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The American Idol judges are in the thick of auditions for Season 13, and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe has nothing but glowing praise for Mariah Carey, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, and Randy Jackson. Well, except for that one time Nicki was 40 minutes late to the first day of auditions. Read Wetpaint Entertainment’s exclusive interview with the Idol mastermind and find out how he thinks the fantastic foursome are doing!

Wetpaint Entertainment: What has you most excited about the new season of American Idol?
Nigel Lythgoe: The judges, without question, and I think it’s really exciting. And I think that both of the ladies are absolutely articulate, smart, witty, bright, and very informative with the kids that come along. So thrilled with them. Keith Urban is the nicest guy I think I’ve ever met. It’s a bit like a tennis match for him at the moment. He’s right in the middle of the two women, and it’s like he’s watching this ball going backwards and forwards over the net. Randy, of course, is Randy, who we know and love. So it’s good.

You’ve said you weren’t sure who you wanted to put between those two strong women. Do you think Keith can handle it?
I’ve got a feeling. He’s Australian. At some point that barbed wit is going to come out. He’s ready to pounce like a mongoose.

Apparently one of your judges is not so punctual. How’s that working out?
No. I think Nicki was about 40 minutes late — she didn’t have a thing to wear! — and normally, if we were working with Simon Cowell, it would have been three hours. And somebody said that Mariah was really upset. “Pissed,” they said, and I said, “No, she wasn’t. We were all pissed.” But it was the first day at school. And the second day, everything was back to normal, and we were there and started on time.

How’s the talent?
The talent isn’t as strong as I’ve seen it. We only need to get 30 at the end of the day, but we’ve only been to one city so far with the judges. So we’ll sort of let that happen. I missed Chicago yesterday, but I’m told Chicago was fantastic. So I’m looking forward to that.