Friday, December 30, 2011

#63 Constantine Maroulis

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is my number 63 American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis. He landed in sixth place on American Idol season 4. He is the oldest American Idol finalist ever. He last appeared on American Idol season 10, during Pia Toscano's elimination night. He is the lead vocalist of the hard rock band Pray for the Soul of Betty. He was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his role in Rock of Ages. He was born to Greek-American parents James Constantine and Constance P. Maroulis on September 17, 1975, in Brooklyn, New York. He was raised in the Greek Orthodox church, and he can also speak Greek.

#64 Chris Richardson

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is Chris Richardson. He landed in fifth place on American Idol season 6. He plays guitar, percussion, and piano. His favorite male artists are Jason Mraz, JT, James Brown, and Michael Jackson. His favorite female artists are Mariah Carey (mainly early 1990s) and Christina Aguilera.

Christopher Michael "Chris" Richardson was born to Phyllis and Danny Richardson on February 19, 1984, in Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Hospital in Soignies, Belgium, a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian Province of Hainaut. His father Danny Richardson served in the United States Air Force for 20 years. Richardson relocated to Chesapeake, Virginia, in 1999. He admitted during the March 6, 2007, episode of American Idol that he was once overweight during his childhood and teenage years. He has lost roughly forty pounds and has become more health conscious, and it has been reported that he was always motivating his fellow American Idol contestants to work out and care about their health and appearance.

Richardson graduated from Great Bridge High School in 2002 and studied music composition at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, for a year, and playing football there. He continued to study music compositon at Tidewater Community College, a two-year college in South Hampton Roads with campuses in Cheasapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach and serving approximately 46,000 students and known locally by its abbreviation, TCC. Before his stint on American Idol, he worked as a kitchen supervisor for a Hooters restaurant.

During his elimination night, Richardson stated that his best friend on the show is his season's runner-up Blake Lewis.

Richardson originally auditioned for American Idol season 4 and then season 5 before being cast on season 6. He auditioned for season 6 in New York City, holding number 8963 and singing "A Song for You", which was originally recorded by Leon Russell and made popular by Donny Hathaway. The judges warmed to him, and he got through the audition process. Richardson was grouped with Paul Kim and former American Juniors contestant AJ Tabaldo, who also auditioned for American Idol season 10, in the Hollywood group round. During American Idol, Chris received many comparisons to Justin Timberlake, including from judge Randy Jackson. But, he adds, those who've drawn the connection should listen to his album when it comes out and then decide if it still holds. "To be even mentioned in the same sentence as someone so successful, it's great," Richardson told the Associated Press on Thursday the day after his elimination in a phone interview. "They might be surprised whenever I come out with my album, that it's completely different than his. So that's when other people might one day be, like `Hey, you sort of sound like Chris Richardson.'"

#65 Nadia Turner

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is African-American rocker Nadia Turner. She landed in 8th place on American Idol season 4. She was born on January 11, 1977. She hails from Miami, Florida, and began to sing at the age of 5. She won  her first trophy at age eleven in the Betetees Sorority talent show. She won her first pageant at age fifteen singing in the Miss Martin Luther King, Jr. pageant. She continued to compete in many other talent driven pageants in the U.S. and the Caribbean. She attended art-driven schools in Miami from elementary throughout college at Florida International University, which was founded in 1965 and currently run by Mark B. Rosenburg. In the year 2000, she performed at the 26th G8 summit to President Clinton and seven other heads of state in Okinawa, Japan.

Turner auditioned for American Idol season 4 in San Francisco, California, with the song "Until You Come Back to Me" by Aretha Franklin. She advanced to Hollywood and then to the live shows. On top 24 week, she performed "The Power of Love" by Ashley Cleveland. On top 16 week, she performed "My Love" by Paul McCartney. On top 16 week, she performed "Try A Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding, and made the top 12. On top 12 week, she performed "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" by Dusty Springfield. On top 11 week, she performed "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper. She was in the bottom 3 with Anthony Federov being cleared first and my number 79 American Idol (or 79th favorite) finalist  Mikalah Gordon being eliminated to 11th place. On top 10 week, Turner performed "I'm The Only One" by Melissa Etheridge, and she was in the bottom 3 with Anwar Robinson making it through and my number 76 American Idol finalist Jessica Sierra being eliminated to 10th place. On top 9 week, Turner performed "As Long As He Needs Me" by Oliver!. On top 8 week, she performed "When I Dream" by Crystal Gayle, and was eliminated finishing in 8th place. She was in the bottom 3 with my number 95 finalist Bo Bice and my number 66 Scott Savol.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#66 Scott Savol

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is Scott Savol from American Idol. He got 5th place on American Idol season 4. He is the most controversial finalist of season 4. He has a rap sheet citing domestic violence.

