How David Cook Kept His Composure & More Things You Didn't See on 'American Idol'
Thursday night’s American Idol was the penultimate live broadcast from the series’ home since day one, CBS Television City in Los Angeles. Next week, Idol will televise from those hallowed halls one last time before moving to the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood for the series finale.
The sense that it's all coming to an end is becoming more real to the production staff. Billboard was in the studio to observe, and here are the things you didn’t see on screen while watching at home:
David Cook and Katharine McPhee weren’t the only Idol alums in the studio. There was Allison Iraheta, of course, who was onstage as one of the backing vocalists in Rickey Minor’s band. And in the audience, from seasons 5 and 6, respectively, were best friends Elliott Yamin and Blake Lewis.
Yamin, who finished third, traditionally attends the top three show every season, but he’ll be at his brother’s wedding next week, so he showed up for top four week. Lewis will be traveling too; he's off to Japan to do a show on a military base in Okinawa. The two Idol alums hit the road last year as a double act; they’ll resume touring together with some East Coast dates, starting on Mother’s Day.
Sitting directly in front of Yamin and Lewis was an Idol superfan who was thrilled to take a photo with the two during a commercial break -- even though he wasn’t born when they competed on the show. Wyatt Tornello, 7, was invited to be in the audience by Idol producers after his mother, Lisa, sent in some videos of her son. “American Idol has always been a big part of our lives,” Lisa told Billboard. Her family would watch Idol and, during commercial breaks, Lisa and her husband would play the judges and young Wyatt would take on the part of his idol, Ryan Seacrest.
On Wednesday night, Lisa received a phone call from show producers inviting her and Wyatt to fly down from their home in San Rafael, Calif., and attend the live broadcast. “I thought maybe Wyatt would get to shake hands with Ryan,” Lisa explained. But what happened far exceeded her expectations. “Ryan met us at the door and walked us in. He took Wyatt backstage and took him under his wing.” Stylist Miles Siggins gave Wyatt one of Ryan’s pocket squares and the Idol host autographed it for his young fan.
After watching Sia pre-tape her performance from a backstage point of view, Wyatt was walked out onstage, and Ryan handed him his microphone. He asked the 7-year-old to announce, “This is American Idol!” Based on the youngster’s delivery, don’t be surprised if, a couple of decades from now, he’s hosting American Idol 2036.
Here’s something that you saw but David Cook didn’t, even though he was right there in the studio. When he performed “Heartbeat” from his new album, Digital Vein, a video of past Idol contestants, including Cook, was playing on the giant onstage screen. Cook purposely did not look at the montage, even though he had the opportunity during rehearsals. “I made it a point not to watch,” he told Billboard. “I wanted to be composed. I got notes from my team telling me not to turn around because it would make me cry.” Cook, who will be back for the finale on April 7, said it was one thing to learn that Idol was going into its last season, and another to realize the end is almost here. “As it gets closer, it starts to feel real. I’m glad I got to be a part of it.”
One thing you didn’t see -- or hear -- is Keith Urban reveal that the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” is his all-time favorite love song. So Billboard had to ask him what he thought of Dalton Rapattoni’s rendition. “I thought it was really special,” the judge said after the live broadcast. “It’s an exquisite song, lyrically, melodically and chordally. It’s so simple and so powerful. I thought Dalton did an incredible job bringing out a very specific level of vulnerability in that song. He has that way of singing it like a Broadway song. I mean that as a compliment. He brings a dramatic aspect out, and a heightened emotion. For people who know the song, he [focused] attention on certain lyrics they hadn’t noticed before.”