Mandisa! Ace! We interview all 12 ''Idol'' finalists
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There are going to be a lot of theme nights now — any in particular you’re looking forward to tackling?
KATHARINE McPHEE Are they doing jazz night? That’d be awesome. I just love taking old songs and making them contemporary if that’s possible.
TAYLOR HICKS Next is Stevie Wonder week, and I’ve got a little bit of Stevie. I wish I was about 12 years old, like little Stevie Wonder, you know?
KELLIE PICKLER Definitely country, because I didn’t just wake up with this accent, I was born with it.
LISA TUCKER Rock. I love rock music.
ELLIOTT YAMIN You know what? Believe it or not, I’m actually interested in the country theme. I’m not a country singer, but I do enjoy country music, and I want to step out on that limb and do something different.
ACE YOUNG I’m looking forward to everything because I don’t know what I’ll sound like doing a country song, so I’m curious too.
Any theme night you’re not looking forward to?
PARIS BENNETT No. I don’t believe there’s anything that’s hard. You lose 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take. I’m ready to take ’em.
MANDISA You know, I hear that we’ve got the ’50s coming up, and I think that may be a little bit difficult to find a song. [Laughs.]
KEVIN COVAIS Well, if they choose a rock category, maybe people don’t see me singing rock. But I would do my best with it. I’d go out there and I’d perform.
BUCKY COVINGTON Stevie Wonder’s great, got a lot of songs, but he’s not so much my speed.
CHRIS DAUGHTRY Maybe showtunes, if they do that. I don’t know the first one.
ELLIOTT Broadway. That’s something I’m hoping and praying that I don’t have to encounter, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Is there any particular song you’ve been dying to perform that you haven’t yet?
MANDISA I sang ”You Give Good Love,” by Whitney Houston, a long time ago. I was doing a little concert in a coffee shop and I lost my voice in the middle of the song, so I had to stop. So that song has got a little bit of trickery in my mind. If I can get through that song at some point, I would feel like I’ve accomplished something.
PARIS Annie Lennox, ”Sweet Dreams,” from the Eurythmics. I want to sing that song, but it hasn’t come up yet.
KEVIN ”You Raise Me Up” was my original audition song, and to be able to sing that on the big stage would be nice. But I like to bring new stuff to people.
BUCKY I’m really looking forward to hitting some Elvis.
CHRIS I’d love to do something from Live — that’s my favorite band.
TAYLOR ”Georgia on My Mind.” If they have a Ray Charles night, I would definitely be into that.
MELISSA McGHEE I really wanted to do ”My Immortal” by Evanescence, but I can’t get [permission to do] it… And ”Uninvited,” by Alanis Morissette — I’m not going to be able to do that one too. They’re not passing for me.
KATHARINE I would really love to sing a song that nobody knows, ”Ain’t Got Nothing but the Blues,” and I can’t get it cleared. It’s an old song, and I bring so much soul and bluesy, jazzy stuff to it. It’s contemporary-sounding, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it.
KELLIE I love the older country music, like Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn. I would love to do something old like ”Stand By Your Man.”
ACE What I really wanted to do is what I did the other night: ”Butterflies.” I went out on a limb because it’s not a song a lot of people know. People definitely don’t know about Floetry [the original artists], and they kind of know from Michael [Jackson, who covered the song in his last album, Invincible]. It was a really gutsy decision for me to do it, because if I did poorly, they would say not just bad job, but bad song choice.
Is there something about your look you’d like to change for the next stage of the competition?
BUCKY That’s going to be up to somebody who does fashion. I don’t do fashion, I just sing. I might trim [my hair], but nah, it’s not going off.
KELLIE I was thinking of maybe doing something with my hair different; I don’t know, maybe chopping it off. Just something fun and different. Maybe I’ll switch colors. Who knows? It’s hair; it’ll grow back.
ELLIOTT YAMIN Yeah, my teeth, to be honest with you. I’d like to have a nicer smile, you know? But I’ve had these teeth for my whole life [laughs], and learned to live with them. I’m not that crazy about changing them and I’m not that crazy about them, really. But if there’s one thing on me that I’d like to change, it would be that — my grill.
MELISSA No. I think the reason America has me here is because they like the way I am, so why am I going to change it? People are talking about Taylor [Hicks] dyeing his hair — that’s who he is! Why is going to do that?
ACE I say we look online and see if they want [me] to change. If they want me to cut my hair, let’s do a poll, let’s do a vote. Ace cuts his hair; Ace keeps his hair. If they want the shirt on, [or] shirt off…. [Laughing] Whatever it is!
KATHARINE I don’t want to give away too much. I love to go with, like, the classy girl who’s hip during the day…. I think I want to add some long hair, make my hair fuller, maybe change the color a little bit.
KEVIN COVAIS I’m a content guy; I’m happy with the way I look. I know other people may say, ”Oh, what a nerd,” but for me, that’s not the way I look at it. But if the stylists on the show came to me and said, ‘You know, Kevin, let’s try something with your hair, put some contacts in,’ I’ll go for it.
PARIS Just giving you everything different. Every time I sing a different song, you’ll see a different look. That is what it is.
TAYLOR Makeup. [Laughs.] It’s kind of cool to me. I never knew they had makeup for men, for theatrics and performing.
Taylor, you’re not going to dye your hair, right?
TAYLOR No, not at all. I’m staying true to me and who I am as a person. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Mandisa, you don’t seem too terribly concerned about comments that have been made about your size.
Mandisa No. It’s a little bit double-sided. On one hand, I’m very confident with who I am. I know who I am and I know that my value is not determined on the way that I look. At the same time, I know that it’s a health issue. It’s a battle that I’m fighting, but it’s one I’m winning.
Katharine, you’ve had Internet gossip swirling around you, most recently rumors that you’re pregnant and leaving the show. What was that like for you?
KATHARINE You know, I don’t go on the Internet…. I don’t read blogs or anything like that. So I don’t know what people are saying about me. I’d rather not know, good or bad. You don’t need to hear that negative stuff. [But] I did find out about the rumors. The way I look at it is it’s funny. It’s weird to me that people have that little to do with their lives to make up gossip like that. At the same time, when they’re talking about you, I think that’s a good thing, especially when you’re at this stage. You want people to have a buzz about you.
Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.