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'Idol': Three alums' final thoughts

Since the top 12, ex-contestants Chris Sligh, Nadia Turner, and Jon Peter Lewis have been sizing up season 7. Now they share what the post-”Idol” life is really like — and, of course, make guesses on who’ll win tonight

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Chris Sligh
Jason Kempin/FilmMagic

CHRIS SLIGH

Well, since the last time we talked, my album Running Back to You came out nationwide, received incredible reviews across the board (USA Today called it ”the most musically ambitious of any post-Idol album”), and I’ve been touring all over the place, trying to get this record into your hands. So, please look for it…I’d love for you to have it.

Also, since we last talked, we went from six contestants to two. Ratings dropped magnificently. My favorite, Jason Castro, went home (though I think we all knew it was going to happen, since the judges all season have been trying to subliminally force a David-David finale). And Idol probably jumped the shark, as Paula in some form of sobriety judged a performance that hadn’t yet happened. But enough about the past. Let’s focus on — and I quote Phil Collins — tonight, tonight, tonight.

Archie was great. For his three final competition performances, he was great. Not as great as the judges’ tongue-bathing made it out to be, but great. Maybe magical. Maybe not. But let’s just throw it out there: Cook was a close second tonight. And in my mind it’s pretty clear who was the best throughout the season: Cook.

Voting is over, so I’ll make my case. Cook is a musician. A real musician. He knows how to play an instrument well. Very well. I believe he has potential to be a great songwriter. He’s intelligent, he likes words, and he’s a great musician. It doesn’t always add up, but it should in this case because, like Daughtry, 19 Entertainment is going to put him with the best writers and producers around.

It will be interesting to see where Archie goes. I’ve made it clear throughout the season that I wasn’t sure he could sell records. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I just think he’s gonna fall in this weird void of no one knowing where to put him and how to sell him. He’s a nice kid with a great voice that is, at times, magical (like it was tonight). But he needs to make the perfect record for him to connect.

Either way, both Davids are gonna be okay.

So, moving on from the finale, what is the future for our top 10? Well, first off is the tour. They’ll all go home for a couple of weeks (the top 3 will be doing press that whole time), and then turn right back around and come back out for tour rehearsals. The tour is a major show, so they will have to spend roughly three-and-a-half weeks in rehearsals.

Rehearsals are long, but can be fun. Everyone does a lot of hanging out during this time period. My season, almost every night, after we’d get done with rehearsal, we’d go out and enjoy L.A. Most of us had never spent a lot of time in L.A., so it was nice to take the time to explore.

The tour is great. We got to play arenas — arenas that were mostly packed with 7,000 to 15,000 people a night. Who gets to do that? Madonna? Alicia Keys? Mariah? Bon Jovi? Seriously, it’s the biggest names out there. And we got to do it on our first big tour. I just tried to soak in every second of it… Who knows if I’ll ever get to do it again.

Everything from the 5-star hotels to the schedule: go to sleep at 2 a.m., wake up when the bus gets to the hotel at 5 a.m., then stay up for an hour as your luggage gets up to your room, then sleep till 11:30 a.m., then rush down to meet the buses. Everything from the (mostly) bad catering at the venues to riding your skateboard around on the infinitely smooth floors. Everything from spending three months out with the people who have become your best friends to the days off where you go out on the town and everyone is excited to see you and buy you drinks and tell you how great their city is. Tour was the best experience of everything with Idol, and it’s where Idols can make a little money, finally!

So looking beyond the tour, what does the future look like for these individuals? Well, hopefully the contestants will read this. I’d like to offer a little advice: 19 is not going to sign you. Your three months under contract is a formality to give them a head start. But with the way the music business is today, that contracted guaranteed advance is just a little high for a record label to really take a chance on you. So, outside of Cook and Archuleta, Idol is not going to sign you, and honestly, I’m not sure you want Idol to sign you. You don’t need them.

Start networking now. Get business cards from everyone you meet. While you’re home the next couple of weeks, call labels (yeah, just cold call) and tell them who you are. Believe me, right now is about the only time that you can actually get put through to someone that matters, so take advantage of it. While you’re home, get in a friend’s studio and bang out two to three demos that you can pass around, or if you recorded something before and it’s really good, then use that. But call labels, and during your down time on tour rehearsals, go over and meet with labels. Do not wait. The longer you wait, the less chance you’ll have of connecting with an A&R guy.

I think this top 10 is the most talented ever, and each of them falls into a different niche. I think almost every one of them could find a label.

So, my final piece of advice to the contestants: Go, take your time, and make great records. The Idol brand has been diluted over the years by the crappy records made by former Idols. So, help tip it the other way — make incredible records that prove that Idol is more than a singing contest!

Thanks to ew.com for allowing me to give my opinion, and thanks to the contestants for a great freaking season! Now, I’d love for you to buy my record…check out iTunes. It’s very popular there!

Peace and love,
Chris Sligh

Chris Sligh finished in 10th place in season 6 of American Idol. One of the show’s most memorable contestants, he recently released his first album, Running Back to You; it is available on iTunes. He regularly blogs on his own website, From My Mind to Your Eyes.

NEXT: Nadia Turner (”How do you compete with, live with, and love your competitors all at the same time? I believe some psychologists would call this a form of mental torture.”)