthused, "I grew up listening to Mariah; that's how I sort of developed some of my R&B chops. Mariah's just a diva, and I mean that in the best way possible. She's a powerhouse vocalist, and I feel that her coming on is going to bring a lot of new spunk. It's going to be a different dynamic. Jennifer is great, but Jennifer does it all--heavy into the acting and dancing and all that other stuff. Mariah's a singer, and that is what I feel this competition should always be about, first and foremost."