His feedback can sometimes be harsh but the Top 13 finalists tell PEOPLE they appreciate the new judge's honesty
Credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Landov

Harry Connick Jr. has only been on American Idol for half a season but he has already been booed more than his fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban combined.

“As a performer you really hope to not be booed but here it just shows that the audience is really engaged,” Connick, 46, tells PEOPLE.

And despite the negative critiques some of the contestants have received throughout the season, they remain positive about the jazz artist and his comments.

“Harry is extremely knowledgeable as an artist and a composer. I would rather him tell me what I did wrong than what I did right,” says Top 13 finalist Ben Briley. “If it was me I wouldn’t boo because usually he knows exactly what he is talking about.”

And Briley is not alone is supporting Connick’s harsh feedback.

“I respect what Harry says so much. I am classically trained and I know he really knows a lot about music so I appreciate that,” says Kristen O’Connor. “I love that what he says is all about the music.”

And Connick hopes his dedication to the contestants shines throughout the boos.

“I’m so focused on the performers,” he says. “A bomb could go off and it wouldn t change my focus.”