"I actually didn't know the song. And I didn't know any other songs besides 'I Will Always Love You', the song that everybody knows," she told reporters during a Thursday conference call.
"But I taped ['Do I Ever Cross Your Mind'] and I listened. It was either that or a ballad. And I listened to the song and I wanted to challenge myself to see how I could take a song and kind of make it my own even though it wasn't in the same genre, like the kind of music that I tended to do. I'm proud of myself that I actually moved on stage performance-wise. I felt that I grew that night."
While she grew, the 20-year-old from Miramar, FL became the fourth Idol seventh-season finalist cut from the competition based on home viewer votes cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance episode broadcast -- an elimination she suspected was coming. Malubay was one of the week's bottom three vote getters along with Kristy Lee Cook and Brooke White.
"We were just hugging each other," explained Malubay of the scene before her ouster was revealed. "We were roommates; we all lived together, along with [Syesha Mercado]. We were just talking to each other, like, Brooke was like, 'You know I love you guys no matter what happens.' And Kristy was like, 'I'm here, guys. I love you guys.' I kind of knew it was me."
Despite describing her as a "hotel singer" during her seventh-season audition, Malubay said judge Simon Cowell was actually very supportive of her after her elimination.
"He likes me, I know he does. He's a very nice guy," she said. "Backstage when I left the show he came and he was like, 'Oh, cry on my shoulder.' And I was like, 'Oh, okay.' And he was telling me, 'It was the song choice; it was the song choice.' I'm like, 'Simon, I know it was the song choice.'"
Malubay also defended Cowell's constant criticism of Idol contestants.
"I really do believe in my heart that he says the things he says -- sometimes he overdoes it, it's TV -- but he just wants us to be better," she explained. "He didn't just pick us to pick us; he saw something in us, obviously, and he wanted us to do well."
Still, Malubay said she was a bit baffled when the judges recently criticized her confidence in the competition -- especially considering it apparently manifested itself in her mind.
"They were just saying my confidence dropped and I was like, 'What are they talking about?' And when I got to the what-are-they-talking-about kind of mode, it was like that's when that whole over-thinking thing came about, like, 'What am I doing? Who are they talking about? What do they want from me?'" she explained. "You should never second-guess yourself... I shouldn't have done that."
Overall, Malubay said she's thankful that the judges saw enough in her to make her a member of the Top 24.
"[Idol has] pretty much taken over my whole life, but it's a good thing," she said. "It's actually the first real big thing that's happened in my life and it's been an experience, a good experience. It's exposure, it's a future and I'm very grateful for the judges to get me as far as I did to let America judge."
Malubay's rendition of Heart's "Alone" -- a song previously made famous on Idol by fourth-season champ Carrie Underwood -- during last week's performance episode received mixed reviews from the judges, with Randy Jackson calling it "pitchy" and "a little too big of a song" for her voice.
"I watched [Underwood's] performance," said Malubay, adding the criticism she received for her own rendition might have been a hindrance.
"I let that get to my head and I'm like now I need to try to be better than that and when you over think things like that too much, you just over think it so far that you don't know how to handle yourself anymore. Sometimes you just over think it and then the song just gets out of hand. It's not in your control anymore."
Currently standing at only 4-feet, 11-inches tall, Malubay moved to States from the Philippines at 5-years-old and aspired to be the first Asian Idol winner, something she said added a "little bit of pressure."
"But just to see how the fan base would grow and stuff and it's just flattering," she added. "It was really exciting, but then again, I was like, 'Oh I have to do well not only for myself now, not only for my parents, but for people of the same race and the people supporting me.' I got as far as I could and I hope nobody is disappointed."
In addition, Malubay took comfort in the fact that Filipino-American Idol third-season third-place finisher Jasmine Trias has since enjoyed success both stateside and abroad.
"I've learned some things over there and following in her footsteps, she left a lot for me to follow so I'm really grateful for her for being the first Filipino American Idol, to go beyond the show and doing big things," said Malubay.
"I knew that they all had experience or some of them had experience, but I had as much experience as I thought I was going to need and when I went into this you just learn so much more," she said. "And we're all on the same playing field, do you know what I mean? They're learning what I'm learning and I feel like I knew what I needed to know and they knew what they needed to know. But it's not like I was on any uneven playing field. I was totally okay with the way things were."
Malubay reiterated she was "definitely not" overmatched in the competition.
"We all had our weaknesses and our strengths, but when it came down to it, we had the same vocal coaches," she explained. "We had the same kind of training while we were there. The only difference was the experience that we had before going into it, but I'm pretty sure Simon, Randy and [Paula Abdul] wouldn't just pick up thinking all of us were completely amateurs or all of us had so much experience. We were picked for a reason."
"I'm not sure yet when we're going to move in together because of the tour and whatnot. But I do know we're really close. I still talk to him every single day. We're going to move in. We're a friend duet," she said of Noriega. "We just got so close. You don't really get to share that kind of experience with just anybody, so he and I, it's like we clicked and we want to be there for each other. And I'll be fine and he'll be fine and we'll take care of each other."
Malubay said participating in Idol taught her to "be more of a humble person" and "appreciate the little things" in life.
"I went into this really clueless of what was going to happen, but it's just that you see how fame kind of gets to certain people... So I pride myself on staying the way I was walking into this completely lost and walking out the same way," she said. "Totally be yourself and enjoy every single minute of it because if you think too far ahead you're going to miss the fun stuff, when you look back. And I'm just glad that I took everything in and I didn't regret anything."
As for what's next, Malubay said she plans to stay in L.A. "for a while" to pursue music and is also interested in acting.
"I would love to just make an R&B solo album and kind of just make it a little bit more upbeat and add my flavor to some old songs or covers or something," she said. "Me and Danny will do a duet regardless."
(Photo credit Fox)
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