After Wednesday night’s shaky group performance of “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” it was no surprise that “American Idol’s” latest castoff was a male. “Idol” celebrated its 450th episode last night, sending Devin Velez packing and leaving only Burnell Taylor and Lazaro Arbos as the remaining boys in the competition. Prior to exiting the stage, Velez delivered an emotional final performance of “Somos Novios (It’s Impossible),” singing in both English and Spanish. Though it looked like he might possibly be “saved” -- Mariah Carey stood up, urging the audience to cheer with tears in her eyes as he performed -- the judges ultimately decided to let him go home.
Following the show, Billboard caught up with Velez who revealed that winning “Idol” wasn’t his goal. He also shared plans for making several Spanish albums, celebrated over meeting his idol, Colton Dixon, and revealed that Randy and Mariah both expressed interest in working with him in the future.
How are you holding up?
I'm still smiling. I think it's been a great journey. I haven't cried yet. I talked about this -- before I got to “Idol” and after “Idol,” I'm not going to stop singing. It can only get better from here and I still get to do the tour and now, I'm hoping to go back home and win prom king.
At your military school?
Yeah, it's a military ball. There is still a crown, and it's still hopefully it's mine, so I'll think positive.
It really seemed like it was three against one tonight with the judges deciding whether or not to “save” you. What are your thoughts on that?
You know, I kind of knew it was going to happen. Even yesterday, I felt really good about my performance but at the end, there can be only one winner. Everyone has to go home, it's just a certain time. Obviously, today was my time. I think I know who didn't want to put me through.
Why do you think that was?
I don't know. She [Nicki Minaj] has a lot of girl power and a lot of girl’s thoughts. Maybe she just wants a girl to win and just the fact that the girls have been so consistent with their songs and having such higher votes. I mean, the girls are amazing this year and I have nothing bad to say about any of the contestants.
Do you think Nicki not wanting to save you had anything to do with Mariah liking you so much?
I love Mariah more if that means anything.
She was crying during your performance!
That's the first time I ever saw Mariah Carey cry.
The audience was cheering and chanting during your final performance. What was it like to at least feel that support?
You know, I can still only smile about it -- just the fact that I know that so many people out there love me and that they're supporting me. I just have to give shout outs because hey as long as the fans are with me, I am unstoppable. I can't go to a stadium with no one to perform too, so as long as I have the fans and as long as we go together, I'm not going to stop.
Do any words stand out from any of the other contestants, anyone in particular after the news?
Not really. I kept hearing “goodbye.” I'm like, “Guys, stop saying goodbye. It's BRB. It's BRB. I'm coming right back.”
Did any of the judges come up to you afterwards?
Yes, I had three come up. I had Keith come up first and he gave me this big hug and he was just like, “Dude, you were great. It was an honor having you on the show,” and coming from Keith, that was awesome. And then he had to go. And then I had Randy and Mariah come up, and Randy was just like, “Dude, I want to keep in contact with you because you are an amazing artist and we would love to work with people like you.” Hearing that from people like Randy who's been in the business for ages, that's awesome! And then, well Mariah, she was emotional but she said the same exact thing, she said, “You know, I would love to, you know, sometime down your road, do something with you.” And that coming from Mariah -- and she doesn't say that to everyone I will tell you that right now… The hug was so sincere and her tears were not of joy but I got to wipe a few so I'm not washing this finger and I love Mariah she's such a sweetheart. I just want to keep thinking about the positive, which is stuff like that -- hearing from her that I've been one of her favorite artists. I still don't think of myself as an artist so the fact that she is saying that is just like wow, that's awesome.
So you’re going to keep in touch with her for sure?
Well I gave her my phone number as opposed to me getting hers because she’s Mariah – I can’t be calling her. Her people I’m sure will reach out to my people.
How much do you think that group number from the night before played into it?
I think it had a huge part just because I know that my solo performance was awesome. I heard it from Smokey. I love America but they don’t have any say because I sang his song and he loved it. And I also felt really good about it but the fact that the group number came after, that’s the last thing that they remembered and though I did pull us through the song, maybe it was my time to go. It’s OK.
Lazaro was crying on stage too. Did you guys become pretty close?
Uh yeah yeah. We’ve become pretty close.
He looked very emotional.
We were closer towards the beginning of the competition but you sort of gain -- not your clicks -- but you sort of get closer to certain people. He was close but not too close and just the fact that there were only 3 guys these past couple days, it was really close because we’re all we got.
Who was your clique?
My clique? Oh man. Out of the girls -- because there are so many girls -- a lot of times it was with Angie, Amber, Kree, Janelle, Candice -- oh wait! That’s the whole top 8! I don’t go towards cliques; I like to just hop around without being dirty and I love them all.
You had mentioned before that winning wasn’t necessarily your goal and you didn’t want to…
It wasn’t and that’s the thing. Top 10 was the climatic point and anything after that was just falling action. It’s not goodbye. I will be back for the tour. I’ll be back at the finale in what, 3 weeks? Dude. It’s BRB.
Seeing someone like Colton Dixon who gets to do his own thing, is that inspirational for you?
OK so funny, really quick. First thing’s first. Colton was 7th place in last year’s competition, I’m 8th so seeing how far he’s come in just a year, I mean my possibilities are endless. Second thing, if you guys check my Twitter, exactly a year ago – to the date – I was tweeting about Colton Dixon saying that he was my idol and that I would love to meet him and today I got a picture with him on Instagram. I got to talk with him and it was like, “Whoa! That is so crazy!” So I don’t know what is going on. It’s pretty awesome.
What are your plans with what you want to do with your music going forward? Do you want to do the Latin crossover thing?
There are definitely going to be a couple of Spanish albums. I don’t think that is going to be my primary goal but it’s who I am. I’m going to do it no matter what. We’re just going to have fun and we’re going to bring the Devon-eers and hopefully you guys with because I like you guys.
And Mariah on back up?
And I’ll have Mariah. (Sings) “Whoa.” (Imitating Mariah)