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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 8

'American Idol's Top 13 finalists take to the stage and perform live


By John Bracchitta, 03/11/2009 

American Idol's Top 13 eighth-season finalists took to the stage and performed during last night's live broadcast of the first finals round for the Fox reality competition.

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The Top 13 -- consisting of Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver, Danny Gokey, Kris Allen, Allison Iraheta, Adam Lambert, Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre, Jorge Nunez, Jasmine Murray, Megan Joy Corkrey, Anoop Desai, and Matt Giraud -- all sang songs from the catalog of Michael Jackson for the performance show.

Prior to the first performance, the judges told American Idol host Ryan Seacrest that the finalists would have to up their game if they wanted to succeed in the finals.

"Dude they gotta bring it hard, you gotta have a great performance every time because I'm tellin' you something, everyone in this Top 13 could probably win this whole thing," said judge Randy Jackson.

Judge Kara DioGuardi added that she felt she would be a harder judge now that the show had entered the finals.

"I think I have to be, because one or two, or maybe three, of these kids could end up on the radio, and it's our job to make sure that they're the best."

However before the performances began, the show announced that due to last week's decision to select 13 finalists instead of the show's usual 12, two finalists will be eliminated on Wednesday night's results show.

"As you know, the good news is that there are 13 finalists this year," Idol judge Simon Cowell said.  "[But] I have some not quite so good news now: two of you are going to go home tomorrow."

In addition, Ryan also closed the broadcast by revealing that Wednesday night's results show will bring the announcement of a significant rules change.

"Tomorrow night, [we'll announce] a surprise change to the rules that could alter the face of the competition," Ryan said before asking Simon if he felt viewers would like the change.

"Well it involves us [judges], so I'm not sure," Simon responded.

"It kind of changes the entire theme and concept of the show," Ryan told Simon.

"You'll see tomorrow," said Simon.

The following is Reality TV World's recap of the performance broadcast in the order which the finalists sang.  Also included are comments from each of the four judges -- Randy, Kara, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul -- as well as additional information about each performance. On Wednesday night beginning at 8PM ET/PT, two finalists will be eliminated from the competition.


Lil Rounds, a 24-year-old from Memphis, TN 

Song: "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson

Randy said: "This is the way we kick off season eight. Let me tell you something, you know what's great about you? This is a Michael Jackson song, he sang the whatever out of it, [but] you just put a whole new spin on it with your bluesy, kinda R&B kinda old soul vibe. Dude you made the song new again, I loved this. This is the way to start it baby!"
Kara said: "It's perfect that you come out , because it's like what Lil just did, everyone's gotta be like 'Uh, oh, wow, I need to definitely step that up. Holy God.' But the other thing is I hope we get to hear you on the radio because you are great, and you know that end note, that thing was sick You snuck that right in there. Good job girl."
Paula said: "I'm gonna compliment you on the softness, the palette of what you're wearing and the light makeup. People don't usually say this, but glam squad way to go! And then I will say this, you are a force to be reckoned with and it's such a  great way to start off this show because when you hit your falsetto and you go up it's just beautiful. It's like an angel singing."
Simon said: "I thought it was good. I was a little bit disappointed because I thought it was a bit of a lazy song choice. I thought the second half was better than the first... and I hate what you're wearing."

Additional Info: Lil's video package noted that following a tornado in 2008, Lil, her husband and their three children had to live in a hotel as they rebuilt their house. While complimentary of her style, Paula suggested that Lil use darker colors in her wardrobe in the future.


Scott MacIntyre, a 23-year-old from Scottsdale, AZ

Song: "Keep the Faith" by Michael Jackson

Kara said: "I have a question for Scott, did you just learn that on piano this week?" Scott replies that he did. "Well first of all, I am so glad that we are finally getting to see you with the piano, because it really shows us a whole other side of you. And that wasn't the most obvious Michael Jackson song, I'm not sure everybody knew that song, but what I like about you choosing it is that it's your message, this hopeful message that you deliver and that you can deliver because people wanna hear it. Was it the most dynamic performance? No. But what I love about you is you're still true to yourself every week."
Paula said: "It's really magical seeing your instrument at your fingertips and in your comfort zone, it's beautiful. It was a wonderful performance and I believe that Siedah Garrett, who composed the song, is smiling.
Simon said: "I'm gonna apologize to Siedah because I hated the song, I did. I'll tell you why, because nobody knows it and there are millions of Michael Jackson songs... I like you, I think you're a good singer, I like the fact that you're playing the piano, I just didn't like the song. I don't think it did you any favors at all."
Randy said: "I liked the song, I thought  the song was cool. Siedah I still think 'The Man in the Mirror' was better. But anyway, like the song. I just thought that the performance was good, it just all felt very safe for me... I wanna see more sparks from you because I know you got 'em Scotty."

