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MAR
21
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'American Idol' Burning Questions: How is Paul Jolley Handling the Harsh Critiques? Why is Season 12 All About the Ballads?

Minutes after the Beatles-themed performance show wrapped, the top nine talked to THR.

American Idol season 12 top 9 portrait P
Frank Micelotta / Fox

"Living the dream" is how American Idol season 12 contestant Paul Jolley describes the experience of performing for more than 15 million people on a weekly basis. But with the privilege comes the inevitable pressure – not to mention anxiety and homesickness. He, along with his eight fellow finalists, had plenty to say about all of the above, whilst answering Idol Worship’s Beatles-week burning questions.

Did Nicki Minaj’s "pianist" comment feel as awkward to Devin Velez as it was for musical director Ray Chew?

"Oh god," said 18-year-old Velez after the show. "I heard it and was like, 'Did she really just say what I think she said on TV?' Then I thought, 'It's Nicki Minaj -- yes, she totally did.'" Not that this Idol hopeful was offended. Added Velez: "Nicki has confidence and courage, and the fact that she's not a filter makes her who she is."

In choosing one of the Beatles’ most emotionally charged songs, "The Long and Winding Road," what was Devin Velez channeling?

As it turned out, the Chicago native was dealing with "some personal family issues," he told THR. "I got into an argument with someone earlier [in the day], and I just had to remember that, because I'm a Christian, that long and winding road is my walk with God. Although there's a lot of stuff going on, it always leads me back to His door and to His plan. I think I showed that onstage, and I'm really proud of that performance."

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Since every time Angie Miller’s name is mentioned, someone inevitably launches into the Rolling Stones’ 1973 hit "Angie," is she intimately familiar with the tune?

To the contrary, Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. "So many people sing it to me, but, honestly, I haven't listened to it yet," she said. "I should." Of course, if she did choose it for, say, 1970s week, it would be yet another ballad, which brings up another question: Why so many slow songs? "People think it's easier to show off their range and their voice with a ballad, and it is," opines Miller. "But I definitely want to change it up next week and to do a fast song. I need to."

What exactly is "attitude face?"

"I have no idea," said Candice Glover, who received the comment from judge Nicki Minaj following her rendition of "Come Together." Glover elaborated on her facial performance: "I felt like it was a fun song, so I was trying to smile a little bit more, because smiling is hard for me when I'm always singing about a guy doing me wrong. I'm used to the mad face and hurt face, so I tried to look happy, but obviously Nicki wants me to do something else."

How is Paul Jolley handling the extra-harsh comments hurled his way?

Jolley would be lying if he said the negativity wasn’t getting to him. "It’s the thing that makes me feel so alone," he told THR after performing The Beatles’ "Eleanor Rigby." "I feel like I’m working so hard for every comment that I'm getting. It’s hard to keep my confidence level up and not cry, because I'm an emotional person. I wish I had time to write a song. I would’ve written a whole album right now." This, of course, begs the question: What would it be called? "Alone," he says with a sigh, adding: "I do feel a little homesick, but that's OK because everybody does. I'm here living the dream."

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Was Janelle Arthur’s pick of a lesser-known Beatles track an inspired decision or more like luck of the draw?

Wisely, the sassy Tennessean has studied her Idol, so you could call it more of a calculated move. "I feel it's sometimes more of a risk to do something that everyone else has done or that's such a huge song," she explained. "I thought about doing 'Yesterday,' too, but I don't think that would be a smart choice for me. They easily could have said, 'That's such a tough song -- it's hard to do it justice.' And I don't ever want to get those kinds of comments. I just want to bring my own thing." And she certainly did. Looks like all those years  of watching Idol -- since season one – paid off. Arthur added: "I have seen enough critiques on Idol that I kind of know the typical ones they give. And I know never to touch a Whitney Houston song ever!"

When Kree Harrison sang "With a Little Help From My Friends," was she thinking of anyone in particular?

"I have an amazing little group of friends, and we call ourselves the hippie army," she said. "There's nine of us, all in Nashville, and most of them I’ve known since I was 14. We've written together, played together, gone through tragedies and crazy life experiences together. They're amazing friends." Among her pals is one Idol alum: season five’s Kellie Pickler. "We met through a mutual friend a couple years ago," added Harrison. "We don't talk every day, but since being here, we've hung out a little bit because Idol and Dancing with the Stars is out of the same studio. It's always nice to see a familiar face. I love her. Vote for her on Dancing -- she's killing it!" Pickler’s advice to the Idol hopeful was spot-on. "Kellie said, 'Don't Google yourself, and listen to your heart."

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What’s with Amber Holcomb’s inner-arm tattoo?

"It’s a cheetah print," she told THR. "It's actually not finished -- I want to get some color in it." The inspiration didn’t come from a particular love for the animal, she revealed. Rather, it was the look of it that attracted her. And the location, which isn’t immediately visible on purpose. "I didn't want to get it anywhere out or on my legs," she added.

How hard did Lazaro Arbos try to stop the tears following his performance of "In My Life?"

"I don’t like to cry on stage," said the 22-year-old Cuban native. "And I wasn't crying because of what the judges said. I was more worried what my followers were going to say. I feel like I let some people down." Arbos received less-than-stellar comments from the panel and was clearly bummed long after the cameras stopped rolling. "I had chosen another song, but sometimes on this show, you have to change songs," he revealed. "It wasn't my best bet."

Did the fact that Burnell Taylor knows little about the Beatles hurt his performance of "Let It Be?"

Not according to the 19-year-old New Orleans native himself. "I feel like I handled it pretty well," he said. As for the future, he and his fellow finalists are looking to each other to expand their musical horizons. "We learn a lot from each other because we have country people and R&B people," he said. "There are some artists that I might not know, and we kind of teach each other."

Twitter: @Idol_Worship