'American Idol' Live Tour: Season 12's Top 11 Break Down the Set List
While on the road, the finalists talk about their song choices and explain personal meanings.
Between live shows in Sacramento and Phoenix, the tour busses carrying the top 11 finalists from season 12 of American Idol stopped at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. There, before they took to the stage, the alums took time out from their day to chat with The Hollywood Reporter about their set list, revealing some deeply personal connections to their song choices.
Candice Glover, “In the Middle”
“It’s not my new single but it is going to be on my album,” Glover explains. “I knew I could do a new song on tour and I chose ‘In the Middle’ because it’s fun and reminds me of summertime and being in love and having these good feelings when you’re with this guy. I love singing about being in love and this is the perfect song about that. It reminds you of going to the beach with your friends.” Then Glover makes the big reveal: the song was written by Rob Kleiner, Reg Styles and a name very familiar to Idol viewers: Fantasia. Glover was sent a demo version with Fantasia’s vocals. “It was fun listening to her version and learning from it,” says the Idol winner.
Kree Harrison, “Hold On”
There might be a lot more people buying the Alabama Shakes album this summer, after they hear Harrison perform the band’s powerhouse song “Hold On” as one of her selections on the Idol live tour. “I’m a huge fan of Alabama Shakes,” Harrison confesses. “They’re one of my favorite new bands right now. I thought it would be a fun song everybody could sing along to. I love it.”
Angie Miller, “Put It on Me”
Miller made a huge impression on the judges and voting viewers during season 12 when she sang her original song, “You Set Me Free.” For the tour, she premieres another new song, this time a co-write. Says Miller: “During Idol, one of my best friends came to me and said she’d been going through a hard time and was sorry she hadn’t told me sooner. I told her I wish she had, because I could have helped her through it.” Miller wrote the upbeat song in early June before rehearsals started. “The writing process is usually easy,” she says. “But this song was tricky to write. The lyrics took so long but it was worth the time.”
Amber Holcomb, “Diamonds”
Holcomb performs the Rihanna hit with Burnell Taylor; it’s the only boy-girl duet in the live show. “I was told I should do something upbeat and this was the first song that popped into my head,” she says. She likes the idea of singing a popular tune that everybody knows. “The crowd gets involved and can sing along.” The selection also provides a clue as to what kind of material Holcomb might record for her album debut. “I feel like what I’m doing on tour and what I did on the show is what you can expect from me as an artist,” she confirms.
Janelle Arthur, “Better Dig Two”
Arthur shared the stage with the Band Perry on the season finale, performing their current No. 1 hit, “DONE.” On the summer tour, Arthur gets to sing another song by the trio, their previous single, “Better Dig Two.” Arthur says, “A few songs were suggested to me and ‘Better Dig Two’ really stood out because I wanted to sing it on the show and I never got the opportunity.” Harrison interrupts Arthur to add her own comment: “She kills it!”
Lazaro Arbos, “Feeling Good”
Arbos performed the Anthony Newley-Leslie Bricusse song from the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd on Idol but wasn’t considering an encore on the live summer tour. He was hoping to sing Queen’s “We are the Champions,” which he also performed on Idol, during a rock-themed top seven week, but was overruled. Still, he loves the reaction he gets from the crowd every night and the message of “Feeling Good.” He elaborates, “Sometimes we get caught up in our everyday life and we don’t stop to realize that life can be as simple as looking up at the sun or the palm trees.”
Burnell Taylor, “Everybody Knows”
Taylor recorded the John Legend song as a demo when he was a junior in high school, in 2011. “But I never performed it for an audience,” he tells THR. “I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to tap into the song emotionally.” The song does carry a lot of emotional weight for Taylor. He recorded it after two young people in his life died. His three-year-old cousin was hit by a motorcycle and two weeks later, one of his best friends passed away in his sleep from a blood clot. “I was listening to a lot of John Legend and I came across this song. I played it over and over again and it was like therapy for me. When I perform the song, I always think about them because those are two people I really love and really miss. And ‘everybody knows’ what happened to them but they don’t really know, spiritually.”
Devin Velez, “Somos Novios (It’s Impossible)”
Velez performed the song twice on Idol. “It’s been one of my favorite songs for a long time,” he says. “Growing up, I listened to Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban and I love that style of music. The song is a slow, sweet love ballad in Spanish and I feel really connected to the song whether I’m in a relationship or not.” Velez says it was his decision to include the song on his set list. “I wanted to remind the audience of what made me different. I feel like I put my emotion into it every single time. There’s a certain note I hold and every time I do, it just does something to me.” THR asked Velez if it makes a difference singing to an audience where more people speak Spanish. “The first verse is in English and then the second verse and chorus is in Spanish. When I hear songs in Japanese or Korean or Italian I don’t understand everything but they sound so beautiful. In the end, music itself speaks, no matter what language a song is in.”
Paul Jolley, “Blown Away”
Jolley loves the Carrie Underwood hit and the story it tells. “It’s a song that lets me show my vocal range,” he says. “It’s a hard thing to tackle a Carrie song. Everyone knows what a huge range she has.” Jolley has expressed an interest in being a country-pop singer, and “Blown Away” fills the bill perfectly. “Other songs were suggested to me and they were things I would never, ever do,” he laughs. “So I came up with ‘Blown Away.’”
Curtis Finch, Jr., “When I Was Your Man”
It was Finch’s idea to sing the recent No. 1 hit by Bruno Mars. “I went with that song because I felt I could really emote. I’m really able to get into the lyrics of a song even if it’s something I haven’t experienced.” Finch says he is a fan of Mars. “He exudes great vocal ability and stage presence. Those are two things you need to be successful.”
Aubrey Cleland, “Sweet Dreams”
Cleland performed a slow, acoustic version of the Beyoncé song on the “sudden death” round of season 12 in Las Vegas, but on the Idol tour, she does an upbeat take on the hit. “I’m excited for people to hear that side of me,” she says. “I never did anything like that.” Cleland wanted to speed up the tempo and the show director had the same idea. THR asked the young performer if it was difficult singing a song so identified with a major star like Beyoncé. “Yes, it is” she admits. “But I sing it in a different way. I have a completely different voice than Beyoncé and I’m not trying to sound like her.”
The American Idol Live! summer tour continues its trek across the U.S., winding up in Nashville for its final show on Aug. 31.