Additional info: Scott used a piano for his performance. Garrett was present in the audience and singled out by Paula during her comments on the performance. "She's here and she loved it," Paula said. Scott told Simon he was "getting a little artistic" with his song choice, which Simon didn't agree with. "It's fine being artistic, just not on this show."


Danny Gokey, a 28-year-old from Milwaukee, WI  

Song: "PYT" by Michael Jackson

Paula said: "The true mark of an artist is when you can hear somebody, even with your eyes closed,  and know exactly who they are, and you posses that gift among so many others, and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I think you're on your way to the finals."
Simon said: (Referring to Paula) "We're already three contestants into the first show and you've already won! I thought the vocals were brilliant. You are one heck of a singer. You remind me of Michael McDonald, you're a white guy with soul. However, maybe because you were getting overexcited the dancing was hideous... but Danny, it doesn't matter. I really, really, really liked you tonight. I think you're terrific. Well done."
Randy said: "You know what's so amazing about you is that I'm trying to see a different side of you every week, 'What does Danny have, what's his range of a performer?' Dude, for you to do this up tempo thing, when you got it you just got it. The dancing, for me, and the singing, I loved it all. You know why? Because I felt like the dancing wasn't choreographed, in fact it wasn't really a dance set, it was just passion and that's the way you felt... I liked it baby!"
Kara said: "That's what it is, it's like dancing, singing, whatever. You have joy when you step up on that stage, you're just joyous. You're all about the music. And you should thank your parents for making you sing your homework, seriously."

Additional info: Danny's video package explained that he had sung a lot with his family throughout his life. He also agreed with Simon's comments about his dancing, saying that it was "really difficult" for him to dance and sing together at the same time. He added that he had asked the show's producers to bring in a dance tutor, to which Paula raised her had saying she would work with him.


Michael Sarver, a 27-year-old from Jasper, TX

Song: "You Are Not Alone" by Michael Jackson

Simon said: "You're not the best singer in this competitions, that's a fact and I think you know that. Having said that, you made up for it with passion, heart and you gave it %110. Great."
Randy said: "You know what I'm happy about for you right now is that when we first saw you, you had this whole kind of R&B kind of swagger and that whole thing jumping off. You kinda returned to that with this kinda song. And I'm telling you, tonight, so far, you're definitely one of the best so far in this dude."
Kara said: "Tonight showed me that you really can sing, that's what it showed me. The first song was a crowd pleaser during Hollywood Week a few weeks [ago], and this one really showed that you can hit those notes. I think you did a great job. And what's great about you is that you are serious, you bring your game every time you step on that stage and I really like that about you."
Paula said: "There are so many things you've got going for you. You're likable, you're a regular guy who has extraordinary talent. You picked a song that was instinctually perfect for you, and sometimes when you pick songs that are kind of calm it gives you, as an artist, room to color it up and you did beautifully, You sounded really lovely tonight."

Additional info: In his pre-performance video, Michael returned to the oil rig to meet and pose with co-workers for pictures. Following his performance, he added that he definitely preferred working on the stage over working on an oil rig in a blue work suit. "They're cute but not that cute," Michael added.


Jasmine Murray, a 17-year-old from Columbus, MS who currently resides in Starkville, MS

Song: "I'll Be There" by The Jackson 5

Randy said: "I had the pleasure, they're gonna not like this, but I had the pleasure of recording that song as a remake with a very talented singer named Mariah Carey some years ago, and it's funny how you kinda mixed the two versions together a little bit. And I was thinking when you came out singing that song I was going 'Yo, I don't know how this is gonna be," but you know what man? You did a pretty good job on it. I was actually impressed because it's a tough song to sing after Mariah and Michael and all of that. But you know what? It wasn't that bad, it was pretty good."
Kara said: "It kinda surprised me too. I'm always on the edge, I'm like 'Oh my God is she gonna do it, is she gonna do it?' and she hits some of these notes and I'm like whoa! I keep thinking though, maybe a half-key down would've been a little more comfortable for you, it would've just been effortless. But you did it and you sold it. You have great stage presence by the way, I really liked that about her."
Paula said: "A lovely young lady your age, you have tremendous composure and poise on that stage as if you've been doing it your whole life. You had some bright moments, but you had some moments going into the chorus that I'm not sure if you're not hearing yourself in the monitors maybe, or you're overwhelmed by the ambiance and the audience, but you were under at times. But they you had brilliant moments, so way to go."
Simon said: "Look there's not much more I can really add Jasmine. You made a good attempt and there was some nice control at the end, big notes are always gonna trouble you. A little bit robotic at times, you've just got t lighten up a little bit, and we've said this to you before I think you've got to start acting your age a little bit. At the moment it's a little bit of 'Little girl trying to be a grownup.'"

Additional info: Jasmine's video package explained that she is one of five siblings and her mother is accompanying her on the show because she is still a minor.


