Simon's comments from Tuesday night gave one of this week's two eliminated singers an inkling of trouble ahead; on the day after, he tells us about his parents, his new look, and the back and forth with the judges

By Mandi Bierly
Updated April 22, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Michael Becker / FOX

It was a judges’ save that brought Anoop Desai into American Idol‘s top 13, and it was a judges’ save (of Matt Giraud) that ultimately took him out. The second victim in Tuesday night’s double-elimination talks about his parents, his facial hair, and his faith in voters.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We only have a few minutes, so I’m gonna get right into it.


The question we all want to know the answer to…

Uh huh…

How did your parents get to be so adorable?


You know what, can I tell you something? Through no clairvoyance on my part, I was actually on your site, and I’ve been noticing how y’all love my parents. I love ’em, too. They’re the greatest people in the world. The funny thing is that I am a cross between both of them, seriously split half-and-half. My talkative outgoing side, which I don’t think a lot of people have seen, is definitely my mom. The quiet side is my dad…. The eyebrows are definitely my dad. [Laughs]

So we can segue into this week’s makeover: What was the vision behind it? Talk us through it.

I’ll tell you how it started. It started with me getting lazy and not shaving one day.

I did like the stubble, by the way.

Thank you. I appreciate that.

But it was a split-decision at EW. [He laughs] Annie Barrett loved it. Jessica Shaw didn’t.

I’m gonna keep it for a little while, and we’ll see how it goes. With the facial hair, I felt comfortable doing my hair a different way this week. And then we had a really cool suit that we had bought. It was sort of natural. I wanted to do something not so collegey.

So it was your vision and not a stylist’s?

I would like to think that I’m a pretty intuitive person, and I know when I need to change things up as well. I knew that it was probably time to show people that I could ditch the Southern Swoop if I had to.

At what moment during last night’s show did you go, Oh no, this might not go my way?

When they told me the seating order on the couch. [Laughs] I didn’t feel comfortable having Simon end my critiques with ”That was your worst by far” — which I disagree with, by the way. I’m not saying that I was expecting to go home, but I wasn’t surprised to be in the bottom three given the comments from Tuesday night. Let’s put it that way.

NEXT PAGE: ”I think there are two levels of judgment: the actual judges on the show, and then the people at home and what their own brains are tellin’ ’em.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s get your opinion on some of the Idol hot topics. As a contestant, how did you feel last week when only two judges were allowed to critique each performance? You had Randy and Kara for ”Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”.

ANOOP DESAI: Well, the beauty of the show is that all four judges have unique points of view. The thing is, Kara writes and produces songs. Simon writes and produces songs. Kara thought my last song [”Dim All the Lights”] belonged on the radio; Simon thought that it was the worst that I have done. That’s why the four-judge panel is so important to us as performers. We’ve come to look at each of their critiques as something meaningful because of who they’re coming from.

As a contestant, do you think that judges should be watching rehearsals?

We never know if or when they’re watching dress rehearsals, to be quite honest with you. Here’s the thing, I think that people are smart enough to know when they disagree with the judges. I always liken it to this: When I watch a dancing competition, I don’t know what the heck is going on. I can’t tell the difference between an amazing, technically sound dance, and a dance that looks good. So I look to the judges to tell me what to think. But at the same time, if the judges say ”Oh, that was terrible,” and I liked it, that’s something different. So I think there are two levels of judgment: the actual judges on the show, and then the people at home and what their own brains are tellin’ ’em.

So you’re not worried, like some fans are, that they’re judging contestants in rehearsal and not just on the performance we see on show night?

I don’t think they are. I don’t think that they would ever do that. But I guess what I’m saying is that if they were to, and it was obviously not the same performance, people would still vote their feelings.

When the judges repeatedly say that certain contestants are bound to make it to the end, do you think that has any effect on the voters?

I think it probably has a mild effect. But the people they’re saying that to are undoubtedly great singers. I don’t think that they’d say that unless they recognized that talent and unless they knew that America recognized that talent as well. But again, they can be proven wrong by the people who are actually voting. No doubt it adds to the perception, but perception and reality are different things. I think that everyone who is left right now is equally as capable of getting into the finals. By being good friends, we see each other’s potential.

Does the judges’ behavior during a song ever affect your performance?

Not really. Truth be told, I’m looking at the audience, the people in the little sandbox mosh pit, and the cameras. That’s what I’m concerned about because that’s what plays to America. More often than not, I’m only looking at the judges right before the song and right after the song.

Last question: What would you have sung for next week’s Rat Pack theme?

Probably ”That’s Life,” Frank Sinatra.

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