Country superstar Keith Urban had no problem saying "yes" when "American Idol" producers approached him to be one of the judges on the latest edition of the music competition series.

After all, Urban and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, are huge fans of the program. Plus, he had done similar work as one of the judges on the Australian version of "The Voice."

It was saying "no" after he was selected that was difficult.

"It's tricky because saying 'no' to anyone is an awful thing," Urban says. "But I think it got easier. The other way I looked at it is that people come into this knowing being told no is just part of it."

Urban won't be alone making or breaking dreams as a first-time judge on "American Idol." He is joined by Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, with veteran "Idol" judge Randy Jackson rounding out the panel.

You can see their judging styles when "American Idol" debuts with a two-part opener at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on FOX. Auditions and eliminations will be held until the top 10 finalists are announced March 5-7.

Carey, too, had trouble in the early auditions telling some of the singers that they would not advance.

"I used to duck my head, like, 'No, thank you,' " Carey says, dropping her head to illustrate her point. "I had a very tough time with it, because, as a kid, you get turned down a lot.

"And I was very young when I first started in this business. And it's tough to get that rejection. And we've all felt it, and I see some of these people, who I know are talented but maybe not in the way that 'American Idol,' the biggest show of its kind, is going to be able to take them to their fullest."

Urban also faced rejection in the early days of his career. He says that instead of letting it get him down, he used it as fuel to make him work harder.

"The people that said, 'You'll never do this. You can't do that.' Those people have actually been far more influential in my motivation to achieve things.

"And so, hopefully, the way in which we say 'no' to each of these artists is done in a way where it's not brutal or cold or callous. It's just being truthful for an artist that's gotta hear it.

"And a lot of the time they're surrounded by sycophantic people, or their family, who would tell them they're the most amazing thing. And they're not the most amazing thing. They're OK. They're not great. But they could be great, and hopefully, we can help them a little bit get up towards it," Urban says.

For Minaj, saying no came a lot easier. When she watches music competition shows, she says, it bothers her when a person who isn't talented gets a "yes" vote.

"I want to jump through the TV, because I feel like, for the people who are talented there, it kind of minimizes or takes away from how talented they really are. So when I came on, I didn't really have a problem with saying 'no,' because I kind of felt like we're looking for the best of the best," Minaj says.

"I don't feel the need to send a person through just because of a great story or because there's something going on that may make people cry, because I feel like even the great singers have stories that may make us cry. But that shouldn't change our decision, because it's kind of unfair to the ones who really are great."

As to the reports about Carey and Minaj not getting along, both performers stress that the situation got blown out of proportion. They say they admire each other's work and that any disharmony was a simple case of two co-workers passionately disagreeing about something. Any qualms faded fast.

Executive producer Mike Darnell says this panel has been one of the toughest in the history of the show. But, even with that toughness, 276 singing hopefuls advance to the Hollywood portion of the competition.

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© 2013 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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