Kris Allen, a 23-year-old from Jacksonville, AR who currently resides in Conway, AR

Song: "Remember the Time" but Michael Jackson

Kara said: "I am happy to see you there with your guitar, because when you play the guitar it's a whole other side of you and I think it really helps you performance wise. There were a few notes that were a little off, but you know I'm just so happy to see this back in the performance, because that's what you should be doing is playing and singing. And guys, I don't know if you know this, but he spent a lot of time helping the other contestants out this week, he did. And I'm sure Simon is like 'Why did he do that, he shouldn't be doing that' but I gotta give you props for that. That show's you're a good guy."
Paula said: "You know why he helped the other contestants out? Because Kris... I truly believe that no one knows Michael's catalog better than you, it's the truth. Seeing you with the guitar, you're engaging and, don't take this wrong, but you're kinda adorable sexy. I just wanna remind people that I love you too, and the truth is that I could never say that to someone I know from over the pond. But congratulations you did a great job."
Simon said: "It was interesting, I don't know if that was a song that really suits the guitar, which made the performance at times a bit clumsy. But the vocals were okay, you're very likable, I'm not sure I would've brought the wife out so early. Keep her hidden for a couple of weeks and then [do it]. I'm kidding!"
Randy said: "I loved the wife, I loved the guitar. I think it was an interesting song choice for you with the guitar with that song because it was actually kinda cool in a way for me and very Jason Mraz-y, so very well job done baby!"

Additional info: During his video package, Kris explained that he married his wife five months ago. His wife seemed to object to Simon's comments that she remain hidden. Kris used his guitar during the performance.


Allison Iraheta, a 16-year-old from Los Angeles, CA who currently resides in Downey, CA

Song: "Give in to Me" by Michael Jackson

Paula said: " Are you sixteen or seventeen?" Allison replies that she's sixteen. "Everyone you hear that? Sixteen. it's mind boggling. You're another one that's so poised and you're a rock star up there. It looked like you've been doing this since you were two, and you probably have. So what I have to say to you is keep doing what you're doing, your hair looks great tonight... and stay authentic and true to who you are and I know we're going to be seeing a lot more of you."
Simon said: "It was a good performance. I mean, the good thing about you is that at least we know who you are. It's very clear you know what kind of artist you wanna be. You know, you've got to lighten up a bit... you know but good. As Paula said, sixteen-years-old, that kind of confidence, that voice. Very good."
Randy said: "I always say if you got it you just got it and you're goin' with it. I don't care if you're sixteen, seventeen, fifteen, listen, you can sing. I know it's a rocker look tonight but I think you can sing anything. I think you're one to watch in this whole thing."
Kara said: "Keep being a rocker girl. You distinguish yourself by being the rocked out girl that you are with those vocals, because that's ridiculous. When you go up high it's like the walls are about to come in. You did a great job."

Additional info: During her video package, Allision explained that she began singing in public at age five at La Curacao, a huge Latin shopping center near her home.


Anoop Desai, a 22-year-old from Chapel Hill, NC

Song: "Beat It" by Michael Jackson

Paula said: "When you pick a song it's your gift to show the world what you got, and according just to me I think this song is untouchable and it belongs to the consummate artist and anything else sounds karaoke to me. I'm sorry. I love you. but..."
Simon said: "Anoop I'm gonna go a bit further than that, I thought it was horrible because there was no aggression, it was all very lightweight, karaoke? Yes. And it actually looked a bit stupid. I'll tell you why because it was like somebody trying to be like Michael Jackson but failing, that was the problems. It was like a really, really, really bad impersonation."
Randy said: "For me dawg it was just the wrong choice. It was just the wrong choice. Like they're right it was very karaoke, and the funny thing to me is that you got a little bit more than that. That's not the song you should be singing dude. It didn't work for me."
Kara said: "I gotta agree with them, but the biggest problem with it is that since you can sing we didn't get to see you do any kind of variation on anything. You didn't go up, you didn't do any riffs, and for the first time I felt kinda disconnected to you as a performer, which is weird because your strength is your connection."

Additional info: Paula seemed proud to finally elicit a boo from the crowd. "I got a boo, yay," she said. Anoop said that hoped to be around next week to "Show you what I got" following Randy's comments and reiterated it again to Ryan. Simon said that, in retrospect, her regretted making the competition into a Top 13 for Anoop to make it in.


