Steven Tyler talks American Idol!

By Fred Topel When Steven Tyler sings a song with Aerosmith, he takes it to the next level. He belts it out, runs around stage and even howls in between the words. He’s planning to do that as a judge on American Idol too, Tyler told the Television Critics Association today at their winter press tour.

“I think what Idol’s all about now is taking it up a notch, no more no less,” Tyler said. “It’s just looking around, seeing what’s going on. One of the strongest forces today is singing, voice, people singing, stardom. It’s what everybody wants it seems. This is where I’ve lived. I think so. We’re looking for something again different. I could sing good in the beginning. I never really laid back on that. I was looking for the character of it all and what it all meant. I think that’s what we’re looking for this year. It’s just taking it up a notch.”

If one of those hopeful singers doesn’t take it to the next level, Tyler will tell the truth. “I’d say, ‘You didn’t bring it. You didn’t bring what we need to see.’ If I didn’t see it, the attitude, you need to bring the whole thing. You’ve got to have the voice, you gotta have what it’s all about.”

The American Idols will be missing a formative experience that was vital to Aerosmith becoming what it is. Perhaps Tyler can bring his wisdom to a different group of hopefuls. “I started in ’64, 65 moving up the ranks and finally figuring out what it is. These kids have it so much harder. They haven’t had the good graces to play clubs and get beaten down that way. They have mom and dad telling them they’re great, they feel entitled because they watch the show. They gotta come up and really give it up and it’s just excruciating. I’ve got this melodic sensibility and I’ve learned it’s not just about singing, it’s about character as well. What it takes to be on the road, because it’s a storm out there. To be able to dance and sing is one thing, but to be able to handle fame. To be able to put your finger on that thing, I think I know what it is.”

Aerosmith just finished a tour, so that opened Tyler up for American Idol. “We’re just on a break. What people don’t know is we did a South American tour and we did Europe, Germany, France, Sweden came back and did the States. We have one more album for Sony, working on it for the end of January, writing songs. We have a tour booked for November, December, South America and Japan. Aerosmith is so much bigger than I am. It just grew up in and of itself because we just never stopped touring. The band isn’t dead. Even if it was dead it couldn’t be dead.”

The rest of Aerosmith may not be Idol fans though. Tyler alluded to some ribbing he may have taken from his partners. “Everyone’s got their opinion. I just wanted to test my limitations. There’s nothing worth doing that’s not worth overdoing. I’ve never done television like this. I’m vulnerable too. I just wanted to see if I could pick from these kids. I come from the world where you have to blow the band that’s on before us off. I’ve got three daughters, I’m Italian. Take all that into this and it’s just what I love to do. They may have some things to say about it but it’s not going to fly. I am who I am. The band wouldn’t be the band without each member of the band so it’ll all come out in the wash.”

Tyler was a big fan of his fellow Idol judge Jennifer Lopez too. “You know, March and April, when all the rumblings were going down about am I going to do this, is she going to do it, I saw this movie coming back from the Aerosmith tour from Europe. It was The Backup Plan. I saw Jennifer Lopez be so vulnerable and so real that I immediately thought, ‘I want to sit next to that.’ I saw a vulnerable side that you rarely see in someone of her ilk. Now she is a rock star of her own and has this persona of being a wild woman. When I saw that other side of her, I thought, ‘That is perfect.’ I mean wild woman in the sweetest of ways, and she was in the hood and she came out perfectly in the middle.”

Perhaps Tyler will have a hand in choosing the next great artist. He’s already in awe of his current competitors. “I watch people right now that are so good. If I wasn’t in this band and my head under the hood of the industry all the time, I might work with them. I see people out of the last hundred were that great. If you look at the diversity styles from Christina Aguilera to Mick Jagger and the difference of styles, we’ve seen them all. We’re just waiting for the right one to pop up. They can all be worked with. I would have loved to cherry pick them but I don’t have the time.”

American Idol returns Jan. 19.

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