'American Idol' Top 13 Night: 8 Things You Didn’t See on TV
Season 13's best get informed advice from "Idol" alumni Taylor Hicks and Carly Smithson, plus a pair of "X Factor" contestants are in the house.
For the first and only time, the top 13 finalists of season 13 performed on the Idol stage, with a collection of songs meant to represent themselves. And while viewers at home saw plenty of action during the two-hour live broadcast, here are eight things you didn’t see unless you were sitting inside Stage 36 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles.
1. One full hour before images from the Idol stage were beamed live to the East Coast, the Wednesday episode's live audience was given the opportunity to double up as the Thursday audience, as producers pre-taped the opening number of the results show. At 4 p.m., the elephant doors leading to the corridor outside of the studio were closed and director Louis J. Horvitz rolled cameras on the top 13 doing an abridged version of Imagine Dragons' smash hit, "Radioactive."
The audience was warned that the segment would be taped at least twice; it ultimately took three takes but no one seemed to mind, especially young girls happy to see Caleb Johnson and Sam Woolf stationed in the audience for the beginning of the song.
2. There was a plethora of visitors on Wednesday, starting with season seven finalist Carly Smithson, who was seen just outside of the studio after the pre-tape and before the live show, chatting with associate music director Michael Orland, vocal coach Dorian Holley and stage manager Debbie Williams, all friends from her Idol days.
During the first commercial break, a teenaged girl sitting in section C, row five, suddenly gasped, "It’s Taylor Hicks!" The season five winner had just walked by her as he was being escorted to row two, where he was seated next to season 12 competitors Angie Miller and Aubrey Cleland. With no security person assigned to him, Hicks was asked to take photos with fans in the audience more than two dozen times. "I love it," Hicks told The Hollywood Reporter. "When you come back and the Idol fans want to take your picture, it’s a blessing."
3. But it wasn’t just former Idols sprinkled through the audience. In a subsequent commercial break, a young fan asked warm-up MC Cory Almeida if he could take a photo with Alex and Sierra, the duo who won season three of The X Factor. They were there to support their favorite season 13 finalist and new friend, Alex Preston.
4. If you’re keeping count, you know that there were four former Idols at Idol on Wednesday. But wait – there was one more, and she wasn’t in the audience. She was on stage. Did you see her? Here’s a clue: magenta hair.
That’s right, season eight’s Allison Iraheta was standing on stage during Majesty Rose’s performance. And she was moving really well and singing, too. That’s because Iraheta is one of the backing vocalists in Rickey Minor’s band this season.
Speaking of magenta hair, THR asked Jessica Meuse, who sports some magenta locks herself, if she noticed Iraheta on stage. "She has awesome hair!" Meuse exclaimed.
5. One of the new features of season 13 is the on-stage lounge area, where the finalists sit during performances to observe their fellow contestants while they’re singing center stage. When Ben Briley was performing Johnny Cash’s "Folsom Prison Blues," the first Idol in the lounge to stand was Alabaman Dexter Roberts, followed by Alex Preston, then Caleb Johnson, then the remainder of the contestants. When the next performer – C.J. Harris – sang, all of the Idols in the lounge stood up immediately.
After the live show, Briley told THR that he had a special reason to sing a Cash song on this particular day – it would have been Cash’s 82nd birthday.
6. When Harry Connick Jr. questioned what Jena Irene’s song choice of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” was about, Ryan Seacrest surprised Irene with a wiki-type entry on his cellphone that explained the lyrics. As the show went to commercial break, a vengeful Connick grabbed Seacrest’s phone and was about to throw it into the audience when he had second thoughts and returned the device to the host.
Turns out Irene is very familiar with the song. "I chose ‘The Scientist’ because it’s a song I’ve known since I was nine years old," she told THR after her performance. "I love how the song tells a story not only with the lyrics but musically and that’s what I try to do when I write my own songs. Chris Martin, the lead singer, inspired me to write songs."
7. Warm-up specialist Cory Almeida often gets requests from fans to hug or photograph one of the judges or one of the Idols. Wednesday night, an audience member named Celeste asked if she could take a picture of Jennifer Lopez. It was her reason that convinced Almeida to make it happen: "I want to prove that she’s prettier than Shakira," said the young fan.
8. As soon after 7 p.m. as they could, the top 13 headed to the press tent, to do about 30 media interviews in the short space of 40 minutes. Taylor Hicks and Carly Smithson dropped by to talk to the season 13 folks. "It’s very nostalgic," Hicks told THR when asked what it was like to return to his alma mater. "You feel for all of the contestants because tomorrow night it’s one down." And what advice did Hicks give the current crop of contestants? "You’ve got to really work hard at this point in the competition to keep in it. The longer you stay in, the better your chances of exposure and records and representations. You have to really be smart and get your rest and stay off your cellphone. Do your homework!"
Smithson was also asked for her advice. "Stay focused," she said. "This is your career, take it as a job. You’re not here to have fun and play. Be a musician. Go to bed on time and learn your lyrics. And come alive on stage." The season seven alumna had her own take on what makes season 13 tick. "I don’t feel like Idol has had a group like this before. They’re indie, even down to their song choices. They’re rather obscure songs, which is great for developing an artist. It becomes your song. I like that they’re a musical bunch. They know more underground stuff. There were a couple of songs tonight I didn’t know, which blew me away. It made these people on Idol look like individual artists, which is really cool."