Unconventional 'American Idol' Contestant Charlie Askew: 'I'm Glad I'm Done With It'
The semifinalist and fan favorite opens up about his season 12 journey and opinionated judge Nicki Minaj. "I thought of all people she would understand where I was coming from," he says.
Season 12's Charlie Askew certainly didn’t fit the typical mold of an American Idol semifinalist. He was quirky, wore his heart on his sleeveless attire, and picked decisively un-Idol-like material for his performances -- particularly a bizarrely wonderful rendition of Genesis' “Mama.”
“[That song] resonated with what I was going through at the time. I went through a pretty rough breakup in June, so like all the repercussions of that,” he recently told Yahoo News. “It was therapy, in a way, to pick a song like that -- very dark, very brooding -- because deep down inside for a long time, I carried around a lot of brooding, angst and anger and all that. Not just for [my ex-girlfriend], but for this female archetype, I guess. Like my mother was the one who initiated my parents' divorce, so I was kind of singing it to her as well. I went back to when I was 12 years old."
Askew said that he was a little taken aback by Nicki Minaj's criticism that night, specifically her assessment of his wardrobe and not his vocals.
"I was hurt by what Nicki said, but the reason wasn't because she was critiquing me in any negative way. I'm used to that. I do this for negative and positive criticism," he said. "But all the comments she kept throwing out there were about my image and my outfit and my arms… and not the singing! And I thought of all people she would understand where I was coming from with this performance. It was almost hypocritical of her ... She changes her image every day, you know?"
Although eliminated at first, there was something about the red-headed, self-described “socially awkward” singer that captivated half of the Idol audience, earning him a rare chance to compete for a spot on the summer tour.
Interestingly, Askew auditioned for Idol last season, but was rejected by then-judge Steven Tyler, who told the teen that he “wasn’t ready” for the competition.
“He actually told me no the first time I auditioned,” Askew recalled. “I went in there and sang 'PYT' [by Michael Jackson]. My knees were knocking together [and] and I cracked on a high note.”
He came back and controlled his nerves well enough to earn a spot in semifinals, but his final bid for Idol immortality performing his original song, “Blue Sky Diamond” failed to earn him a spot on the tour. The 17-year old Arkansas native, who said season eleven winner Phillip Phillips and season 10 finalist Casey Abrams inspired him to continue his journey, said that although he was grateful for the experience, he also feels a sense of relief, and wishes Aubrey Cleland, who will join the top 10 this summer, well.
“I’m glad I’m done with it, honestly,” he said. “I feel I have a lot more freedom to do what I want… That was a cool ride. I’m really happy for Aubrey and I think she’s really blessed to be doing this."