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Ousted finalist Jorge Nunez talks about his 'American Idol' experience


By Christopher Rocchio, 03/16/2009 

Puerto Rico native Jorge Nunez feels a cultural barrier when it came to song selection may have been factors in his ouster from American Idol's eighth season.

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"We have our own culture there with a sense of music in Spanish and my biggest challenge until now was picking songs for the show in the sense of it's not the kind of music that I'm used to singing," he told reporters during a Thursday conference call.  "That was the biggest challenge, but I think I did a good job."

Nunez and Jasmine Murray were revealed to be the first two finalists eliminated from Idol's eighth season during last Wednesday night's live results show based on the nearly 33 million home viewer votes that were cast following Tuesday night's performance episode that saw the Top 13 finalists perform songs from Michael Jackson's catalog.

Nunez sang "Never Can Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5 on Tuesday night, and the performance was mostly panned by Idol's four judges.

"I just wanted to do something different, because I didn't want to stay in the same kind of vibe when singing," explained Nunez to reporters.  "I didn't want to just sing ballads throughout the whole competition, and since it was the first time on a big stage, I wanted something that I could play with, move around, have a little fun on stage, and I had a lot of fun there."

The 21-year-old's biggest criticism unsurprisingly came from Simon Cowell, who described the performance as "so old-fashioned" that he "couldn't wait for it to end."

"The thing is that Simon is the kind of person that if you say something, he's really fast.  You can't play with Simon.  He's really fast, he's smart, he's witty, he's just going to get you," said Nunez.

"But to me, it was at the moment, it was funny, but it was like you know what?  Simon, come on, but he's a great guy and that is the first time that he has told me something like that throughout the whole competition and I am really happy with his comments towards me.  I know that he liked me in some way."

Nunez auditioned for Idol's eighth season last summer in San Juan, Puerto Rico and told reporters that despite his best efforts there was a language barrier he had to overcome to compete on the show.

"It's something that is really logical.  My first language is Spanish, so basically, when I'm going to do my best in singing and in emoting what I sing and passing on emotions to people is going to be my own language," he explained.  "To me it wasn't a disadvantage.  It just meant that I needed to work harder and I don't feel like it was something that affected me because I worked really hard and I think I did a great job."

Nunez added that had he survived last week's viewer vote, he wouldn't have been too excited for performing a country song this week -- a prospect he called "kind of intimidating."

"Because I'm Puerto Rican, if I ever got to sing country for American Idol, I bet that I was going to be not only the first Puerto Rican in the Top 13 of American Idol, but the first Puerto Rican singing country ever in the history of Puerto Ricans," he told reporters.

Despite being booted after only one week in the finals, Nunez said participating in Idol taught him about what it means to be a successful artist.

"I've learned that being a singer is more to stay true to who you are no matter what other people might think, because everyone has a different opinion in the end.  The artist is the person who believes in himself as who he is and what he wants," he said.  "And I always kept that integrity throughout the whole show.  I always picked the songs I wanted to sing, and I have no regrets."

Prior to auditioning for Idol Nunez planned on finishing college, a goal he still plans on completing before hitting the pavement on his road to stardom.

"I'm going to finish college anyway, but I'm going to keep going with music.  Music is my priority now," he told reporters.

"I'm going to try to pursue music, because as I've heard from my parents and people in Puerto Rico, I've gotten great coverage there.  A lot of people already know who I am and millions of people saw me, so this is not the end for me.  This is just the start."

(Photo credit Fox)


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