American Idol's Keith Urban: "It's Absolutely a Girl's Year to Win"
American Idol | Photo Credits: Fox
It's sudden death time on American Idol, as the show moves into the Vegas round this week. The Top 20 girls will perform on Wednesday's show (8/7c, Fox), and the Top 20 guys will take the stage at the same time on Thursday. And according to judge Keith Urban, this may be the season the show ends its six-year streak of having a male winner. "It's absolutely a girl's year to win, in my opinion," Urban said in a conference call Wednesday. "That's not to say the guys aren't strong, because they really are. It's really more a testament to how strong the girls are this year. ... We saw over 270 people to get it down to where we are today, and the girls were just incredibly strong."
Could that have something to do with the presence of iconic female musicians Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj alongside Urban and Randy Jackson at the judges table? The country superstar seems to think so — particularly in the case of Carey, whom he refers to as "inarguably one of the world's great vocalists."
"This is a global vocal powerhouse, and any girl I think would love the opportunity to sing for Mariah and get feedback from her and get direction from her," Urban said. "I think that's been a real plus for the show, to have somebody like her on the panel."
Though he griped during the audition rounds that he felt like "a scratching post" between the oft-feuding Minaj and Carey, Urban had nothing but good things to say about his colleagues — neither of whom he had met prior to joining Idol — as individuals. "When we got into shooting, what I really liked about Nicki was just her straight-shooting directives," Urban said. "I like being around people that are just absolutely raw and straight and tell it like it is. And so, I just kind of clicked with Nicki right from the get-go.
"For me, I've always found this immediate connection with singers and musicians in general because I'm so used to playing in bands," he continued. "When I joined this panel, I felt like I'd just joined a band. I'm on guitar, Randy's on bass, we've got two chick singers, and this is our band. That's what it feels like to me."
Though the concept of the judges as a band is purely metaphorical at this point, Urban says he's been pressing for the opportunity to perform on the show. "We got asked that question early on in one of the press conferences: Would we be up for singing?" he said. "And I threw my hand up and said, 'I'm up for it. Let's go,' and was met with a rousing silence. ... I'm going to keep coaxing Randy to see if we can put a little band together, because I would love to do it. I think it would be fun, and I just think it feels quite natural for us, to be able to do that."
But back to the contestants. After whittling down the 270-plus hopefuls who were sent to Hollywood to just 40, Urban said he's already had to deal with the more difficult aspects of being a judge — and realizes that it's not going to be getting any easier from here on out. "There were a couple of people that I thought just needed a little more time," he said of the Hollywood round. "That's a particularly tough week for people. I think that environment is particularly tough. Having to learn songs in a nanosecond, dance steps in a nanosecond, being with a group that you didn't choose to be in, et cetera, et cetera. it's a really tough process. But at the same time, to see what we saw [in Las Vegas] emerge from that, it's very possible to get through that and still be very strong.