If the producers of “American Idol” were hoping for judges who would shed a tear on camera, they got it in pop star Mariah Carey and country singer Keith Urban. The two new judges admitted during a press conference Wednesday at the Adler Planetarium — where auditions for the Fox singing competition took place — that they got emotional listening to aspiring singers in Chicago.
“I literally was in tears today,” said Carey, sitting alongside long time host Ryan Seacrest and fellow judges Urban, rapper Nicki Minaj and record producer and “Idol” original Randy Jackson.
“The stories are beyond belief. And they can sing too. It wasn’t the norm, I’d imagine.”
Urban said he was touched by one person in particular who was accompanied by his parents to the audition. It marked the first time the “Idol” hopeful had sang in front of his parents.
“I was fortunate to have my parents support me,” Urban said, pointing out that parents don’t always support their children’s music dreams. “It was beautiful to see.”
The judges met with auditioners Tuesday and Wednesday who made it past the producers round at the United Center in July, and the executive producers round that took place in Chicago days ago. Jackson and co. were in charge of determining who advanced to the next round (aka “You’re going to Hollywood!”).
Like Carey and Urban, Minaj is a newcomer to “Idol.” They replace season 10 and 11 judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Minaj was the quietest of the panel during the brief press conference, which took place at the judges table with the Chicago skyline in full view in the background, but the “Starships” rapper did say of the auditions, “I’ve signed a lot of (breasts).”
It appeared as if there would be a completely new panel when Lopez and Tyler parted ways with the show in July, but Jackson now comes back for his 12th season as the experienced veteran. He has embraced the role by giving the new judges a few pointers and seemed the most at ease Wednesday.
“(Jackson) has given us a lot of insight,” said Carey. “I’ve already said this publicly, but I haven’t been watching ‘Idol’ every night. ... He’s been enlightening me.”
To date, Mount Prospect’s Lee DeWyze is the only Chicago-area native to win “Idol” during the show’s 11 seasons. Chicago native Jennifer Hudson came in seventh place on the show in 2004 but is the city’s most successful “Idol” alum after having won an Oscar and Grammy. Speaking of “Idol” alums, Carey said former winner Jordin Sparks, in town to sing the national anthem at the Ryder Cup opening ceremonies, visited the set that day.
“She didn’t make it through to the next round, unfortunately,” Urban said without missing a beat.
The 12th season of “Idol” premieres in January.