As a successful musician with a career dating back to the 1970s, Lionel Richie has heard more than his fair share of wannabes trying to impress him. Now, at least, he’s getting paid for it as an American Idol judge. But his years of listening to impromptu auditions has given him a very good sense of how to know almost instantly whether a singer’s got the chops to make it. Richie explained to us how he can tell so quickly whether someone has the potential to be a true American Idol. (Click on the media bar below to hear Lionel Richie)

American Idol airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.

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