American Idol fans learned last night they’d have to go on without Mary J. Blige soundalike Lil Rounds for the rest of season 8. So how does the 23-year-old contestant feel about her ouster? One day after letting her elimination soak in, the season’s sixth — or is it seventh? — place finisher called up EW.com to chat backstage rumors, talking back to the judges, and how it felt to be called ”Little Rounds.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling?
LIL ROUNDS: I’m feeling pretty good.
The elimination has sunk in?
Yeah, it started sinking in last night.
Ryan let you know the results pretty quickly last night. Did you think that was cruel?
The way they eliminated me? No, I didn’t look at it as being cruel. Of course, we only had an hour show and they had two people that they felt had to go ahead and leave. It comes with the show. So I didn’t think he was cruel about it. He shook my hand, he gave me a hug, passed me the microphone, and I went for it. I actually enjoyed myself when I did my last song on the stage. I was like, let’s sing. Let’s give ’em a last hit, for the season anyway, until tour.
Did you think it was your time to go? Did you expect it?
You know, I kind of had a good feeling that it might have been getting close to the time for me to get ready to say goodbye. But I never was ready to go. You know how you kind of feel it. I was getting that feeling. But in retrospect, it was all good because I never will feel like I regret anything or that I’ve lost. Out of 45 million votes, me and Anoop, we just got the least amount.
So it could have been worse, right? You talked back to the judges the past few weeks. Do you think that helped you or hurt you?
When I did that, it was not to try to go toe-to-toe with them, or a heated argument with them or anything. It was just that I was trying to get them to understand that I was being an artist and I was staying true to me. I always kept the R&B soulful vibe to whatever I sang. And they kept saying, ”Give me you.” I’m like, ”But I’m giving you me. This is me.” I love the R&B soulful feel, and that’s how I sing. They kept going back and forth with what they wanted from me. I got to the point, I was like, okay, I don’t think I can win with them with whatever I do right now.
It must be frustrating. The judges were huge fans of yours at the beginning of the season, but seemed to turn against you the past few weeks. What happened?
Honestly, I feel like they still are huge fans, like Simon said last night. He’s still a huge fan of mine. I believe if I came out with an album, they would be the first ones to go and buy it. They just felt like they wanted more, or they saw more that they felt like they weren’t getting. But like I said, I went out there and each week I gave it what I had. And I felt like America was with me because they kept me up there, top 7, top 6. So hey, it’s great.
NEXT PAGE: ”After the tour, I’m planning on putting out an album that will be really, really great, and everybody will get to see Lil the artist.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Simon was especially harsh. Do you think his opinion means more to everyone than the other judges?
LIL ROUNDS: I honestly can’t say, because they each give their opinions, and who America decides to listen to, I’m not sure. But I think America was going based on what they felt. If they felt like I did a good job, then they continue to keep voting me in. But I guess, like I said, I just got the least amount of votes this time around. But that’s okay. Just having that much support and knowing that they stood behind me up until this point is absolutely great.
There are rumors that Simon might be leaving. Would the show be the same without him?
I haven’t heard any rumors about anything like that. Of course, American Idol is a great show, and I think it will be around for a long time. I don’t know exactly what happens in terms of who’s staying, who’s going. But it’s a really great show, and I hope it continues to go on.
There are also rumors that Kara and Paula don’t get along. Did you see anything that seemed to indicate that?
I haven’t witnessed anything like that. When I see them up there, they’re enjoying themselves just like we’re enjoying ourselves. I always looked at American Idol really in a positive light. They kept it really positive. I really enjoyed it.
You changed the arrangement of ”The Rose” for movies week, but they really didn’t give you much credit for that. Did you feel like that was unfair?
That was the night I actually said something to them. I was like, ”You know, I’m really trying here.” Even though it was Bette Midler, I still gave it the Lil vibe, and how I would sing it, and they weren’t seeing that. But that’s okay, because, like I said, after the tour, I’m planning on putting out an album that will be really, really great, and everybody will get to see Lil the artist.
Do you wish you tried to change song arrangements more throughout the season?
You know what? I always felt like I stay true to the music part of the songs that I did. But vocally, I felt like I still put my bit in there. I still gave it my vibe. If you go back and listen to the songs that were originally done and listen to the way that I actually sing it on the show, you’ll see that it differs. So I felt like I did actually do what I came on this show to do, and that was to show America that I truly can sing and it’s a dream of mine. And they backed me up for that.
NEXT PAGE: ”Last night, when I was hugging them, I cried more and more and more each time I hugged a different person. We are really, really close-knit.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was it frustrating to have Simon call you ”Little Rounds”?
LIL ROUNDS Oh, my God. I was like, ”Simon, my name is Lil.”
It seems a bit disrespectful, doesn’t it?
But of course, it’s Simon. He’s going to get his bit in. But, I understand. My whole life people look at the way it’s spelled and say, ”Little.” No, it’s Lil. I understand it. I just kind of correct them.
You got rave reviews for singing Mary J. Blige in the semi-finals. Did you feel like you were pressured to sing her over and over?
They kept saying, Mary J., Mary J., Mary J. In the same token, when I did Mary J., Simon even said, ”Well, you kind of sound like her.” If I had done her again, he probably would have said the same thing. I felt like I needed to go up there and sing what I wanted to sing, and what I liked and just deliver it and enjoy it while I did it. And that’s exactly what I did. That’s why I can look back and say I have no regrets. Because I know I stayed true to myself.
Last night you mentioned you were going to be calling the contestants every day. Do you mean it?
Yeah, I do plan on calling them, if they answer their phones. I might have to talk to their answering machines a little bit.
Is there someone you’re going to miss more than the others?
No, I’m going to miss them all. Last night, when I was hugging them, I cried more and more and more each time I hugged a different person. We are really, really close-knit. I love the fact that we are so close-knit. Going into it, you don’t know what to expect. So I didn’t know how they were going to be, but they turned out to be the best group of people I ever met.
What’s next for you? You mentioned you want to start working on an album?
All I can say right now is I’m getting my mind prepared for what I want to be on my album, and that’s of course going to be that R&B soulful vibe mixed in. I’m getting into the pop a little bit, so I can see a couple of pop songs in there, a bit of jazz in there. But it will be inspirational. Because I have children and being a young mom, I’m going to put some songs on there to let the other moms know you can do it. You can go out there, live your dream. The wives out there — stay true to your husbands. You know, inspirational, as well as a fun CD. You’ll get a lot in there, but I’m just kind of getting my mind set on what I want to happen on that first album. It’s going to be really, really good.
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