Randy Jackson Gears Up For 'American Idol' Premiere, Talks Missing Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell Leaving Rumors

“American Idol” returns to FOX next week with its ninth season, and judge Randy Jackson said the show hasn’t lost its edge.

“It’s going to be a very interesting, wild, crazy, exciting season I think,” Randy told a group of journalists, including AccessHollywood.com, on Friday.

The season kicks off on January 12, and one noticeable difference will be the absence of Paula Abdul, who chose not to return to the show. And Randy admitted not having Paula in the audition round – a slot that was filled by a variety of guest judges including Katy Perry, Shania Twain and Joe Jonas – was a little odd.

“You know, we look down the table sometimes and go, ‘Wait a minute. Where’s Paula?’” Randy said. “I expect to hear something from my left ear and I go, ‘Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound like Paula.’ So it’s gonna take a little getting used to. We’re really sad about that.”

The judges – Randy, Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi – won’t sit down with their newest fellow permanent judge, Ellen DeGeneres, until next week, but Randy said she will bring some excitement to the panel.

“Welcoming Ellen to the fold is a good look,” he said. “She’s funny, she’s charismatic, she’s really cool.”

When asked what role she will serve, Randy said she’ll speak – in part — for the people.

“I think she’ll give her expertise for being a fellow entertainer that’s hugely successful [and] where all these kids want to go… And I think she’ll give that layperson, ‘at home’ view,” he said. “I think she’ll give the ‘at home’ viewer a real voice on the judges panel.”

Randy said the newest batch of contestants has been interesting and weren’t at all what he expected based on the breakout stars of last season.

“This year, you would have thought there would have been a lot more theatrical, a lot more Adam Lambert or Kris Allen types that would have showed up for the auditions, but that’s not what happened at all this time,” he explained. “Usually, whoever wins or comes in 1 and 2, that next season of auditions, you have a lot of those kind of people… but it didn’t happen like that this time, so I think we’ve got a very interesting unique cast.”

In fact, Randy said the latest bunch, are really putting the focus on simply singing, but singing strong.

“This season we’ve got some really good, bona fide, stand-in-your-shoes singers, without all the props or without all the affectations or any of that stuff,” he said.

While “Idol” is entering it’s ninth season strong, when asked about rumors that Simon will be departing at the end of its May finale to kick start his “X Factor” reality competition stateside, Randy said he wasn’t ready to believe the hype.

“Until I really hear it from him, I’m not going to believe any rumors or anything,” he said. “There’s so many rumors and speculation about everything going on. The thing I’ve been saying is that, ‘Look, we’ve got an exciting, very different Season 9 going on to the show.’ I think it’s the best talent show that there is and I’m just looking forward to the season.”

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