Harry Connick, Jr. has plenty of fans, but his thorough critiques as a judge on American Idol have earned him a memorable nickname on the show: “Harsh Harry.”
Not that he minds.
“I hear that I have the reputation more than people actually say it,” the singer told reporters after last Thursday’s results show.
“No one has ever come up to me and said, ‘You’re harsh.’ I do think some people may be taken aback by some of the things I choose to say, but I don’t interpret telling somebody, ‘This is what you could work on’ as harsh.”
Connick, 46, acknowledged that he focuses more on the negatives than the positives but emphasized that he is only looking out for the contestants’ best interests in the short amount of time he and his fellow panelists, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban, have to critique them.
“I wish it was a six-hour show, but we have about 30 seconds to try and give them all the information we can,” he explained. On the contrary, Connick contends that being harsh would be to simply tell a contestant, “That was good, man – you did a good job,” instead of choosing to “give them some information to help them.”
“I feel compelled to try and help them if I can,” Connick added.
And while it might sound, well, harsh, the crooner proudly admitted that, offscreen, he is not friendly with the contestants he judges on the Fox reality singing competition.
“I don’t fraternize with the contestants. I don’t want to know their backstories. I just want to judge their performance,” he explained. “When they are eliminated, I think it’s respectful to go up to them and say, ‘Great journey,’ but I don’t hang with them. I have to be impartial because my job is to judge.”
That said, Connick does empathize with the young newcomers he is helping to mold into the next American Idol.
“Some of these kids are 15 years old and all of a sudden they are being taken out of their hometowns, and they are being put on one of the biggest stages out there,” he said. “Even their worst performances are impressive on some level.”