“American Idol” mentor Jimmy Iovine doesn’t want judge Jennifer Lopez to leave the show. “She’s incredible. I hope she does it again,” Jimmy told reporters today. But, he said, he’s not a part of the conversation. “I just mentor the kids and do my thing,” he explained. “I don’t get to make decisions about the judges. I’m low on the totem pole. They don’t consult me whatsoever.”
And though the Interscope Records chairman has criticized the judges’ panel from time to time for being too soft on contestants, he has nothing but respect for them. “What they do is so difficult to go on the road and listen to people sing a cappella, thousands of them—I couldn’t do that,” he said. “The A&R process that these judges collectively do is extraordinary.”
But would the funny and usually spot-on critiquer replace J. Lo on the judges’ panel if he had the chance? “No one has asked me, and you know, not right now. I like working with musicians. I like the creative aspect of what I do on the show….So probably not.”
Meanwhile, Jimmy is busy getting the final two contestants ready for tomorrow’s showdown. While diplomatic about who he thinks has a shot at the crown, he had lots to say about working with both Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips.
With 16-year-old Jessica, he says the challenge is melding her giant voice with her young age. “Jessica has to find that balance between what her capabilities are and reach inside and have the right song to click the emotion…She has to have 10, 10, 10” on Tuesday’s three-song finale.
“Jessica is born with one of those gifts that you see very, very rarely. The tone of her voice, the range, her poise. She has every chance to win this thing, because she can strike a chord with you with a song…There are so few people who can sing like that.”
“She’s 16 years old,” Jimmy continued. “But when this girl’s 18 years old…she’s going to do really well. I get excited when I work with her.”
As for Phillip, Jimmy said he has the potential to do better than previous “Idol” winners with similar styles—singer-songwriters with guitars and coffeehouse appeal. “We’re gonna help him a lot, but he has a certain thing that some of those other people you’re talking about [Lee Dewyze, Kris Allen] didn’t have. This guy, I don’t know how he was missed in the industry.”
Jimmy believes that the mystery of Phillip’s original material will propel him beyond previous Idols. “For that secret to still be in the bag and to have him this far, because a singer-songwriter, a big part of is those songs. Dave Matthews, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen—what are the songs? That part the audience doesn’t know yet, but I believe in him a lot and he’s got crazy charisma and incredible sounds. I think that bodes well for ‘American Idol’ that a kid like that can get this far.”
The two-part “American Idol” finale will air on May 22 and 23 on Fox.