With a career turn as the positive pixie who sits between fellow judges Randy and Simon on American Idol, Paula Abdul is one of the few totally '80s artists who won't have to make a demeaning appearance on Hit Me Baby One More Time. The former Lakers girl became an MTV staple with videos like "Straight Up" and "Opposites Attract," but now hands out advice to hopeful pop wannabes on Fox's talent-show phenomenon. With the new DVD The Best & Worst of American Idol (now in stores), fans can relive the highs and lows from all four seasons with Abdul, who chatted with TV Guide about all things Idol.
TV Guide: Why will people want to watch this Idol DVD?
Paula Abdul: They'll get some good behind-the-scenes stuff. But when it gets right down to it, I think people love to see the growth of these kids and how the cream rises to the top. We do our job and get out to the most remote towns and find some amazing talent. People also love to see the bad acts. I find most women love when it gets down to the talent, but all the guys love the bad acts. That's how it is, which is pretty funny.
TV Guide: Why do guys like the cringe-worthy moments?
Abdul: Because it's real when you see [a bad singer] who has that angry look on their face that says to the judges, "How dare you say I'm bad?" You know they truly think we're delusional.
TV Guide: Are you all delusional?
Abdul: We're dysfunctional, a dysfunctional family. I'm the nurturing mom, Simon is the disapproving father and Randy is just the cool brother.
TV Guide: People love your spats with Simon.
Abdul: Simon represents the ugliness of the music business; it's very harsh and cruel. I'm the artist who wants to keep the dream alive. It's a good yin and yang.
TV Guide: What is the biggest mistake contestants make?
Abdul: Song choice, it always comes down to song choice. This year Nadia picked a song no one knew — it was bizarre. She exited out.
TV Guide: Did the response to William Hung a few years ago surprise you?
Abdul: No, I get it. That's what I love about America: They rallied behind this earnest and naive kid from Berkeley whom everybody made fun of. That was it, until he started taking it all seriously. Then America got mad. [Laughs]
TV Guide: Do you ever think the show can be mean?
Abdul: Of course it can be mean. That's why I have a hard time and we have honest fights on the show. I know this is a TV show first, but it has totally mean-spirited behavior at times.
TV Guide: Is Simon nicer off camera?
Abdul: Hell no! Are you kidding? You got the wrong impression if you think that. But I've softened him up a bit. He can stop being a snake for a minute, but there's still a snake there.
TV Guide: Do people want to sing for you in coffee shops or at the supermarket?
Abdul: All the time! Sometimes it works out to their advantage because I'll tell them, "We definitely need to audition you" and I'll give them the website and the dates. They make it through to Hollywood.
TV Guide: Who has been the most unique Idol?
Abdul: Well, there is no one like Fantasia — she sings every single time like it's her last performance. She also has an incredible work ethic.
TV Guide: What's been a low moment for Idol?
Abdul: Mario [Vazquez] leaving last season. I think he could have won.
TV Guide: Do you ever want to record again?
Abdul: I miss it at times, so I think there will be music coming out from me soon. I'm just doing so many projects right now....
TV Guide: Maybe Randy can produce your new album, and Simon will advise.
Abdul: That sounds like fun — not! Honestly, I could care less what Simon thinks.