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'American Idol' Guest Blogger Anoop Desai: Lauren, Haley, and James Topped Movie Night

"If I were asked who I think the frontrunner is, I would say James based on his performance," Desai tells THR.

Anoop Desai

As we learned during Season 8, Anoop Desai has a thing for pop music. Anoop Dog, as he was lovingly nicknamed, charmed us each week with danceable song selections and impressive vocals -- before he was sadly eliminated on Disco Week with the prophetic “Dim All The Lights.” 

These days, Anoop’s lights shine brightly, as the North Carolina boy, now living in Atlanta, burns the candle at both ends recording music at a furious pace. Last year, Desai released his debut album, All is Fair, which contained the single, “My Name,” co-written by Idol alum Brandon Rogers. Even though the second video, “All is Fair (Crazy Love)” was released this February, Anoop is surprising his fans with a plethora of brand new music, starting with the free download of songs from a project entitled Zero.0. It's a collaboration with Atlanta-based musicians, writers and producers including DJ Trauma, Calvin Matthews and Sak Pase (Rihanna). In fact, one of Anoop’s songs, “OoWee,” has already been chosen by Victoria’s Secret for their “Pink Nation” campaign.    The project will be released in multiple parts, and the first installment will become available on iTunes May 11. The second EP is expected to release in July, and the third EP will be out in the fall. “I will have 30 songs out by the end of the year,” says the affable singer. “I’m working every day.” To keep up with Anoop’s Prince-like pace, check out his official site, AnoopDesai.com, and read on for his insights into Season 10's Movie Night.   Watching the show tonight, I really empathize with the contestants because I know what they are feeling. It’s a high pressure situation, and they're all working under the realization that anyone can go home now that Pia Toscano has left the show.    I haven’t watched the show this season because I start recording music at 9 p.m. and am in the studio until 4 a.m. After working all night on music and writing all day, the last thing you want to watch on TV is a music show! At the end of the day, I’m my worst critic, so I was a little hesitant to do this. I hate criticizing other people because I know how soul-sucking it is, and God forbid the kids read what anybody is saying about them.    Watching the show for me now is like watching a home movie and I’m not in it. When the show starts, I know exactly who is standing behind those panels and what they are doing. I know how cold those stools feel and the couches. I know what microphones they are using, who is cueing them in -- and they are all of my buddies!   There are also some elements that are different from my season. For one thing, the judges are really nice. Maybe it’s because they are in the industry, and you do want people liking you, so they are maybe shying away from being too critical.   I also see they are finally using in-ear monitors, which is a very nice addition. I did notice, however, that they haven’t fixed the live reverb or echo on the television broadcast, so if you are watching at home, it sounds very dull.   Also, I hope they know what a luxury it is to be in the same room as Jimmy Iovine and Will.i.am. That is just insane. I would have loved that. Here you have the most successful label executive ever as well as one of the most successful songwriters and producers at your fingertips. I hope viewers know who Jimmy Iovine is, that he’s not just some dude. Believe me, if you have those two telling you that a song is cool and it’s going to be good for you, listen to them. I think it’s a tremendous resource and I am very happy to see Idol doing that.   That said, it does seem like a different show. It’s clearly more diverse. I thought it was interesting when it was noted that there could be a jazz Idol or a heavy metal Idol, and that it doesn’t matter. If I were at 19 Entertainment or Universal, I’d be scared. The show is judging on a pop criteria, and what is going to sell records, but that’s not the message being conveyed to the audience through the judging. It’s confusing.    I also know how hard theme nights are. You have two days to pick a song, and that’s very hard to do. Think of it like this: you are given a category and told you can pick from hundreds of songs. During my season, I had to do a category of “Top Downloads.” I did an Usher song, but there were so many songs  to choose from. My point is, it’s like you are at a buffet -- you want everything! It’s hard to navigate with that much choice, so a lot of singers pick songs that they liked, but not necessarily songs you can blow up.    Songs from movies is kind of an odd theme, because there is no standard. “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly, for instance, was used in a movie. So was Kiss’s “God Gave Rock and Roll To You,” which was in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.    That said, the contestants I liked the most were Lauren Alaina, Haley Reinhart, and James Durbin. They were my favorites for the simple fact they were the most commercial. I can see all three of them making a pop record by virtue of their voices.     Here are my thoughts:   Paul McDonald (“Old Time Rock And Roll,” Bob Seger): The performance was definitely high energy, but for me that song is a karaoke song. It’s a great song, but it was too high for him. It also sounded like he was hoarse, or sick. Paul had good energy, but it was not a winning song for him on the show.   Lauren Alaina (“The Climb,” Miley Cyrus): I think she sang it better than Miley, who came on my season as a performer. I would have liked to see some more emotion, but technically she was great.   Stefano Langone (“End of the Road,” Boyz II Men) In the beginning it was a little too in the pocket, and he wasn’t showing a lot of emotion. The kid has an incredible range, and that is one of my favorite songs, ever. I think he did it really well, but it is an angsty song and his voice is really pure, so that angst didn’t really come through. Also, we were automatically told never to sing a song about going home in a song title. We were advised that if we were to send a message with a song, don’t send a message with any of those! Then again, I went home on “Dim All The Lights!” We’ll know if Stefano goes home whether it’s some kind of curse!   Scotty McCreery (“I Cross My Heart," George Strait): I like Scotty. He’s a North Carolina kid, so I’m rooting for him. The song was a little slow for me, though. American Idol is about pop music, and he has a GREAT country voice. It’s old country. You can tell that he listened to a lot of George Strait, because he sings in that twangy, ballad-ish style, which is not the country music of today.   Casey Abrams (“Nature Boy,” Nat King Cole): He should have taken Jimmy’s advice and done the Phil Collins song. I respect him for doing what he wants to do, but at some point you have to listen to the mentors.   Haley Reinhart (“Call Me,” Blondie): I really like Haley. She has high energy, and is really comfortable performing. She’s a cute girl, is really at ease on the stage, and she really got into it. I love her image, too. I thought Haley did well on “Call Me,” she has some pipes that can be easily translated to pop radio.   Jacob Lusk (“Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Simon and Garfunkel): He’s another kid that can just blow. That note at the end? I don’t know how he got that! He’s like a mix of gospel and Luther Vandross.     James Durbin (“Heavy Metal,” Sammy Hagar): He was very impressive, even to people not into that kind of music. He had a cool aesthetic visually and orally, and it was encouraging to see him do that. It worked out for him.    Someone on the show once told me two things I never forgot. First of all, don’t ever sing a song just good enough to get by. Sing it because you know you can do it better. Remember that every pop icon is your competition, because you are competing against those people.  Second, the crown is there waiting for someone to grab it. Just take it. I’m not sure anyone left in the vacuum left by Pia leaving the show is going for it. She seemed to really be jocking for it, based on the clips I watched.    If I were asked who I think the frontrunner is, I would say James based on his performance. Still, they are all very good at what they do-that’s why they are here!    These contestants may not realize it, but right now is the first, formative points in their career. Believe me, I was there. It feels like another life to me now. When I went out for the show, I was just graduated from college and I was very shy. But the experience let me believe that I could do anything that I wanted to do.   That’s what the show does for you. I studied folklore and anthropology at school, but the one thing people never study is themselves. Being on the show forces you to reckon with yourself as you exist, and how people see you. Once they are done with the show, these contestants will see how much they have grown, and when they form a clear goal of what kind of artist they want to be, it is just going to get better.