Can a woman win American Idol?
It hasn't happened since 2007 when Jordin Sparks took the season-six crown, but according to Keith Urban and Randy Jackson the guys' reign could very well end with season 12, which premieres tonight on Fox.
"I think a girl may get it just because they're incredibly strong this year," new judge Urban told us. It was an assessment veteran panelist Jackson emphatically agreed with: "A girl's gonna take it. Girl, girl, girl!" Why don't you tell us how you really feel, dawg?
For country superstar Urban, the female singers in his genre have been particularly impressive. Like Carrie Underwood impressive. "There's a couple of girls who are just extraordinary," said Nicole Kidman's better half. "They sing and it's so effortless and they're not overacting, and they just communicate. That's what it's about."
Just don't get Urban started on the posers who attempted to get a golden ticket to Hollywood. "There's certain people, I think, [who] sing country that you can sense that it's maybe not what they grew up singing," he said. "They're just ‘giving it a go.' People who do ‘the country thing,' that's like doing the ‘brain surgeon thing'—either you are or aren't."
Fellow Idol newbie Nicki Minaj, who's made plenty of pre-premiere headlines for her attention-getting feud with Mariah Carey, also places a premium on keeping it real. "If you're gonna be passionate about what you don't like, you also gotta be passionate about what you do like," she says. "Those moments when I do love a person, they feel that it's honest, and I think that's important. The credibility of a judge on a show like this is very important. You don't wanna feel like a person is sitting there saying they love everyone because you know that's not true."
Urban, for one, is a big fan of Minaj's tell-it-like-it-is attitude. "The artists she connects with--she sees value in a place that I find really original, and valid, too. Because it's not just about singing. It's not just about a voice. It's not just about looking good or confidence. It can be this other aspect about them that's just riveting and compelling."
Does that mean that, unlike Mariah, he tends to see eye-to-eye with Minaj? "Not always," he said with a laugh. "Sometimes we're completely 180, which I love."
To hear more from the Idol judges—including if Minaj thinks she's too harsh and whether Urban is still "playing Switzerland" between his two female panelists—check out our exclusive interviews below!