This is the week we’ve all been waiting for: it’s the return of American Idol! With new and returning judges (all non-controversial) on the panel this year, this is already shaping up to be a much-improved season. In today’s Roundup, we’ve got three preview videos so you can get a sense of the kind of talent to expect during the auditions. Ruben Studdard has released two cover songs from his upcoming album. And Forbes has released a list of the top-earning Idols of 2013.

American Idol Season 13: Big Changes and 3 Big Improvements >>>

Videos: Season 13 Audition Previews

We already know that the judges get along and everyone’s having a great time, but what about the talent? Can we expect some strong singers this season? FOX has released some short preview videos to tease us.

First up is Austin Percario who sings “Titanium” for his Boston audition. He’s got a stage mom, which sounds like a problem right off the bat. But once he turns 18 soon, he’s looking forward to being able to go to Hollywood Week without her.

Austin has a really good voice. The only thing I worry about is his falsetto, which he might need to work on.

Next up is Paisley from the Salt Lake City auditions. Now here’s someone with an exceptional voice. Like a lot of auditioners, she’s got a backstory — and it’s one that one of the judges can relate to.

Finally, this last preview is set up in a way that reminds me of The Voice. During most of the song, we don’t see who’s singing, only the judges’ reactions. It’s obvious that the look won’t match the voice. But regardless, he’s got a great voice that has a lot of rasp and depth to it. Check out the video to see if he’s what you expected him to look like. (Oh, and he’s playing a guitar — something you’ll see a lot of this year, I think.)

Ruben Studdard Covers “Close the Door” and “The Nearness of You”

The above singers are trying to be the next American Idol. But someone who has already been there, done that and won the whole competition, Ruben Studdard, is about to launch a new album of mostly cover songs with a few originals thrown in. And he’s released two covers online. Take a listen to his rendition of Teddy Pendergrass’ “Close the Door”:

And now here’s Ruben’s cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You”:

Unconditional Love will be released on February 4.

FOX Announces American Idol Season 13 Schedule >>>

The Top-Earning Idols of 2013

Forbes has released a list of the top-earning Idols of 2013. And the usuals are on there that you would expect, like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert and Jennifer Hudson, among others. But what might surprise you is that Taylor Hicks is not only in the Top 10, but he made more money last year than the Oscar winner herself, J-Hud. How much more? Try $1.5 million more.

Here is Top 10 from 2013:

1. Carrie Underwood: $31 million

2. Kelly Clarkson: $7 million

3. Phillip Phillips & Adam Lambert: $5 million

5: Chris Daughtry: $4 million

6. Scotty McCreery: $3 million

7. Taylor Hicks: $2.5 million

8. Fantasia & Kellie Pickler: $1.5 million

10. Katharine McPhee Jennifer Hudson: $1 million

Adam Lambert’s co-manager, Martin Kurkup, told Forbes, “Adam used the launching pad of American Idol very well to have a successful recording career. I think the main part of his career still lies ahead of him.” And Taylor Hicks simply said, “The platform of American Idol changed my life.”

Do any of the Idols on the list (or the dollar amounts) shock you?

(Image and videos courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.