A backstage diary of the fateful ''American Idol'' week when Barry Manilow wrote the songs -- and Jennifer Hudson got the boot

By Jessica Shaw
Updated April 30, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
George Huff, John Stevens, ...
Credit: American Idol Photograph by Matthias Clamer

Friday, April 16, 10 a.m.: CBS Television City
Barry Manilow writes the songs…that no ”American Idol” contestant has ever heard. In the studio, La Toya London tries to sing the guest judge’s praises in an interview that will air Tuesday night. ”Yeah, I knew a couple of songs,” she says, to which the director replies, ”Okay, La Toya. Here’s what you say: ‘I definitely knew some Barry Manilow songs.”’

Better start coaching George Huff: ”They asked me what singing Barry Manilow’s song meant to me,” he says. ”I didn’t know what to say.” To be helpful, I bust out a little ”Her name was Lola/She was a showgirl” — and George looks at me with genuine concern. ”I think I may have heard that once or twice.”

Last week, producers gave the finalists three CDs filled with Manilow songs. Yesterday they chose what to sing, and by tomorrow they will make a recording for practice. La Toya and Fantasia Barrino are decisive song choosers, but the others sometimes sing as many as five songs before making a decision. ”I would never nix a song and say, ‘That’s not for you,”’ vocal coach Debra Byrd says. ”I might say, ‘Okay, you don’t sound so good right here. Let’s rearrange it or change the key or leave out that part.”’ This week, a high note at the end of ”Mandy” was plaguing John Stevens, she adds, so ”I said let’s get rid of that gorilla sitting at the end of the song waiting to kick your butt. You know you’re gonna screw it up.”

Episode Recaps


American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

  • TV Show
  • 16
  • 574
  • ABC