'American Idol' Contestant Sonika Vaid Talks Elimination, Working With Sia & More
Sonika Vaid’s American Idol journey came to an end one week after performing the Frozen song “Let it Go," but that doesn’t mean her Disney dreams are dashed.
“I always wanted to work with people like Disney. I have grown up watching Disney movies [and the] Disney channel,” Vaid, 20, told reporters on a conference call on Friday (March 25). “I just love the music that they put out -- their whole vibe.”
It makes sense. Week after week, Vaid looked like a gorgeous Disney princess right out of a movie, singing songs like Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” in a flowing black dress. The singer said she loved to get all dolled up, “even for the dark songs.”
“I was singing Evanescence in this beautiful gown that made me feel like I was going to the Oscars. The wardrobe team was just insane,” she said. “The dress I was going to wear for [the Sia song] “Love Me Back to Life” was breathtaking. I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to wear it because it’s really beautiful.”
While working with the mouse is at the top of Vaid’s wish list, she also wants to stick with pop if she continues to pursue music.
“Disney is always a dream. That would be really awesome,” the singer said. “I just really like pop and maybe a little bit of R&B, but now that I sang rock on the show, that’s always an option, but pop is something I am really going to just stick to.”
After two weeks of winding up in the bottom two -- and being saved by the judges last week -- Vaid was eliminated on March 23, just missing her chance at a homecoming celebration in Massachusetts.
"I feel like I saw it coming because I had been in the bottom for the past two weeks," she said.
Last summer, the Fox reality show featured the top five on the summer tour. Will there be a similar show this summer? Vaid said she was not sure, but sounded hopeful.
“No one has told me anything yet,” she said. “There are always surprises though.”
Another thing she is going to stick to is her studies. The Massachusetts-born artist is currently planning on transferring to the College of Holy Cross to continue the pursuit of a degree in biology.
“I definitely will at some point finish my degree,” she said. “I think for right now I am going to focus on music. This whole experience has really opened my mind up to the idea of doing this professionally.”
Vaid, the eldest of six children, was always a bit shy and “felt invisible” in school. Before Idol, she didn’t perform much outside of high school performances.
“When I would sing for the high school it was very quick and I didn’t really focus on performing more,” she said. “Prior to all of this I would just sing chorus and music once a year in school.”
In 2013, she auditioned for The Voice for season 4, but didn’t advance. Mackenzie Bourg, who is currently in the top four and also competed on The Voice, recently commented that American Idol allowed him to be more of himself as an artist than the NBC show.
When Vaid was asked if Bourg’s assessment was correct, she was inclined to agree.
“I do completely. He couldn’t have been more right in saying that,” she said. “American Idol is really more seasoned and helps you to become a better version of yourself, I think. They make you feel like you can push yourself and it’s OK. Honestly, I think they strive for us to be the best that we can be. You couldn’t ask for anything better than that. It’s just a great experience overall.”
Part of that great experience, she said, was working with mentors like Sia, who she described as “sweet.”
“She said, 'You have a beautiful voice.' She said I was very marketable, which is kind of insane, because it's coming from Sia," Vaid said. "She's one of the greats in my opinion."
Sia also gave Vaid advice about opening up to the music.
"She said, You have the singing down (and now) you really need to enjoy yourself,'" she said. “There was a moment when she mentored me, and I'm not sure they would have shown you, I sing a note in her song “Love Me Back to Life” that she wrote for Celine Dion. I sing a note and I hit it, but it didn’t feel passionate. I think it's just because I was nervous about it. She gave me that hint of advice -- just let it go. Let it pour out of you. I did it two seconds later and it felt different.”
If she had made it to the next round, she said she would have performed either “Come Away with Me” on piano by Norah Jones or “To Where You Are” by Josh Groban, a “dedication song ... for my grandfather who passed away when I was in eighth grade.”
She also revealed that Big Machine Records president and Idol mentor Scott Borchetta had chosen “The Flame” by his latest signing Cheap Trick for Vaid to perform. The judges’ pick was “I Will Always Love You,” famously covered by Whitney Houston.
"Scott is really smart at picking music for us. I feel lke he knows us really well and he knows this business very well," she said. "He's very, very intelligent. The judges choice ... is very smart, too. It's right in the ballpark."
Vaid said she will take Sia’s and the judges' advice about letting go -- and everything else she learned -- into the next stage of her career.
"I feel like I've started to let go a lot more," she said. "As I watch myself back, I feel and see how much I've changed. I'm not trying to sound full of myself when I say that. I really feel like a changed person."
The title of her debut album, she said, would be Infinity.
“I think that is a very powerful word because I wrote a song called "Infinity." It is one of my favorite songs that I have written,” she said. “It’s empowering and about living life to infinity. It makes you feel limitless. “
And although Vaid is sad to leave the show and the “amazing people” she met on her journey, she is still rooting for her friends in the top four. “All four of them really deserve to be there and they are all so talented,” she said. “I wish them the best.”