In her first column, the season 4 vet gives her take on performances by this year's top 8 boys
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Nadia Turner, American Idol, ...

”THIS IS AMERICAN IDOL.” I know that slogan oh so well.

I actually haven’t watched AI much since I left the show. Looking back on my AI experience, I still can’t believe it. It’s a wonder to me that they call AI reality TV. The moment you reach top 24, the cameras are no longer behind the scenes to see the nerves, conversations, stress, tears, and relationships. This was beyond intense and very surreal to watch it on TV and know I had been there. WOW! Right there! It?s still crazy! In the middle of that stage…amazing!

Being that this was ”Boys Night,” my responsibility on the show would have been to relax and just support the boys. Let?s be realistic: How do you relax knowing tomorrow is your night to shine? I actually spent most of this time taking in the boys? critiques and trying to remember certain performances, ’cause I knew the boys were going to ask how it looked from my seat. During the commercial breaks, I would write down my lyrics over and over on a blank sheet of paper. I was known to forget lyrics in rehearsal and liable to create a whole new verse — improv was my specialty.

Since I last saw the stage, it looks like they bumped up the scenery in the ”Coca Cola room” with the curved stairwell and the second level overlooking the stage.

I saw Ryan exposing a lil’ chest last night — all right, Ry, you betta pipe down exposing yourself like that! :)

Thank God for the background singers for Luke Menard. They kept this song above water, ’cause Luke’s vocals were not up to par. It sounded like he was running out of breath. I loved his I’m-not-trying-hard-to-look-good-but-still-looking-fine attire. I’m with Simon cutting Paula off: ”Did you like it or not?!” Let?s get to the point, Paula!

Watching them stand there with phone numbers going across their waist-line brought a slew of memories back. This number decides your AI fate. The comments from the judges usually decide how your demeanor will be when you’re in front of 888-IDOLS-XX. Do you say something over Ryan?s chatter to let the world know to vote? Do you smile? Do you hold up your fingers reminding them of your number, which is already boldly on the screen? No no NO! Don?t do that! That?s corny!

There is no denying that David Archuleta has a beautiful voice, but Simon was right — he should have stayed at the piano. We would have seen the legs of this song stretch if he continued to tickle the ivory. ”Another Day in Paradise” aged him. The khaki jacket was a little too serious for my taste. Wardrobe is beyond important in a performance. If he wore a brighter and better-fitted jacket, it would have taken some of the somberness off of that song. When he’s standing at the mic, you can’t help but notice the baby with his dad?s suit on.

Was that Sanjaya or was that Danny Noriega? I think WHAM! is missing a member. This kid has lots of chutzpah and I dig it, but his vocals were beyond mediocre. What’s up with the Randy Jackson pep talk?! He don’t need no pep talk, Randy! That boy has enough confidence! Danny’s ”whatever” rooster-hand to Simon was unforgettable! I LOVED IT!!! I would definitely put him in the final 12 for the wardrobe and personality alone.

NEXT PAGE: Nadia on David Hernandez and his booger

David Hernandez has strong vocals, but there were moments of flatness throughout. Giddy girls cheering in the audience does not mean that you’re not flat. And David and his BOOGER tale! TMID: Too Much Information, David. I’m still trying to figure out Mr. Hernandez, but I feel if given the opportunity he will continue to grow throughout this competition.

Michael Johns. Australian accent — CHECK. ”Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, from one of my favorite movies, The Breakfast Club — CHECK. Great tone, on-point vocal — CHECK. He’s scrumptrulescent hot — CHECK. So, thus far, I enjoyed his performance the most! I’m not sure about the burgundy ”Thriller” jacket though. :(

I think David Cook nailed it this week. He took this Lionel Richie song and turned it into ROCK. It?s funny that Simon says he likes people who take chances — he likes chances if he approves the chance taken, instead of respecting chances as a whole. It’s going to be interesting to see what they think of Cook taking chances as the season progresses.

In my season, Bo, Anwar, and Carrie played instruments, but these talents weren’t highlighted until…oh yeah, the tour! I can recall Anwar and Bo really wanting to play piano or guitar in this stage of the competition and being told they could not. I?m thrilled they are allowing instruments now so early on, but I wonder what brought on the change of heart from the producers.

Everything about Jason Castro is gravy! He is one of my favorites, but it looks like Jason got some special lighting tonight! He didn’t need a spotlight with blue undertones. He stands out on his own — he has the kindest eyes on the planet! ”Hallelujah” was a great choice. I chuckled when the judges told him this song showed his softer side. Ummmm, has he been singing heavy metal or rap and I missed it?

There is no doubt that Chikezie can sing, but every time I’ve heard him, I find myself flashing back to Season 4 and thinking of the caliber of R&B voices such as Anwar, Nikko, and Scott. He cannot hold a candle to the Season 4 boys vocally, and would have found himself drowning in the competition that year. His version of ”All the Woman I Need” wasn’t what I needed. It was quite the snoozer.

Overall, I think it was a great night for the guys!

TOMORROW: Nadia sizes up the top 8 women

Nadia Turner placed 8th on season 4 of American Idol. Since then, she’s guest-hosted The View; appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show, and’s Idolatry; and starred in the feature film Lord Help Us. Currently, she’s featured on Hot Tracks, a free CD distributed by Dreyer’s Slow Churned Light Ice Cream with performances by previous Idol contestants from Justin Guarini to Chris Richardson. You can find more information about it, her clothing line Knodic Apparel, and her upcoming album (out in May) on her website and MySpace page.

Episode Recaps

American Idol

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

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