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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 7

Michael Johns dishes on his 'American Idol' journey, surprise ouster


By Christopher Rocchio, 04/14/2008 

Michael Johns said he was "definitely aware" of the boos raining down from American's Idol live studio audience after he became the fifth seventh-season finalist eliminated from the competition.

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"It was pretty loud, actually.  I don't know how it came across on television.  Look, it gave me solace in the fact that I stuck in there with a lot of people, and it made me feel really special, actually," he told reporters during a Friday conference call.

"Nothing has sunken in just quite yet, but the backlash that I'm seeing in snippets of the press and in talking to you guys, that means a lot.  It means that I struck a nerve somewhere.  This year more than any other year I really believe -- especially with this Top 8 -- that you can't let the person that's your favorite go, 'He had a great week,' or, 'She had a great week,' and I'm going to give him half of my votes and then I'm going to do the other one who didn't do so well.  A split vote like that can happen and unfortunately, the people that you thought were going to be safe go home."

The 29-year-old from Los Angeles, CA was ousted from Idol's seventh season after "over 31 million" home viewer votes were cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance episode broadcast that saw the Top 8 finalists each singing inspirational songs to keep with the Idol Gives Back spirit.  Johns had been the first finalist to perform and sang Aerosmith's "Dream On" -- a song that seemed slightly out of place amidst all the ballads most of the other finalists chose. 

"That song is all about how they can struggle and overcome things, and I've done that for the last 10 years," explained Johns of his song selection.  "Living in America, this is my dream.  Dream on until the dreams come true, and they're coming true right now.  That's why I chose that song for sure."

After his performance, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell had both reiterated their previously stated displeasure that they don't think Johns is a rock singer -- with Cowell going as far as calling the rendition "a little bit wannabe-ish."

"I think song choice is a very personal thing.  It's like if you can't go out and believe every lyric or it doesn't have an emotion or connection to you, then it's not going to work," Johns told reporters. 

"So my whole experience on the show was Simon saying, 'I want you to sing more of the blues soul stuff and everything' -- but not every theme week fit into that.  What I chose throughout the entire competition was a representation of the kind of artist I'm going to be after I get voted off.  I'm going to be a rock soul singer.  I'm going to make that kind of record.  I'm proud that I stayed true to that throughout the entire competition."

As an astute Idol fan who said he's watched the last six seasons of the show, Johns said he wasn't the only finalist whom he felt the judges missed the mark with.

"It's been kind of a weird judging year, you know?  All the contestants kind of feel that,"  he said. "Sometimes the judges have it wrong this year.  I thought [Syesha Mercado's] performance Tuesday night was absolutely stellar, some of the notes she hits.  She got bagged for it.  [Carly Smithson] is the same way.  We've all been there, you know what I mean?  The one thing I've learned from Idol is you have to stay true to yourself.  You can't go out there and go, 'I have to sing this song this week because it's going to impress Simon.'  You can't plan those weeks when the judges are going to like it."

While Johns said he knows Cowell is "very influential" when it comes to home viewers, he tried to get past the judges' potential pull.

"For me, what was more important was showing American what kind of record I'm going to make after the fact," he said.  "I never wavered from the fact that I sang rock and soul.  That was more important to me than getting the three thumbs up at the end of the day."

After Idol host Ryan Seacrest had revealed the voting results during Thursday night's broadcast,  he decided to take last year's Idol Gives Back results show twist -- in which none of the finalists were eliminated -- and use it to give Johns a glimmer of hope.

"I get the television aspect of this competition, but it was tough.  I thought, 'Okay, I'm going home,' and then he did that and I was, 'Wait a second, maybe I'm not going home.  Maybe they're just having a good laugh,'" explained Johns.  "I hadn't been in the bottom three before, so I was thinking that was a possibility.  When reality set in and Ryan gave me a look as if to say, 'Look, I am so sorry I had to do that,' but you get it.  I don't hold it against Ryan or anything."

