The three ladies left competing in American Idol could all be called Divas (with a capital D), but let’s be honest: LaKisha Jones defines the friggin’ word. Although she made a few missteps along the way (country week’s ”Jesus, Take the Wheel”), few rafter-reaching vocals were more memorable than her fierce rendition of ”And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going.” Last week, her blown-out, sassed-up ”This Ain’t a Love Song” by Bon Jovi literally saved her from going home in a double-elimination week. This week’s Barry Gibb theme wasn’t so kind: LaKisha had to say goodbye. But before she left for good, KiKi dished with EW about that infamous kiss, what she would have done differently, and how she’s survived without iTunes (what??) throughout the competition.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Last night after the results were announced and you did ”Stayin’ Alive,” it looked like you were overwhelmed. But your rendition was amazing. Were you having fun up there?
LAKISHA JONES: I was. And you know, they asked us — they asked all of us — if you go home, what song would you like to sing? And I said, ”Honey, ‘Stayin’ Alive!’ ‘Cause I’m gonna stay alive after American Idol.” I would have sung a slow song, but I wanted to go off with a bang! I looked at the lyrics, and you know what, it says, I’m gonna be alright anyway. And that’s how I was feeling. I’m gonna make it anyway.
I love ”Stayin’ Alive” — but it’s a hard one to sing because it’s so fast in parts. Were you afraid to do it?
I was a little nervous just because I know the song is so well known that I didn’t want people to make bad comments about me trying to switch it up and slow it down a little bit.
Do you think those comments — about you slowing it down — were fair? Because that was the judges’ biggest criticism.
I don’t think that’s fair — no. Because if I would’ve just did it like they did it, then he would have said, ”Where’s the LaKisha at?”
I know, it’s a really hard line to tow — making it your own, but keeping it the same.
Right, and I felt like that at that moment. You know, a couple weeks ago in the competition, I felt like, you know, I just can’t win. And I got tired — and it’s so overwhelming and I was just preparing myself to go.
So a couple of weeks ago you felt like it was gonna be over for you soon? But you didn’t give up.
Yeah, I felt like my time was coming. I had to decide what works for me. And if it’s for me to be here, then I’ll stay, and if not…
NEXT PAGE: ” I had such a hard time choosing songs [this week] and I really was not at all…I don’t think I was prepared. Because I just felt like this really wasn’t my style.”
I have to tell you, ”This Ain’t a Love Song” — I watched that like 10 times on DVR. Hands down, my favorite performance of yours.
Oh my God, everybody loved that performance.
Honestly, I thought you were going home that week, coming into that performance.
I did, too! And then Bon Jovi said to me, ”You know, if you do that song, you got one more week.” And did he call it or what?! I had changed my song when I first met him. And when I did, he said, ”I’m so glad you changed it. I’m so glad you’re doing a ballad.” And after I sung it to him, he said, ”I hope you packed enough clothes because you’re gonna be here another week!”
I remember when he said that! That was just amazing, because I don’t know the song that well — and I’m decently familiar with Bon Jovi stuff. But I think that’s another key to picking songs: You wanna pick something that’s kind of well known, but not enough so that it’s ingrained in people’s memories such that they can’t think of it any other way. And my favorite part? The end when you ripped into whomever it was you were singing to.
Maybe Bon Jovi will let me cover it!
When you were singing ”And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going,” you have this amazing energy that just seems to build. And the crowd really responds. I almost feel like I can see you perking up as they cheer. That true?
I do! My confidence level just shoots up and I get a rush! It means so much to me to have the crowd let me know they’re right there with me. I think the objective is to bring America to you. Not for you to go to America. But in a song and a lyric, you embrace it and bring them into you. And I think that’s where my problem was this week because I had such a hard time choosing songs and I really was not at all…I don’t think I was prepared. Because I just felt like this really wasn’t my style.
When they tell you that it’s Barry Gibb night and you have to pick something he sang, wrote, or produced, do they give you a list to choose from? Or do you just go find out on your own?
No, you get a list. All the different genres that we’ve had, I’d never heard of most of that music in my life! But I look for songs that touch me. That grab me. Because if it grabs me, I know I can work it and make grab America. If I can feel it, I can make other people feel it.
So do you just click through iTunes to listen to them?
Well, I just recently got iTunes! Because throughout this whole competition, I didn’t have iTunes. I just got a computer like three weeks ago! So I’ve just been doing without!
If you could go back and pick one thing to change, would you change anything about your run on American Idol?
I would pick new songs from the Barry Gibb night. I wouldn’t change anything but Tuesday night’s performance. I would have done two big ballads. It’s my strength — it’s my thing. I’m a ballad singer! I love Whitney Houston!
NEXT PAGE: ”I really wanted to come back [to Simon] and say, ‘Baby, it was your pleasure!”’
So we gotta talk about this: the Simon kiss. Oh. My. God.
You know they’re going to use that on like every promo clip from now on — it’s gonna be Idol‘s favorite thing!
Oh my God, when they put it in slow motion — wow! I look at it and am like, is that me?
I loved it this week when you said you wanted to get another kiss from Simon.
I wanted to, and he said, ”Man, no kiss for you today!” And then I really wanted to come back and say, ”Baby, it was your pleasure!” That’s what I wanted to nail him with last night.
You know that night when he said, ”I could kiss you right now,” I knew Ryan was going to pull you down there to kiss him. I could just see it coming!
I did not know that! Not at all!
That is the kind of thing they love — it’s sensational!
It makes for good TV, right?
Yep, totally. Switching subjects, is your daughter going to go on tour with you?
They’re trying to make preparations for her right now.
Maybe I just missed it early on, but during your goodbye video, I realized I hadn’t heard that much about your daughter throughout the competition.
Yah, after the audition and everything, I wanted to keep her separate from what’s going on. Because she is still small — she’s only four years old. Now, I’ll go crazy over my daughter! I don’t play when it comes to her, and that’s one part that I would like to keep private. I don’t want pictures of her out. I want life to be as normal as possible for her. For TV interviews and stuff, they asked if she’d do it, and I said, she’ll be here, but she’ll never appear on the show.
Finally, LaKisha: Simon tended to say you were yelling a lot of times during your songs. What’s your rebuttal?
I know! I’m like, dude, you’re nailing me to the wall here. I don’t think I was yelling at all. I don’t know what he was hearing. How could he tell me that he loved it when I did Jennifer Holliday’s song? And he loved Whitney Houston’s ”I Have Nothing,” and then turn around tell me don’t do Fantasia? I’m treating them all the same, baby.
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