Monday, November 14, 2011

#84 Camile Velasco

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is my number 84 American Idol finalist Camile Velasco. She got ninth place on American Idol season 3. She is a quarter Irish, quarter Spanish, and half Filipino. Her music genres are acoustic pop, R&B, and reggae.

Ciara-Camile Roque Velasco was born on September 1, 1985, in Makati City, Philippines, and raised Haiku, Maui, located in the U.S. state of Hawaii. Before her stint on American Idol, she was a  struggling songwriter and composer who worked at her parents' International House of Pancakes (IHOP) Restaurant in Kahului, Hawaii. She has since released a single with Universal/Motown Records, headlined events in California, Hawaii, and elsewhere in the world. She is currently signed to Up Above Records to complete her debut album.

Velasco auditioned for American Idol season 3 in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, along with Jasmine Trias. The judges unanimously put her through to the Hollywood Round after praising her for her rendition of the chorus and bridge of "Ready or Not" by The Fugees, which contains a sample from a Delfonics song. Simon Cowell commented that she was "actually very good", assuring that Velasco that she did not need to be nervous. Randy Jackson added that he has loved the sound of Velasco's voice and that he "love the kinda dark quality of it." Finally, Paula Abdul stated that Velasco has "a real interesting tone" and that "You’re a beautiful, beautiful girl.” She encouraged Velasco not to be afraid to “let go” and to “know and own the fact that you’re really good.”

In the Hollywood round, Velasco sang several songs solo and performed "You Can't Hurry Love" in a group. She made it through to the top 32, in the second group of semifinalists. After her stirring performance of "One Last Cry" by Brian McKnight, Cowell stated that Velasco was "probably the best out of the group tonight." Before she left the stage, Randy Jackson requested that she infuse more of her hip-hop style into her next performance, and Velasco jovially replied, "I'll do it, baby."

At the results show, Velasco emerged as the top vote-getter in her group, just as Cowell had predicted, and she shed actual tears as she performed a reprise of "One Last Cry." Velasco quickly became the pride of Hawaii, and small-town Maui in particular, causing the islands to vote exponentially more than in previous years. Her return home before the finals was deeply emotional, as she was showered with support and physically covered with colorful leis.

On American Idol, Velasco’s trademark was a red, yellow and green Rastafarian wristband, which she continually wore on her left wrist as a good luck charm and as an homage to the reggae movement (and specifically her musical influences Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill). According to her, the three colors represented peace, happiness, and unity, respectively. Velasco also wore the 3rd Eye Vision logotype of the Hieroglyphics, a San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop crew, on several occasions, reflecting her love of the music and culture. In the media, Velasco became known for wearing self-designed apparel, and for being consistently unafraid to express her unique interests, conscious outlook, and sensitive ideology.

Vocally, Velasco was quickly classified as being hip-hop—a culture and style she certainly identified with (but was not limited to). In the competition, she was even likened to her musical influence Lauryn Hill, one of the most influential women in hip-hop—a comparison that nearly brought Velasco to tears. On top 12 week, she performed "Son of a Preacher Man" by Dusty Springfield. On top 11 week, she performed "Desperado" by Eagles. On top 10 week, she performed "For Once in My Life" by Stevie Wonder, which would later be performed by Scotty McCreery on top 11 week of season 10. On top 9 week, she performed "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." She sang those songs in her own personal musical style, without consciously applying a particular genre to her performances.

However, on April 7, 2004, Velasco was eliminated from American Idol finishing in ninth place. She was in the bottom three with third-placer Jasmine Trias and runner-up Diana DeGarmo. Velasco and Trias were asked to perform one more time before Ryan Seacrest revealed the night's verdict.
Mostly due to increasingly harsh criticism from the judges, Velasco seemed to anticipate her departure. As a result, she became the first contestant to alter the lyrics of her song impromptu, substituting “the blues” with “I love you,” as she pointed to her fans in the audience and her fellow contestants, and replacing “back to the howling old owl in the woods” with “back to the island of Maui, at home.” Velasco kept her composure as her name was announced, but began to cry during her dedication video. As the show ended, the remaining finalists were quick to encircle her in a tight embrace.

Despite her departure from the show, Velasco’s fanbase continued to support her, hence becoming a cult favorite. She was inundated by gifts and letters, even months after her elimination. Since her stint on American Idol, Velasco has gained a reputation for engaging her fans, and patiently meeting with crowds of people, to the occasional dismay of the employees and management at certain venues. Velasco’s motto, however, is “love life” and she has consistently taken an appreciative, laid-back approach to each public event.

lthough she received criticism from the judges during the show’s finals, Velasco’s track on the American Idol Season 3 CD "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)",  was praised by music reviewers in New York and LA, and identified as the best track on the album by several major publications. It seemed to highlight her potential as a recording artist.

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