Even though shooting on Season 12 of American Idol is more than two months in, it's clear that the judges are still trying to avoid the F-word. No, not the bleepable profanity, but that other F-word: feud!
During a break from shooting Hollywood Week on Wednesday in Los Angeles, the judges did their best to answer probing questions without fueling reports of a beef between newcomers Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. Host Ryan Seacrest offered this diplomatic assessment of the judging panel that also includes new face Keith Urban and Idol vet Randy Jackson: "Individually, each one of those judges has a very specific point of view and a very specific opinion. And often they'll argue for the contestants that they believe in. And often they don't agree. They have to come to a consensus at some point. But I think that you'll see throughout this season really strong, individual, spirited opinions across the board."
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Jackson, however, acknowledged some friction, but in a positive light. "We often disagree. But, you know, it's kind of funny that we laugh at it," he said. "I think this is one of my favorite judging panels thus far. We're having a good time. It's a fun time, it's a funny time. We crack a lot of jokes."
And even though neither deigned to drop that F-bomb, Seacrest did offer up one-word appraisals of the individual judges: pizzazz (Minaj), soothing (Carey), whiskery (Urban) and huggable (Jackson)! But would the judges agree? Check out how they would assess themselves and some scoop on Season 12:
Nicki the entertainer: "[I'm] kooky. Never a dull moment with my judging style. That's for sure," Minaj said. "I try to never plan what I'm going to say or how I'm going to feel. I just try to stay in the moment and allow some craziness to come ... It's the entertainment business. We're artists. If we don't have some craziness and kookiness, then it wouldn't really be real. You know what I mean? We can't really sit there and be stiff and say the same things. So I try to get the contestants out of their comfort zones of hearing the same things over and over."
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Mariah the un-sugar-coated fairy? "I like to think of myself more as a fairy godmother," Carey said. "I've learned a lot. I want to continue to be the best I can be in order to help. ... I try to speak as frankly as possible, as kindly as possible -- not like sugar-coating the whole thing because that does nobody any good. And I think it would be boring for people to watch. But I feel like my experience as a recording artist and a producer and a writer has helped me get to a point where I can sit there and say, 'I'm not sure if you hit this part correctly because maybe the modulation took you by surprise,' or 'You weren't quite prepared to blend that harmony with this person who was singing way louder than you.'"
Keith the empathizer: "[I'm] fair and authentic, I hope. When I was 9 and 10, I [competed in] one of these shows in Australia," Urban revealed. "I was really, really crucified by one of the judges, and it was devastating. So I try to not absolutely destroy somebody in front of millions of people, but at the same time, if someone's not really on, and everyone at home knows it, that's the difficult part too. ... And for me, if any of the emotions are present -- the joy, the vulnerability, the insecurity, the uncertainty, the anger, whatever it is -- if I can feel that in them, I'm interested. Even if they're a little bit out of tune."
Randy the linguist: Carey offered the following observation about Idol's impact, and ultimately, her fellow judge Jackson: "It changed the way we looked at music. It changed people's vocabularies," she said. "Thank you, Randy for 'pitchy.' No one really knows what it means, do we?" Jackson, however, likes to think of himself as "The O.G."
VIDEO: Idol judge Nicki Minaj curses out Mariah Carey
A Hollywood Week twist: "This is the first time that we've ever brought the guys out without the girls," Seacrest revealed. "So the guys are here, the girls are not yet. And the guys didn't know that, and some of the guys are kind of bummed because they're just hanging with each other."
The real reason a girl hasn't won in five seasons: "It's the critics that aren't voting! That's what's wrong," Jackson joked. "Why aren't you guys voting?"
Are you looking forward to American Idol returning? Season 12 kicks off Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 8/7c on Fox.