The "American Idol" judges gushed about the talents of 17-year-old David Archuleta of Murray.
Editor's note: "American Idol" finalist and Utahn Carmen Rasmusen writes a weekly column about this season's show.

It's been the most dramatic Hollywood week yet.

Forget the silly costumes, cheesy auditions and horribly off-key vocals of recent weeks. Out of 100,000 "Idol" hopefuls, only a select few, including David Archuleta of Murray, advanced to the Hollywood competition.

Archuleta did more than that— the judges quickly made him one of the 24 finalists. As Simon Cowell put it, "You're young, you're likable, and you've got a great voice. Not a bad place to be, right?"

David wowed the audience and judges alike by belting out "Heaven" for his final audition in Hollywood, causing Paula Abdul to stand up and bow down to him. For a 17-year-old boy, he's got the world at his fingertips.

Another Utahn, Shaun Barrowes of Spanish Fork, made it to Hollywood but wasn't chosen as a finalist.

I think it's safe to say that, for the most part, these 250 contestants were the cream of the crop, the best of the best. And all sang for their lives this week to secure a spot in the Top 24.

If I took away negative feelings from "Idol," it was because of this very week. The pressure is so intense.

You realize after seeing so many amazing singers that it isn't about you anymore. You begin to think you're just another voice in the choir. You are constantly on the brink of an emotional breakdown, barely sleeping, hardly eating, running solely on adrenaline. Not only are you trying to one-up the other contestants, you also have to try to one-up your own last audition. It isn't just about making it on a hit TV show — it's about the chance to finally have your dreams within grasp.

I remember waking up the day after I was cut feeling disbelief, anger and devastation. I had made it through the first two days but was cut the day before they picked the top 32.

Our auditions were relatively easy. The first day, we could choose any song to sing a capella. The second day was a little more challenging — we had to write music to lyrics we were given. I'd always know whether or not I had made it through to the next round by looking down the row to see if Ruben Studdard was standing in my line.

He was always so laid back. In fact, one day after waiting for six hours for our turn to audition for the judges, Ruben suggested we make up a dance to do onstage to help settle our nerves.

The third day wasn't so fun. We were split into groups of three, boys with boys and girls with girls. We had three songs to choose from. I chose "Don't Cry Out Loud," and to this day, whenever I hear that song, I want to puke. I didn't want anything to do with "American Idol" after I was sent home. (Of course, that changed as soon as I received a call back from the producers to try out for the wildcard show!)

This season was different. Not only could the contestants use instruments during their first auditions, but they had a band backing them and that additionbrought out the best in some singers.

The first person who comes to mind is Carly Smithson. The 24-year-old from Ireland tried out for Season 5 of "American Idol," but her dream was cut short when her work visa wasn't OK'd. This year her hard work paid off. In fact, I think Smithson is the female to beat among the finalists. "You should all hate her, because she's very good," Simon said to the remaining contestants.

But even with a killer voice and positive comments from the judges, confidence didn't come easy for Carly. "If this doesn't work out, I don't know if I'd continue singing, 'cause you just get so hurt in this industry."

Turns out she had nothing to worry about. The luck of the Irish prevailed as a very emotional Carly was told she made the Top 24.

Next week, the voting starts up. A word of advice from a former "Idol" contestant: Hometown support means everything.

In fact, Ken Warrick, producer of "American Idol" came up to me one week and said, "You know, you do all right with the East Coast, but I'm telling you, once the mountains kick in, your numbers soar."

Thanks to everyone who ever voted for me, and be sure to vote for David Archuleta next week as the real competition begins.

Utah recording artist and actress Carmen Rasmusen-Herbert came in sixth place during the second season of "American Idol." She wrote about her experiences in her book, "Staying in Tune." Her first full album is "Nothin' Like the Summer," featuring the single of the same name.

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