Randy Jackson returns to American Idol tonight in his new role as mentor, guiding the contestants through Rush Week. The 31 remaining hopefuls will cycle through Jackson's workshop, a series of classes focusing on vocal skills, styling and social-media training. Former finalists Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry will also be around to field questions. Idol's top dawg breaks down the intensive two-day process.
TV Guide Magazine: Why did you want to come back for this workshop?
Jackson: Being a judge, you don't have that closeness with the kids. I know they have a trillion questions, so I really wanted to prepare them for the show and make it informative. You've got all these people at the top of their fields who want to help. This is for the rest of the [contestants'] lives, so they have to take advantage. It's like a college-prep course, and I'm the dean!
TV Guide Magazine: Do you miss being a judge?
Jackson: No. I think Harry [Connick Jr.], Keith [Urban] and Jennifer [Lopez] are doing an amazing job. I did that for so long, and I loved it, but this is what I do. I'm a teacher and nurturer. I love helping people.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the one area most contestants need help with?
Jackson: It's all about star quality. You see that all over the Top 10 charts. Those people may not be the greatest singers in the world, but they are superstars and have great songs. So song choice, song potential and vocal ability.
TV Guide Magazine: Why was it important to bring Adam and Chris back?
Jackson: They're two complete individuals with different, opposing views. Adam is charismatic with a great voice — that season we all thought he was going to win — while Chris has the live, American pop-rock thing. There's no area that they don't know a lot about.
American Idol airs Tuesday at 8/7c on Fox.