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'Idol': Chris Sligh on the Top 12

Season 6 alum describes the flurry of activity leading up to the ”Idol” contenders’ first performance in the finals. Plus: The three he thinks are at risk of going home after the Beatles night performances

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‘Idol’: Chris Sligh on the Top 12

I must start off this week by apologizing to David Cook. In my first column for EW.com, I doubted his talent, and for that I was wrong.

Top 12 week is perhaps the most stressful week of any that you deal with during your run on American Idol. Thursday night, you find out you have made the top 12 and, after you say goodbye to your friends who got cut, you are whisked away to your first ”red carpet” (although the top 24 got one this year as well). Your picture is taken thousands of times, and you do several interviews. By the time you make it into the party, though, everyone else is leaving, and then you have to go home to your hotel.

When you get to the hotel, you have to pack up your stuff, because on Friday you move. Friday is also your first (and only) day of rehearsals for the next week with your vocal coach. You finalize your pick, work out the arrangement with your coach — then you go move. In between rehearsal and moving, you also must go shopping with a stylist — you have to look good for top 12! Friday’s a 16- or 17-hour day, and Saturday starts off even earlier, heading to a rehearsal studio to perform for the first time with the full band, including brass and strings.

After rehearsal, it’s off to a studio to record the audio for the first few weeks of the Ford commercials. Another 16- or 17-hour day, and then you collapse into bed. Sunday starts around 7 a.m. and it’s off to film the first Ford commercial. These are actually fun, but definitely tiring. Another 15-hour day, and it’s off to bed. Monday is rehearsal on stage with the band, working out key movement and camera angles. This day is also used to finish shopping for clothes, if need be.

By the time Tuesday comes, you just want to sleep or kill someone. But you must perform and perform well, because it’s only two more weeks to make it to the Idol tour and, believe me, that’s all anyone is thinking about at that point. It’s a nice paycheck and, if you’re lucky, it can be a nice sendoff from management company 19 Entertainment to go start a career (thanks, guys!). Unfortunately, two people have to go home before then, which leads to performance night. Top 12 week is the week to come out and show that you can win this thing.

THE THREE BEST
Chikezie stepped out of his shell and became a front-runner in my book. He KILLED it! Let’s hope America agrees. Jason Castro confirmed his status as my personal favorite. If he doesn’t make the top 5, I’ll be very surprised — he’s artistic, smart with song choice, and a good musician (despite failing music theory!). David Cook rocked ”Eleanor Rigby.” His voice sounded incredible. I think he really stepped out tonight. He’ll be here for a while.

NEXT PAGE: Chris Sligh on the other nine contenders’ performances — and who he’d put in this week’s bottom three

THE OKAY
Brooke White was a bit pitchy, but her emotional performance sold me on why I have loved her since day one. It wasn’t as good as the judges made it out to be, but she still holds the spot as my favorite girl — I really love her. Carly Smithson‘s performance was not as good as the judges made it out to be, but it was good. I think she’ll be remembered for this performance, but I wish the judges would cool it — seriously, Kelly Clarkson? Close, but no cigar. Amanda Overmyer was pretty good, but I’m becoming more and more aware that she is a one-trick pony. I loved her tone at first, but it’s more and more becoming a distraction, and based on what I’m hearing from friends and family, Joe Public doesn’t seem to be as enchanted with her tone as I’ve been.

THE BAD
Michael Johns gave a forgettable performance of ”Across the Universe” — a little pitchy, a lot boring. I say this as a fan of Michael’s, but tonight just didn’t do it for me. Syesha Mercado was okay, but she looked scared. Ramiele Malubay was boring, giving the same melisma-driven performance that we have seen over and over again on American Idol. David Hernandez reiterated to me why he’s one of my least favorites — too much melisma and a tone reminiscent of a bad Broadway singer. I’m not a fan. I like Kristy Lee Cook, but that arrangement was horrid. She might be in trouble.

David Archuleta forgot lyrics and generally sounded lost throughout his performance. He’s been incredible thus far, so he shouldn’t be worried. His take on a Beatles favorite in the style of Stevie Wonder was ambitious, but ultimately pretty bad. However, from a strategy standpoint, this could be the best thing to happen for David. He was verging on turning into Melinda, with being perfect every week and ultimately falling short with the votes. I think he needed this to remind people that (a) he’s a kid, and (b) he’s human. His fans will rally and he will be around for a long, long time.

MY BOTTOM THREE Kristy, David H. and Ramiele.

IN CONCLUSION This year’s top 24 was NOT the best ever. This year’s top 12, I think, barely beats out last year’s top 12 as the best. They’re all decent to great. There is not a person who is an obvious worst, like there has been in past years. Not that it matters, but I concede that these guys are a great group.

Chris Sligh finished in 10th place in season 6 of American Idol. One of the show’s most memorable contestants, he recently signed a record deal with Atlanta-based independent label Brash Music. His first album, Running Back to You, will be released on May 6, and his first single, ”Empty Me,” has hit radio. He regularly blogs on his own website, From My Mind to Your Eyes.