Johns also apparently doesn't hold anything against home viewers either.

"Look, winning the thing or not winning Idol, it really depends on the artist.  It depends on what album you make afterwards.  It depends whether or not on the show you were absolutely true to yourself and did not change," he explained.  "I think the people who have succeeded after Idol -- from the Kimberly Locke's to the Carrie Underwood's -- that's the one common thing, that they're themselves and they stayed true to their hearts.  That's pretty cool."

The fact that he was able to stay true to himself is something that Johns said he's happy he accomplished on Idol.

"I'm very proud of the fact that my friends and family, from every interview they've seen or any quotes they've read or the pre-packages and such, they've seen that I've been me through the whole process," he said.  "I haven't come in with an agenda, I didn't change.  That's what I'm going to take away from this experience.  Just because it's an enormous machine doesn't mean that you have to change with it."

Johns also dismissed the notion that several of the seventh-season finalists having previous professional experience -- including himself -- hurt the competition.

"I didn't know how that would work out for me.  The thing about this season is a lot of us have made records, worked with producers, had deals or something cooking," he explained.  "I think that's why you're seeing such a strong Top 12.  It's really refreshing for me to be on a show that had so much talent this year.  No one was really necessarily competing against any one, like me and Dave Cook going for the rocker vote.  It was really cool to be with 10 individual artists.  I thought it was really cool.  Did it help me or hurt me?  I don't know."

While he's unsure how it personally affected him, Johns said he thinks the prior experience raised the bar for the competition overall.

"As Simon says, the show is only as good as the talent that walks through the door.  For some reason, the way that it worked this year was like they wanted it to be a singing competition rather than a TV show," he said.  "No controversy of [Sanjaya Malakar] or whoever else.  They wanted to make it a really good singing competition, and I think that's what they did.  I applaud them for it."

Not only does Johns applaud them for it, it personally improved his Idol experience.

"Of any season that I could have been on, to be a part of this one was just really special," he said.  "The fact that there was no laughingstock, there were no jokers... I think we had a lot of respect in the public eye, and that's something I can be very proud of."

Johns was also asked why he auditioned for American Idol instead of the show's Australian version since he is a native of the land down under.

"I live here in America now.  Will I live in Australia again maybe when I'm older?  I don't know.  For me, my life and career are here.  I love it here.  I've been here 10 years.  My whole adult life has been here," he explained.  "Obviously, I'm not American, but I don't really feel Australian anymore so much.  It's weird.  If you left America at 18 and your only memories are from high school, you know what I'm saying?  That's how I feel.  I'm going to be living here for the rest of my life."

In addition, Johns said his Australian heritage made him fit right in with the rest of Idol's seventh-season Top 12.

"If you look at all the contestants, it's a pretty amazing year.  This really has been a melting pot Idol.  You've had the whole array," he said. 

"You have [David Cook] and [Brooke White] that are there that are like fully American.  Then you have David Archuleta.  His mom is half Mexican or something; I'm not sure.  Then you have Syesha who has, I think, some Cuban in here.  Jason Castro, the same.  [Ramiele Malubay] was born in Saudi Arabia.  All these things have come together.  The entire Top 12 was that.  [Chikezie Eze], Nigerian background and stuff.  It was pretty cool to see that America didn't really care about that side of it as much.  They cared about the fact that you were a real person and can you sing.  I think that's all that you can ask for out of this kind of competition."

Had he stuck around in the competition for another week, Johns was planning to take Mariah Carey's first big hit and make it an original.

"A really cool soul version, blues soul version again of 'Vision of Love,'" he explained.  "It was hot, too, so I'm a little bummed."

Despite being bummed, Johns is excited at the opportunity this summer's Idol tour will present him.

"Most artists, the kind of career you have to have to have 10,000 plus people at a show, that's pretty rare company," said Johns.  "The fact that we get to do this from the show, what an honor.  I just can't wait to get out there and rock."


(Photo credit Fox)


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