LOS ANGELES — Katy Perry has become a mega music superstar around the world with a continuous stream of hit records, gigantic tours and even performing at the halftime of the Super Bowl. As if that wasn’t enough fame and glory, Perry now joins Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie to be a celebrity judge on the ABC revival of “American Idol.”
“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 heart-breaking stories told to win favor with the judges. She’s very sensitive to what the contestants have gone through but Perry also knows that almost every successful singer started out dealing with hardships — even the three judges.
Perry deals with this by remembering this is a business and she must make executive decisions 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.”
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The team of Perry, Richie and Bryan is very different than those who have held court on “American Idol” in the past. The only holdover is that Ryan Seacrest returns as the 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.”
This vision for Perry has been years in the making as she made her debut with 2008’s “One of the Boys” and then cemented her status as a global superstar with the follow-up album, “Teenage Dream,” in 2010. “Prism,” her 2013 album, debuted at No. 1 on iTunes in 100 countries and has sold more than 12.5 million adjusted albums worldwide. With the singles “Roar,” “Firework” and “Dark Horse” each surpassing the 10 million threshold (including song sales and streams), Perry is the only artist 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.
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.”