…And we’ve got answers!

Constant reader Sophie has sent in some questions about “American Idol,” so let’s get to them. Here’s Sophie:

1.  Do the “American Idol” contestants bring their own clothes or are they provied a wardrobe? If so, is there a stylist to pick stuff out for them?

For Hollywood week and all the way to the Top 12, the contestants are responsible for providing their own wardrobes. Once they make the Top 12, they receive a small budget each week to buy clothes for their performances. With a stylist in tow, they’ll hit local malls like the Beverly Center or visit hip shops on Melrose Avenue.

2.  What is the song selection process like? Do they have a coach to help them or are they completely on their own?

As the judges often say, song selection is everything. The contestants usually start looking for songs a week in advance, and often have their song for the following week chosen by results show day. Of course, not every song they choose can be cleared (which means the owners of the song will allow its use on the show), so the contestants sometimes have to go back to the drawing board. Blake Lewis likes to tell the story of how he only got Maroon 5’s “This Love” cleared towards the end of his run on “Idol” because he was finally able to contact one of the members of the band that he knew.

The contestants work choosing and rehearsing their songs with a rehearsal pianist and one of two vocal coaches, either Debra Byrd (previously known as a member of Lady Flash, Barry Manilow’s trio of backup vocalists) or Dorian Holley. While the staff can suggest songs for each contestant, the singers are never told what songs to choose. Clay Aiken used to tell Byrd (as she likes to be known), “If the song I chose is terrible, wink with your left eye.” Byrd says she wouldn’t move an eyeball, especially considering how good Clay was at picking songs for himself.

3.  What if two contestants want to sing the same song?  Is this discouraged or against the rules?

While the contestants are discouraged against singing the same songs, it has happened. I remember Clay Aiken and Josh Gracin both singing “To Love Somebody” during Bee Gees night of Season Two.

Of course, it helps to be the first one to claim a song. Diana DeGarmo says that since she had to go to school for a few hours each day, by the time she got to the rehearsal room, often the song she most wanted to sing was already taken.

4.  How does rehearsal go? Do they share the band or the stage or are they allotted a certain time to use these resources?

Once the songs are chosen and rehearsed with the vocal coaches on Thursdays, the arrangers get to work and have sheet music ready for the full band to rehearse with the contestants on Mondays. Each contestant gets the same amount of time to work with the band.

5.  Where do the contestants live? Do they have to share a room with anyone else?

During the first season, Kelly Clarkson & co. all lived together in a mansion, but these days the contestants share two bedroom apartments in an apartment building.

6.  What do the contestants do with their free time? Are they sequestered or do they get to do whatever they want?

Free Time? Bwa-ha-ha! In addition to all the rehearsals and shopping trips outlined above, there’s also hours each week devoted to filming the advertisements for Ford, as well as recording a version of each contestant’s song for Itunes. Some weeks the Idols also attend movie premieres or other events that are shown on the show. There is also time spent with the celebrity mentors (although there are fewer of them this season). That’s why every single contestant I’ve ever talked to says their number one tip for “Idol” contestants is to get lots of rest.

7.  Why do they make the loser of the week sing right after they are told they were voted out? That’s torture.

No, that’s television. Although at least this season they aren’t having them sing right after they’ve found out they’re off the show. The bottom three are each singing their song from the previous night, probably in a desire to fill up that hour results show!


3 Responses to “YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS…”

  1. Flash Says:

    WOW! Great info Brian, that answers so many of the same questions that I have had over the years.


  2. Sophie Says:

    Thanks Briguy. I knew I could count on you.

  3. lulu Says:

    Great information, Brian, for those inquisitive Sophie questions.

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