Jorge Nunez, a 21-year-old from Cidra, Puerto Rico who currently resides in Carolina, PR

Song: "Never Gonna Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5

Randy said: "Alright listen we got mad love for you baby, we had a good time in Puerto Rico, love what you do man. The thing is that this isn't the song that I would've chosen for you because it makes it a little bit older fashion for you, but you definitely got vocal chops. There were a couple pitch points in there in the beginning and you got a nice upper range. I just woulda chosen something else that would've challenged you more."
Kara said: "Yeah, my problem with it tonight was you're one of the most emotionally connected people on this show for me and I just didn't feel that. maybe it's because you're learning it, it's a different language, but I could've almost seen you with "She's Out Of My Life" or something like that. A little bit more emotional."
Paula said: "Jorge you know I have mad love over this whole panel for you. I don't feel that you were yourself... America's gotta remember the brilliant vocalist that you are because you deserve to be on that stage. This was not the right song for you."
Simon said: "Jorge it was corny and you were out of your depth, simple as that. And the arrangement was absolutely awful. It was so old fashioned, actually I couldn't wait for it to end."

Additional info: Paula reiterated that Jorge deserved to remain in the competition. Randy agreed with Kara's song choice suggestion. Jorge said that the song was not his usual style and that he had only chosen it because he thought it fit his voice better than most other Michael Jackson songs.


Megan Joy Corkrey, a 23-year-old from Taylorsville, UT who currently resides in Sandy, UT

Song: "Rockin' Robin" by The Jackson 5

Kara said: "You have a way of putting your signature on everything you touch, it's just so 'Megan' from your style to the way you sing. Was it the most overwhelming vocal performance? No. But you injected your personality in it and I hope now that you do some more things in the future that show your falsetto, that show some range, because we need to see that from you."
Paula said: "For me what I love about you is the quirky and unique tone to your voice, and you picked the right song but somehow to me I felt disconnected and I didn't hear that sound that we love only until the end when you started having inflections there. I know we're gonna see more of you, you're absolutely gorgeous, but I want America to know your vocals besides your beauty."
Simon said: "Look Megan, we like you, we've established that, but what a stupid song choice. Sorry but it was. The vocals weren't very good, the dancing was verging on ridiculous, the whole performance was just clumsy and awkward. Honestly, if this was the first time anybody had seen this person without all the hype and everything else and this was the great hope for American Idol, they'd think we'd have gone completely nuts!"
Randy said: "The thing for me is that the song choice just wasn't what I heard you singing. It didn't allow you to really be Megan."

Additional info: Simon pointed out that Hell's Kitchen host Gordon Ramsey was in the audience and attempted to ask his opinion of Megan's performance as well. However the microphones couldn't pick up his response.


Adam Lambert, a 26-year-old from San Diego, CA who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA

Song: "Black or White" by Michael Jackson

Paula said: "I'm gonna say this, and this is my opinion, never in the history of American Idol and all seven seasons leading up to now have we ever, and I believe this truthfully, seen someone so comfortable [and] seasoned on that stage. I don't even notice that stage because my eyes are transfixed on you. Your innate ability to know who you are as an artist and marry fashion with music, you've got the whole package going on, and I believe with all my heart we'll be seeing you running all the way to the end in the finals."
Simon said: "That was, to me, in a totally different league to everything else we've seen and heard tonight. It was. Whether it's your stage experience you've had before you were comfortable. To make Michael Jackson work you've got to be over the top and be comfortable with it, and it was an original version, the vocals were terrific. Most importantly, you're someone people are going to talk about."
Randy said: "Let me just add, since Day 1 when we saw you, you were the most current, the most right now. I'm telling you dude listen, you could make a record right now, sail straight to the top of the charts. I love who you are, i love what you do. And check it out, once again, if you got it you got it, and baby you got it."
Kara said: "I mean what can I say that they haven't already said. You hit notes, I didn't even know they existed some of the notes that he hits. It's just all the way up, and I hope Michael Jackson is watching this tonight."

Additional info: Paula added that she was "mind boggled" that a label had not picked Adam up yet and established him as an artist. Simon joked to Paula by making it clear that there were still 10 weeks left in the competition.


Matt Giraud, a 23-year-old from Ypsilanti, MI who currently resides in Kalamazoo, MI

Song: "Human Nature" by Michael Jackson

Randy said: "That was a really good performance, there were a couple little pitch spots but you definitely got that Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake thing jumping off man."
Kara said: "You are a talented guy, and I hope I see you for many, many weeks."
Paula said: "You are talented, sexy, amazing, authentic. I'm blown away."
Simon said: "It was very good, I mean, difficult following Adam after that great performance. It was sort of like a meat-and-potatoes good, solid, nice performance."

Additional info: Matt performed onstage with a piano.


Alexis Grace, a 21-year-old from Memphis, TN

Song: "Dirty Diana" by Michael Jackson

Kara said: Alexis, you're back! I've got a few words for Alexis, you're a naughty girl, and I liked it."
Paula said: "I think naughty and sexy too, but watch your over singing."
Simon said: Very over the top, probably not as good as you thought it was."
Randy said: "I Thought it was good. It wasn't great but it was good. I like the attitude."



(Photo credit Fox)


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