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We answer burning questions about ''American Idol''

What’s next for ”American Idol”? And what songs make Nasty Simon smile? Get answers to your burning questions in this excerpt from Entertainment Weekly’s Aug. 9, 2002, cover story

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American Idol

How do the contestants choose what songs they’re going to sing?

It’s a collaborative process between the singers, musical directors, and Fox lawyers. For each show, ”we listen to CDs for about four hours,” says Tamyra Gray. ”Then we write lists of what we’re interested in. And they see what they can get cleared.” When R.J. Helton injured himself after one recent performance (he fell off the stage while giving an interview), however, choosing his next number wasn’t exactly a group decision. ”They called me in the hospital and said, ‘Do you know ”Under the Boardwalk?””’ he recalls. ”I was like, ‘Yeah, I like that song.”’