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It was exactly one year ago that I sat in this same ballroom in Pasadena, California during FOX’s TCA panel for the new season of American Idol. It was one of the most anticipated of the day because new judges—and rumored enemies—Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj were making their debut to the press. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. And the ratings were evident throughout their season.

FOX

FOX

Well, what a difference a year makes!

Today FOX introduced their new judges panel for American Idol season 13 (yes, 13!) with Keith Urban, Harry Connick, Jr. and the amazing return of Jennifer Lopez. If you were worried that American Idol was losing its luster–worry no more. The show is feeling full of life and new energy this year—and I promise you it’s worth giving another shot. Here’s four reasons why.

1. Harry Connick, Jr! He’s known for jazzy takes on standards but this is a man who has a real passion for the music business and mentoring up and coming talent (he’s done it on Idol for a few seasons now). He’s super charming, truly funny and a real fan of the show too, telling the room that he was at the live finale of season one when Kelly Clarkson won and was hooked on the show ever since. Fun fact: He attended with Debra Messing during a break from filming Will and Grace together!

2. Jennifer Lopez! No promises that she’ll stay on beyond this season but she’s so excited to be back after a year break. With Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson gone from the judges panel, things are definitely different but the chemistry is the same. “The similarity is I love coming to work every day and sit between two people I respect.”

3. Randy Jackson! He’s not on the judges table but he is a mentor to the contestants and really going the extra mile, hosting two day workshops with the contenders before they head to Hollywood with advice on song selection, style and getting through the whole process mentally. He’ll be there for them through the live shows too.

4. Can’t forget Keith Urban! The chemistry is super strong this year with the new panel and especially because the judges cover three very distinct music genres and all are at the top of their game!

FOX

FOX

And just a few other fun nuggets that the judges shared today:

They are NOT worried about any competition from NBC’s  The Voice. As Harry explained, when he was on his honeymoon, there were other couples on their honeymoon and he wasn’t worried about how happy they all were. He was just happy to be with his wife. And he’s just happy to be on American Idol and is having a blast and not worrying about anyone else.

If you ever plan on auditioning for American Idol and it’s a season when J.Lo is a judge . . . maybe don’t sing one of her songs. It’s really flattering but she doesn’t want to be the person to say no to her song!

And you can’t forget host Ryan Seacrest who is back and promises a “magical” season ahead!

American Idol returns on Wednesday January 15th and Thursday, January 16th on FOX—will you be watching? What do you think of the new judges panel and Randy becoming a mentor? Tell us in the comments section below or tweet us @OKMagazine!

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