‘American Idol’ Judge Randy Jackson Predicts Female Winner

New judges discuss their relationship, changes to the show in Entertainment Weekly cover story.

Like late, lamented couple Jake Gyllenhaal and Taylor Swift , the new judges on “American Idol” are being forced to develop their relationship in public and in front of the cameras.

But unlike that blink-and-you-missed-it Hollywood romance, the “Idol” judges think they’ve figured out the secret to a lasting relationship and seem confident that their unique rapport will help steady the ship as they head into season 10 on the heels of the biggest shakeups in the show’s history .

In a sit-down with Entertainment Weekly for the cover of the magazine’s new issue, sole returning judge Randy Jackson, newbies Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler and host Ryan Seacrest dished on life after Simon Cowell and reacted to the criticism they’ve already weathered.

The roundtable “Idol” cover comes the same week as news that season-nine runner-up Crystal Bowersox surpassed the sales totals to date for winner Lee DeWyze, whose major-label debut has already nearly slipped out of the top 200 after selling just over 102,000 copies, making it by far the weakest debut by a winner in “Idol” history.

Lopez rejected the notion that the show — which saw a 9 percent ratings dip last year and increased competition from “Dancing With the Stars” — has lost some of its luster, considering few of the champs since season five have attained the superstar status of early winners Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson and finalist Chris Daughtry.

“I don’t know that that is such a fair statement,” Lopez said. “You named three [superstars] in nine years — that’s pretty amazing. That’s 33 percent. We all know that in this business, a 1 percent chance is huge, so I think this show is doing pretty well in that arena.”

As for what the judges are looking for this year, she said, “We’re looking for a recording artist, a pop star, someone who’s a real artist. You can tell that when they walk in, the ones that have that special thing.”

The article portrays the new judging panel as being nicer and more optimistic with even the worst auditioners and quickly developing an easy rapport with each other. Both Lopez and Tyler said they want to bring their combined decades of experience in the music biz to bear on the show. “I want to show who I am as a person, as an artist, what I love about music, what I love about other artists, and have all that come out when judging,” Lopez said. “You get to share all of the experience that you have with these kids who are just starting out.”

Tyler added that after all the ups and downs he’s gone through with his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Aerosmith, he wants to show off how proud he was to be a part of something and pass it along. “This is the perfect way to pass the torch.”

The iconic frontman also answered to the criticism he’s gotten from both his pal Kid Rock and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry , who questioned the logic of his decision to join the cast of the reality singing competition. “I just went with my heart,” Tyler said of the choice Rock called the “stupidest” one Tyler’s ever made. “Kid Rock — he has an album coming out [Born Free, released in November]. He’s a good friend of mine. I went to a picnic with him, and he taught me how to fry a turkey. I only hope that he’s not frying his own turkey [with that comment]. It’s his opinion.”

He also deflected Perry’s jibes, joking that Joe wishes he could have landed the gig. “All I’m doing here is being a musician and reflecting what my career has been,” Tyler responded.

It was genial host Ryan Seacrest who did not hold his fire, however. After years of constant taunting and tense on-air put-downs at the hands of Cowell on the show, Seacrest said he’s not worried about developing that same kind of unique spark with his new co-workers. “I think the reason that Simon and I had that dynamic is that he was just so jealous of me,” Seacrest said, with no indication from the EW writer that he was being sarcastic. “From day one, he was envious of my career at such a young age. So I tried to make it as fun as possible and as lighthearted as possible … but with all of us, we have very good senses of humor; we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to wind each other up.”

And while Lopez and Tyler were a bit coy about whether they would be performing on the show, Randy was not shy about making a bold prediction about this year’s winner. “I think a girl’s going to win the show,” he said, echoing comments he’s made over the past few seasons, the last three of which have been topped by male winners and runners-up.

With the age limit dropped to 15 this year, Lopez also had a bold prediction. “You may have the youngest winner ever,” she said.

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