LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran showman Barry Manilow, who unveiled a new Las Vegas act on Tuesday, said that when it comes to today's hit singers, he most admires original acts such as controversial dance queen Lady Gaga.
Manilow has sold more than 80 million records worldwide and is set to begin a two-year series of love song concerts at the Paris Las Vegas hotel in March.
He called his 78-show series "the most romantic-looking show we can put together," and said he would perform classic love songs and some of his own popular hits, such as "Mandy."
When it came to new performers, the man who began recording in the 1970s and is known for Grammy-winning nightclub standard "Copacabana (At the Copa)" said it was pop diva Lady Gaga who made him sit up and take notice.
"I think Lady Gaga is very original. I really think she's got something going for her," Manilow told Reuters by phone from New York, where he is set to perform at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center on Wednesday.
Manilow's concerts, of course, contrast with those of glam artists like Gaga, who acted out her own bloody death at September's MTV Video Music Awards, or Adam Lambert, who simulated a sex act onstage at the American Music Awards.
Still, he called both "talented" and said, "I encourage these young singers to do what they are passionate about".
Manilow, known for upbeat songs and glittering costumes, said to boost energy of his own shows, he revs up his band and singers backstage.
"I try to make sure we're all in the same room and jumping around and all excited before we take our positions onstage, so that when I go out there, I am not just a soloist -- I am part of a big family," he said.
In 2004, Manilow served as a guest judge on TV singing contest "American Idol." And while some new singers who obtain stardom from TV shows have taken criticism that they put performance before music, Manilow said voters generally have chosen good winners and noted many also earn critical success.
"I think the people who come out of these reality shows are really talented," he said. "I do think they're going to be around for a long time. They've got to be able to choose and write songs that will outlive them".
What's his secret to longevity? "I try to tell the truth in what I say and what I sing, and I cross my fingers the audience will get it," he said. "I love the music. I could do it forever".
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte