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New "American Idol" judge Lionel Richie explains what he's looking for in a contestant

ABC/Eric LiebowitzWhen American Idol first began, it was subtitled "The Search for a Superstar," and when the show premieres this Sunday night, that's just what judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan will be doing.

Richie, of course, is a superstar himself, and one of the talents that helped propel him to fame was his songwriting ability. However, he admits that some contestants who have performed their own original tunes haven't always made the best impression.

"They're bringing their new songs to the audition and sometimes, in writing their own songs, they don't really capture who they really are," Richie explains to ABC Radio. "So we find ourselves now listening to their new song and then saying, 'Would you go back and get me another song?' -- just to find out where your true self might be."

He adds, "As a songwriter, I love that they're bringing their songs to the table. But it's going to be a little combination of the two. I think sometimes when they write their songs they don't stretch as much as they do when they are singing someone else's song."

We'll get the chance to see which contestants impress Lionel with that winning combination when the new incarnation of American Idol premieres this Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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