Scott Thomas Savol was born on April 30, 1976, in Cleveland, Ohio, but was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He now resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where he records music.  Savol has a son named Brandon. He has been married to Rochelle since June 8, 2006.

During his stint on American Idol, The Smoking Gun reported that Savol had previously got an allegation of misdemeanor assault for for hitting his girlfriend Michele Martin, who is mother of his son, with a telephone on February 14, 2001 so hard that the phone broke. Savol pled the charge down to disorderly conduct for which he received probation, and was ordered to complete a domestic abuse or anger management class; his girlfriend levied a temporary restraining order against him. American Idol producers responded that Savol had already disclosed this incident to them and that "considering Scott's honesty and his remorse, the situation did not warrant his disqualification", as would Corey Clark on American Idol season 2.

The fact that Savol outlasted many singers who were often considered superior to him (like Nikko Smith [my second favorite of season 4], Nadia Turner, Constantine Maroulis, Jessica Sierra, and Anwar Robinson),  led many commentators to speculate that a portion of Savol's "fan base" actually consisted of people who were attempting to destroy the credibility of American Idol by voting for someone they considered the worst finalist. That organization is called Vote for the Worst (VFTW).Other people suggested Savol was supported by Christian voters because Savol frequently thanked God after his performances, or by voters who saw him as an underdog or "regular Joe" due to his lack of stereotypical pop star looks. Often, he would draw comparisons to actors Mark Addy and Kevin James.

#67 Lee DeWyze

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is season 9 winner Lee DeWyze. He is the least successful winner in American Idol history. Before his stint on American Idol, he had a solo career and formed the Lee DeWyze Band. He had also released two independent albums called So I'm Told in 2007 and Slumberland in 2010, both released on WuLi Records. His post-Idol album Live It Up, was released on November 16, 2010, through 19 Entertainment and RCA Records.

Leon James "Lee" DeWyze, Jr. was born on April 2, 1986, in Mount Prospect, Illinois, to Kathleen (née Donahue) and Leon "Lee" DeWyze, Sr., who worked as a postal carrier in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

#68 Kristy Lee Cook

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is mediocre country crooner Kristy Lee Cook. She got 7th place on American Idol season 7. I believe that Alexandréa Lushington should have made the top 12 in her place. She was the first season 7 contestant to release a post-Idol album, called Why Wait, released on September 16, 2008. She was born to Larry and Carlene Cook on January 18, 1984, in Seattle, Washington.

Cook auditioned for American Idol season 7 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. with the song "Amazing Grace." All three judges liked her voice and sent her straight through to Hollywood. While in Hollywood, her first song did not impress the judges. For her second and final chance, she sang "Amazing Grace" again; she was then selected as one of the top 24 contestants in the semi-finals.

#69 Taylor Hicks

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is season 5 winner Taylor Hicks. He is the oldest American Idol winner ever. He was born to Bradley Hicks and Pamela Dickinson on October 7, 1976, in Birmingham, Alabama. His hair started turning gray at the age of 14. He and his family had relocated to suburban Hoover, Alabama, when he was eight years old. His parents divorced, and stepmother Linda shared custody of their son until he reached the age of majority. While in college, Hicks was part of a band called Passing Through, which he later quit to start his own band.

Hicks auditioned for American Idol season 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He advanced to the Hollywood Round with the approval of Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, but not Simon Cowell, who said that Hicks would never make it to the final round. On Hicks' first performance for the voting public, Cowell called back to this quote, admitting he was wrong.

