Katy Perry has become a global pop superstar with a stream of hit songs and albums, gigantic worldwide tours, and a Super Bowl halftime gig. If that isn’t enough fame and glory, she now joins country musician Luke Bryan and R&B legend Lionel Richie as the new judges on the ABC revival of American Idol.

Despite her success, Perry has a wish that she would love to see come true. “You know, the iconic Snow White has never been made into a live-action movie. I will go back to black hair if this is ever available,” Perry says at a press conference to talk about her TV show.

She’s long had a passion for Disney, a connection that got stronger because the company owns ABC, and she’s done her share of animated voice work with the Smurf movies.

Few get to see her commitment there because it’s all done in a studio, but Perry says that when given the chance to be a cartoon character, she throws everything she has into it. She works so hard on her animation voice that later she has to practise her own songs to get her voice back to normal.

She won’t have to worry so much about that on American Idol. Perry will be more content to just talk with the hopefuls and be part of the process of picking the show’s winner and hopefully the next big music star.

Despite crowning 15 winners from 2002 to 2016, it’s been awhile since American Idol produced an actual radio or music chart star. Season 1’s Kelly Clarkson and Season 4’s Carrie Underwood remain the show’s biggest hits. And while several other contestants have carved out careers for themselves – Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry – they didn’t win their seasons.

“Literally, we are wasting our time if we do not find a star,” Perry says.

She pauses and then adds: “America doesn’t need another star. They need a real legit American Idol. It’s a crowded place, and I take it really seriously, sometimes to my detriment. But I’m very cut-and-dry and get straight to the point, but I think that is our purpose.”

Part of the process of finding contestants has to do with talent, but there’s also a human element. Perry has listened to an endless stream of heartbreaking stories told to curry favour with the judges.

She’s very sensitive to what the contestants have gone through, but she also knows that almost every successful singer started out dealing with hardships – even the judges. Perry deals with this by remembering this is a business and she must make executive decision based on the raw material standing in front of her.

In describing her place among the judges, Perry talks about how Richie is the legacy who shares countless stories about music history and that Bryan is more of a nurturing type. “I am very serious about it. I do the jokes. I get up and dance. But, at the end of the day, I see things that the other judges don’t see,” Perry said.

“I see where the music industry is going and how much emphasis is put on personalities and different styles. There are a lot of singers out there but this isn’t a singing competition. Half the people in the world can sing. What we are looking for is someone who will be a star.”

(L-R) Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, Ryan Seacrest and Luke Bryan on the set of American Idol in New York. The season premiere had a strong debut on ABC, reaching more than 10 million viewers. Photo: ABC

Different team

The team of Perry, Richie and Bryan is different than those who have held court in the past, most notably Simon Cowel, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. (Other judges include Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.)

The only holdover is Ryan Seacrest, who returns as host. That was by design, according to executive producer Trish Kinane.

“We weren’t looking to replicate that. We took a long time to put this judging panel together and that was because we wanted to get it right and we wanted judges with credibility, who knew what they were talking about, were huge successes in their own right, who were articulate and who generally cared about the contestants,” Kinane said.

“And that’s the difference. I think these guys really care about the contestants and it wasn’t so much about the judges. It’s more about the contestants. Katy is very blunt and she’s not mean, but she’s brutally honest. And she feels these contestants, but if she doesn’t think they’ve got what it takes, she will try and steer them somewhere else,” Kinane added.

Perry performing in Las Vegas, Nevada in January. Photo: AFP

This vision for Perry has been years in the making. She debuted with 2008’s One Of The Boys, then cemented her star status with her 20101 follow-up,  Teenage Dream. Her 2013 album, Prism, has sold over 12.5 million albums worldwide. Album no. 4 Witness came out in June 2017.

With the singles Roar, Firework and Dark Horse each surpassing the 10 million threshold (including song sales and streams), Perry is the only artiste to earn three RIAA Digital Single Diamond Awards.

In 10 years, she has racked up a cumulative 18 billion streams alongside worldwide sales of more than 40 million adjusted albums and 125 million tracks. Plus, Perry is the most followed person globally on Twitter and the first to surpass 100 million followers.

The winner of this round of American Idol could be a hit or miss. Perry wants to do as much as she can to make sure there is a big winner so that they might be able to experience some of the success she’s had in her life especially when they first step in front of a massive audience to perform.

“It’s a great feeling and you get really addicted to it,” Perry said. “It’s got great things about it and it’s got not great things about it. You really have to know who you are so you really appreciate it.”

And, in Perry’s case, use that attention to try and get a role as a fairy princess that you have always wanted to play. – Tribune News Service/Rick Bentley


American Idol airs every Monday and Tuesday at 6pm on Sony Channel (unifi TV Ch 614).

Perry always puts on a good show during a concert, a knowledge she can impart to the next American Idol. Photo: AFP