The minute I was picked to be in the top 12 of "American Idol," I had one goal to make the top 10 so I could go on tour. I ended up making it to the top six, so as you can imagine, I was ecstatic.
Utahn David Archuleta appeared equally thrilled on Wednesday when he made the 2008 "Idol" top 10.
But to get so far and be cut one or two spots before the top 10 is devastating.
Vanessa Oliverez from my season was the first to be cut from the top 12. Charles Grigsby was the second. But because one-time Utahn Corey Clark was sent home early (because of an undisclosed arrest) and Josh Gracin couldn't go on tour (because he was in the Marines), Grigsby joined the tour. (Oliverez did not, so there were nine of us that year.)
When we stopped in Oliverez's city, she came backstage crying. She knew the opportunity to go on a 48-city tour performing to sold-out crowds is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it was anyone's game this week on "Idol."
The judges always encouraged us to take risks to do whatever it takes to stand out from the crowd and be unique. Then they would sometimes criticize us for not "knowing who you are."
And once we found what worked for us, we were suddenly in danger of judge Simon Cowell calling us "boring." The contestants have to figure out how to to be exciting and different each week while still showing the judges who they really are.
Archuleta, 17, seems to know what works best for him. While he is given advice and guidance by vocal coach Dean Kaelin and other professionals on the show, the Murray High student "ultimately has a really good sense of what he likes to do," Kaelin said.
This week, he stuck to his tried-and-true power ballad, earning back the praise of the judges. (Did we really think he'd have to work that hard to get them to fall in love with him again?)
"This, for me, was probably the most exciting performance. ... You rose above adversity and came back strong," said judge Paula Abdul after what Cowell called Archuleta's "master class" performance of "The Long and Winding Road."
So far, the up-tempos haven't worked to Archuleta's advantage. His bread-and-butter songs are the slow to midtempo ballads. However, is he at risk of becoming redundant if he does week after week?
While it's important to be true to who you are as an artist, it's equally important to show the audience something new each week. That's going to be a constant challenge for all the contestants standing out while staying true.
Brooke White, 24, a Mormon from Mesa, Ariz., with Utah ties, was stellar last week with "Let It Be." This week, she tried to change it up by just standing at the mike while singing and, er, dancing.
"The performance was really awkward for me," judge Randy Jackson said.
Cowell agreed. "The horrible dancing ... it showed a lack of conviction."
While the audience booed Cowell, White tried to shush the audience with her constant reassurance to them (and herself, I think) that "It's OK!"
Last week she was a front-runner this week she showed weakness.
"This is not what I do." White admitted. Her strength is playing an instrument and really selling a song. While some would get lost sitting down at an instrument, that's when White shines. She commands the stage.
"If I get to remain, I'm going to return to what I do best," she said.
Someone who stepped outside of her element and earned positive reviews was Syesha Mercado. She sang "Yesterday" with just a guitar player. "This was probably your best performance so far," Cowell said. "You chose the best song, and sold it very very well. That should keep you in the competition."
Amanda Overmyer, like Archuleta, stayed true to style with a pumped-up rock version of "Back in the USSR." But she missed the mark, according to the judges. While Jackson did think the song choice was perfect, he only gave her performance seven out of 10.
"It was predictable," Cowell agreed. "Hey, I have only a minute-and-a-half to show America what I'd be doing at my show each week. I want people to say, 'That chick looks like fun I want to go see her show!"'
That may be sooner than Overmyer thought. She was given the boot Wednesday night. While the other top 10 will be selling out stadiums around the country, Overmyer may be "selling out bars in LaFayette."And, she said, 'That's OK."'
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. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org