#70 Aaron Kelly

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is Aaron Kelly. He got 5th place on American Idol season 9. Before his stint on American Idol, he was a finalist on America's Most Talented Kid at the age of 11. He was born on April 2, 1993, in Davenport, Florida. Due to the difficult circumstances with his biological parents, he was adopted at the age of 5 by his aunt and uncle, relocating to Nashville, Tennessee, and later to Soneston, Pennsylvania. He has sung professionally since the age of 9, performing at festivals and fairs and opening for acts like Charlie Daniels, Loretta Lynn, Emerson Drive, Bill Anderson, and The Marshall Tucker Band.

Kelly lists his hobbies as soccer and photography and his musical influences as Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, and Celine Dion.

Kelly participated in the American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly known as Disney-MGM studios) at The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. At the end of the day he was the highest vote recipient in the finale show, which entitled him to receive the dream ticket, which got him to the front of the line for the real American Idol auditions in Orlando in June 2009. Kelly is the third contestant from Pennsylvania, and until American Idol season 10 (with Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, and Thia Megia), he was the youngest contestant to make it through to the Top 12 on American Idol, while semifinalist Haeley Vaughn is currently the youngest ever to be selected for the semifinal rounds. Kelly is also one of two contestants from Pennsylvania to be selected for the Top 24 in season 9 of American Idol.

#71 Lindsey Cardinale

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is country singer Lindsey Cardinale. She got 12th place on American Idol season 4.

Lindsey Michelle Cardinale was born to Agnes and Anthony Cardinale on February 5, 1985, in Hammond, Louisiana.

Cardinale auditioned for American Idol season 4 in New Orleans, Louisiana, with the song "Standing Right Next to Me" by Karla Bornoff.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

#72 Kimberly Caldwell

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is another American Idol season 2 finalist Kimberly Caldwell. She is David Cook's ex-fiancée. She landed in seventh place on American Idol season 2.

#73 Carmen Rasmusen

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is my number 73 American Idol finalist Carmen Rasmusen. She claimed sixth place on American Idol season 2. She is also a pianist and guitarist. She was born on March 25, 1985, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, of Norwegian heritage, and she is a Mormon. The second of four children, Rasmusen has been performing in public since the age of five: singing, dancing (including cheerleading, tap, ballet and hip-hop dance), and playing the piano.

#74 Leah LaBelle

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is Leah LaBelle. She took twelfth place and was the first Wild Card finalist to get the first boot in the finals. Two Black female finalists also walked in her shoes in the even numbered seasons of the WGWG era. LaBelle was born on September 8, 1986, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, of Bulgarian heritage. She hails from Seattle, Washington. She auditioned for American Idol season 3 in New York City with the song "I Believe in You and Me" by Whitney Houston, which would later be sung by her fellow season 3 finalist Jennifer Hudson in the Wild Card round. She performed "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" by Diana Ross in the Hollywood Round. She was chosen by Paula Abdul as a finalist after performing "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green. After singing "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by The Supremes, she became the first Wild Card to be in the first week of the final round. She was in the bottom 3 with my number 117 American Idol finalist Amy Adams, who landed in tenth place, and my season 3 favorite Jennifer Hudson, who landed in seventh place.

#75 Kellie Pickler

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown, which ends by the time American Idol season 11's live shows begin, is country star Kellie Pickler. She came to fame when she took sixth place on American Idol season 5. Right after her stint on American Idol, she was signed to 19 Recordings Ltd. and BNA Records, releasing her debut album Small Town Girl, which has sold over 800,000 copies to date, later in 2006. The album was RIAA certified gold and produced three singles on the Billboard Hot Country chart: "Red High Heels" at #15, "I Wonder" at #14, and "Things That Never Cross a Man's Mind" at #16. She released her self-titled sophomore album in 2008 and has produced the singles "Don't You Know You're Beautiful" at #21, "Best Days of Your Life" at #9 (which she co-wrote with country po superstar Taylor Swift), "Didn't You Know How Much I Love You" at #14, and "Makin' Me Fall in Love Again" at #30.  On May 30, 2010, she was ranked the number 7 American Idol alumna.

