"I loved the reaction towards me, I loved that they loved me for what I love, so that is the most amazing thing," Lazaro Arbos says about being selected as a top 10 finalist. The 21-year old ice cream scooper from Florida, who developed a stutter when he was six years old, has lofty ambitions for season 12, telling THR he hopes to "make the top 5 ... because we get to go to Disney World!"
Burnell Taylor 'American Idol'
Burnell Taylor, who shed 40 pounds since his original Baton Rouge audition, tells THR that he appreciates the candid critiques of judge NickiMinaj. "Nicki is the one person you can count on to be honest," said the singer, who took a gamble reprising his audition song, "I'm Here" from The Color Purple. "[She] is always 100 percent honest, even with the people she really loves and I think the panel needs that."
Paul Jolley 'American Idol'
Paul Jolley, who made it through to the top 10 after his performance of "Just A Fool" by Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton, says it was an "emotional" moment. "You watch American Idol all these years and think, 'I would love to be that person,'" said Jolley, who sees himself as a "pop-country" artist. Although he had a rough time in Hollywood when judge Nicki Minaj said she was annoyed by his nervous performance, the 23-year-old Tennessee native says he thinks Minaj is "honest" rather than mean.
Kree Harrison 'American Idol'
After her performance of "Stronger" by FaithHill drew tons of praise from the judges, the 22-year old Nashville-based singer seemed to be a lock for the top 10 -- but America had to wait until the end to see if she made it to the finals. "It was very difficult to be the last girl chosen [and the] last contestant in general," she recalls. Relief came when Ryan Seacrest announced her name. "Whenever Ryan said 'Kree', it was like OK, just breathe for a minute." Harrison says she is excited to go on tour this summer, as well as continue in the competition, where she plans to learn as much as she can from all four judges' critiques. "If it's ever negative, I'm going to listen to every word," she says. "They know exactly what they are talking about." As for judge Nicki Minaj, who dubbed Harrison her "wife": "As soon as the camera gets on her, she knows exactly what she's going to say, and I respect her for that."
Janelle Arthur 'American Idol'
The third time was the charm for Tennessee native Janelle Arthur, who made the top 10 after previously auditioning for the show for seasons 10 and 11. "I was so ecstatic when Ryan said my name," she recalls. The country singer, who secured her spot in the finals with "If I Can Dream" by Elvis Presley, wants to stick with her country roots on the show. After all, her biggest inspiration for wanting to be a singer was Vince Gill. "I could not get to sleep or stop crying without hearing or watching this tape of Vince Gill. My mom use to play it when I was a baby and it was like a miracle tape," she says.
Devin Velez 'American Idol'
"When Ryan said my name, I was about to cry," recalls 18-year-old Chicago native Devin Velez, described by Nicki Minaj as "The Spanish Ken Doll." "America wanted me! It felt so good!" He says he loved having his mother on stage with him to share his moment. "My mom was so typical. She was screaming and she got onstage with no shoes and I was like 'what is going on right now?' But that was her. I love her."
Curtis Finch Jr. 'American Idol'
After auditioning for American Idol in season 4 and season 11, Missouri native Curtis Finch Jr. was elated to make the top 10 with his soaring performance of "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly. He tells THR: "I believe I can fly, you know?" Finch, who says performing for the judges is a "blessing," reveals he is really most happy performing for his biggest fans: his parents. "My mom is a very sweet person and my dad is a phenomenal gift in my life as well and so I'm so thrilled to make them happy because they've always believed in me and I now I know they know that America believes in me as well."
Candice Glover 'American Idol'
Waiting in the red room for the big reveal was stressful enough, but for Candice Glover, who auditioned for the show three times, the anticipation was killing her. "When [Ryan Seacrest] said 'she has auditioned three times,' three of us in that room auditioned three times! I was like 'is it me?'" she recalls. "I said a little prayer." Thankfully, the show didn't torture her too much, as Glover, who brought down the house with a powerful victory song of "I'm Going Down" by Rose Royce, was the second name called to the stools.
Angie Miller 'American Idol'
Jessie J is turning out to be a good luck charm for 19-year old Angie Miller. The Beverly, Mass., singer/songwriter auditioned with Jessie J's "Mama Knows Best" in New York City, prevailed in Hollywood with "Who You Are" and propelled herself into the finals with a performance of "Nobody's Perfect." But which song did Miller turn to in order to calm her nerves while waiting for the big top 10 reveal? "Domino," she says. While the British singer remains Miller's primary influence, it was her own song, "Set Me Free," that caught the attention of Idol audiences.
Amber Holcomb 'American Idol'
"It took a moment to register," 18-year-old Amber Holcomb recalls of making the top 10. "When the screens opened, I instantly tried to find my mom!" Holcomb is most thankful that the judges have been so supportive: "Mariah, I've been listening to her the longest, Nicki, you know everybody knows who Nicki is and Randy he has such a musical background. Keith, he has won Grammys. ... Just the fact that I get to sing for them is beyond words."
Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson and Keith Urban on the Top 10 Finalists
Ryan Seacrest shares what the tension was like backstage prior to the naming of the top 10 ("that room was hot without air conditioning!") and the judges comment on a few contestants who didn't make it to the finals. Longtime judge Randy Jackson said the new format of announcing the top 10 took some getting used to: "It was tough for us ... we didn't know what was happening." Keith Urban agrees. "It was unusual," he says.
Mark Wahlberg’s F-bombs, Jonah Hill's slam and Zac Efron’s abs were among the highlights of the Nokia Theater ceremony, hosted by Conan O’Brien and featuring performances by Rihanna, Eminem and Ellie Goulding. View gallery