Angela "Angie" Miller is a judge favorite who dared to perform her own composition, "You Set Me Free," during Hollywood Week. The 19-year-old finalist from Beverly, Mass., elaborates: "I wrote that song a few months ago. I had just finished high school, and had auditioned for American Idol. I wanted to write a song to show how far I’ve come and how I’ve been set free from so much stuff."
Burnell Taylor, a 19-year-old native of New Orleans who blends raw talent with likability and a fresh style, has emerged as a male frontrunner in season 12. "After Hurricane Katrina, I discovered that I really knew how to sing. I recognized it," he tells THR, adding: "I went to school in Baton Rouge and they had a talent show and I thought, 'Maybe I should get in it,' but I had no idea that I would get as far as I got."
Kree Harrison, 22, was signed to Disney’s Lyric Street Records when she was just 10 years old. "I signed a development deal and all we did was a compilation with a bunch of Lyric Street artists, like Rascal Flatts and SheDaisy. I did a duet with Rosie O’Donnell on 'Do You Hear What I Hear' because I was on her show a few times
"I started watching American Idol right from the beginning," Amber Holcomb, an 18-year-old Houston native and assistant teacher in a pre-school, tells THR. "When it first came on, I really wanted to be on the show."
Candice Glover, 23, whose soulful voice and confident performance style earned her a much-deserved spot in the top 10, says: "I love Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Taylor Swift. I watched how graceful they are. I studied everybody just to be sure I had some kind of star power."
Curtis Finch Jr.
"I always wanted to sing and I would go to the kitchen during the commercials and start to sing a random song and thought, ‘I wonder if the judges would say yes after hearing it,'" Curtis Finch Jr., a 25-year-old old-school music lover from St. Louis, confesses of his early American Idol aspirations.
Unlike most of the other semifinalists, Devin Velez had not tried out for Idol until this season. When he heard the auditions were coming to his hometown of Chicago, the 19-year-old started preparing. "I got a vocal coach immediately and was practicing twice a week with her. It helped. I was learning techniques and breathing," he tells THR.
Janelle Arthur, the 23-year-old country-music cutie from Oliver Springs, Tenn., started performing when she was very young and moved to Nashville to chase her dreams when she was 20. "That’s when I realized how tough [the music business] was," she says. "I wanted to get out there and sing instead of playing the bars. I like to get out on stage and sing and that’s what American Idol gives you the opportunity to do."
Lazaro Arbos, who hails from Cuba, has a stutter that disappears when he sings. "They don’t let U.S. culture impact us," explains the 21-year-old Naples, Fla., resident. "When I came to the United States, I found out who Mariah Carey was and who Whitney Houston was. They’d been around for a long time and they were huge and I didn’t know who they were. I started to discover them at the age of nine."
Sweet-natured Paul Jolley, 23, thinks this year was the right time for him to compete on Idol because he is a long-time fan of judge Keith Urban. “"When I turned 16, I made a CD. Keith was a big influence on me and I put one of his songs, 'I Wanna Love Somebody Like You,' on my first album.."