Kellie Dawn Pickler was born on June 28, 1986, at Stanly Memorial Hospital in Albemarle, North Carolina, a small town near Charlotte, to Cynthia Morton and Clyde "Bo" Raymond Pickler, Jr. Her mother left when Kellie was two years old. She returned and got custody for two years, but the court returned Kellie to her grandparents when she was 12, as her father was in and out of jail during her childhood. Therefore, Kellie was raised by her grandparents.  She cites the major influences in her life as her paternal grandfather, a former electrician Clyde Raymond Pickler, Sr., and her paternal grandmother Faye Pickler. She was raised in her birthtown. She has a half brother named Eric, a half sister, Courtney, and a half brother, Michael, whom she has never met. After her grandmother died of lung cancer in January 2002, she continued to reside with her grandfather and her younger sibling Eric until her stint on American Idol. Pickler graduated in 2004 from North Stanly High School in North London, North Carolina. During her time at the high school, she was a cheerleader and beauty queen. She performed "On the Side of Angels" by LeAnn Rimes during her high school graduation ceremony.

Before her stint on American Idol, Pickler worked as a waitress at a Sonic Drive-In restaurant and in 2005, she appeared on WSOC-TV's Gimme the Mike! Charlotte contest and landed in second place. She participated in the Miss America circuit and won the "Miss Stanly County" pageant at age 17 and subsequently competed for Miss North America in 2004. She dropped out of the pageant and focused on paralegal studies.

At the age of 19, Pickler auditioned for American Idol season 5 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#76 Jessica Sierra

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is Jessica Sierra. She got tenth place on American Idol season 4. She released her first single Enough in October 2010 from her recently released debut album Rebound.

Before her stint on American Idol, Sierra was a contestant on Star Search, which ran from 1983 to 1995 and in 2003 and 2004. She originally auditioned for American Idol season 2, but she was rejected.

Sierra auditioned for American Idol season 4 in Orlando, Florida, with the song "At Last" by Etta James. On top 24 week, she performed "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Phil Collins. On top 20 week, she performed "A Broken Wing" by Martina McBride. On top 16 week, she performed "(Boys Are) Back in Town" by The Busboys. On top 12 week, she performed "Shop Around" by The Miracles. She was in the bottom 3 with Mikalah Gordon and Lindsey Cardinale, who got eliminated that week, but I prefer Cardinale over Sierra and Gordon. On top 11 week, Sierra performed "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler. On top 10 week, after performing "On the Side of Angels" she was eliminated on March 30, 2005, surprising some fans since Simon Cowell had previously stated that she was one of the strongest female vocalists in the competition.

#77 Danny Gokey

Next on my American Idol countdown is my number 77 American Idol finalist Danny Gokey. He got third place on American Idol season 8. Allison Iraheta should have made the top 3 instead of him. He wife Sophia Gokey, who was a fan of the show, died before his time on American Idol. After his time on the show, he was signed to 19 Recordings and RCA Records Nashville as the beginning of his career as a country singer, releasing his first single "My Best Days Are Ahead of Me." His debut album, My Best Days, was released in March 2010.

Gokey started singing with his family in church, but stated he would rather record mainstream music than perform solely contemporary Christian music. He was the worship director at his church Faith Builders International Ministries, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of the venues where American Idol season 10 auditions were held. Danny got his first take as a recording artist with his demo-tape being professionally recorded at Beach Club Records run by his friend, Rich Clemons, in Racine, Wisconsin.

He is the penultimate of six children. He has a brother, Charles, and four sisters. He has acknowledged the influence of Jeffrey and Robin Pruitt the pastors of the church he worked at and also Matthew Barnett the founder of the LA Dream Center. He has stated that his faith is the "key to who I am." Gokey then spent two years on the open road as a freight driver.

On July 9, 2008, our weeks before he auditioned for American Idol season 8, Gokey's wife Sophia underwent routine surgery for congenital heart disease. It was her third surgery, but she died from complications. The couple had been together for twelve years, and Gokey credited her for his success. Sophia was a fan of American Idol and encouraged Gokey to be a contestant, and Danny established a foundation in her name Sophia's Heart Foundation with some of her family members who are also into the music industry. The foundation exists to help mend and heal the hearts of children and families who have been touched by poverty, sickness, disease, broken homes and broken dreams.

Gokey rose to national fame with his participation in the eighth season of American Idol. On August 8, 2008, he auditioned in Kansas City, Missouri, along with his friend Jamar Rogers, who is also from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both made it through to Hollywood, but Rogers was eliminated from the competition prior to the semifinals. Rogers decided not to audition for American Idol season 9. Gokey's American Idol audition occurred only four weeks after his wife's death in July 2008.