By the time I’d arrived at the Industry club in West Hollywood, the Top 12 finalists had already been chosen on American Idol, but I had no idea who they were, as the telecast was delayed in Los Angeles. So I rushed to a Fox PR person who gave me a press release listing the four fallen contestants – the only one that truly surprised me was Lily Scott who, according to Simon Cowell on Tuesday’s broadcast, picked the wrong song (I Fall to Pieces) – don’t you hate it when Simon’s right? It’s a pity one bad song choice can determine your future on the show.
Before the Top 12 contests arrived, a couple of the show’s alumni walked down the red … well, blue carpet, including Justin Guarini, the runner-up to winner Kelly Clarkson on the first season of American Idol.
I asked him what his most memorable moment was with the franchise. “The first time I played to an audience of 30,000 on the first American Idol concert tour,” he acknowledged. “That was unbelievable. Just to hear the roar of the crowd screaming your name as you come up on the stage was awesome.”
Scott MacIntyre, the blind singer/musician, who was on last year’s show, had just come from the ‘Top 12’ broadcast, where he had sung Billy Joel’s Tell Her About It along with Matt Giraud, also a contestant last season. “It was thrilling to sing tonight, knowing my CD Heart Strings comes out this same night,” said MacIntyre. “It was amazing to come back on the show. Simon actually told me he’s been following my career. He was very nice to me.”
Finally the big moment arrived as the Top 12 finalists walked into the venue, and with hundreds of flashbulbs going off simultaneously and photographers screaming at them, you had to wonder how anything in life could prepare you for this kind of craziness, which Casey James immediately alluded to. “This is just CRAZY. I keep thinking I should be home in my living room watching all of this with my puppy dogs!”
Paige Miles told me, “I was sixteen when I watched the first season of American Idol. I’m 24 now, and here I am, and I just saw Justin Guarini (yeah, I just saw him too!). This is so bizarre.”
Michael Lynche, who has already been given the moniker ‘Big Mike,’ sang This Woman’s Work on Tuesday night’s show, which made judge Kara DioGuardi cry. “Nobody saw me at full strength until that moment,” he said with a smile. “And it was only possible because my wife and baby are here, so my heart has all of its pieces.”
Aaron Kelly, who is only sixteen, admitted, “It’s a dream come true [to be here]. I’m still in shock. I’ve been watching American Idol since I was a little kid (what, five years ago?!). My most memorable moment so far would be that I got all four ‘Yes’ votes from the judges in Orlando. That’s a big accomplishment for me.”
Tim Urban couldn’t believe he had received a big hug from judge Ellen DeGeneres after he sang Hallelujah. “That was a shock. I couldn’t understand why she got up and started walking towards me. What a memorable moment.”
Siobhan Magnus revealed that she was “surrounded by music growing up. I was very blessed to have had parents who every day were listening to something completely different, so I had a very well-rounded musical experience. My dad was always in with some band and I would go to their practices. Seeing him perform and seeing how happy it made him was one of the biggest things that made me realize that’s what I wanted to do.”
Who did she feel was her biggest competition on the show? “Going by this week Big Mike was outstanding, and they told him he was the one to beat, and that’s a little intimidating, because next week is the first time we’re competing against the boys.”
Before she left I asked her who her favorite contestant on American Idol was. “Elliot Yamin is the only one I cried over when he was voted off. That broke my heart. I voted for him religiously.”
As the show progresses, I hope they all remember Elliot Yamin, and Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, Kellie Pickler, Katharine McPhee, Adam Lambert, Constantine Maroulis and all the other contestants who didn’t win, but went on to have successful careers.