The millions of people who watch American Idol see a lot on their home screens but there are some things you can only see if you’re in the studio. And Billboard is there for you, every week. Here’s what we saw this week that viewers at home didn’t:
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Although audience members are asked not to “yell” at the judges, you’ll still hear their names shouted out as fans try to catch their attention, hoping to make eye contact or get a wave. On one commercial break, Keith Urban ran up about eight rows into the audience and it seemed like he was saying hello to some old friends. After the show, he clarified the situation for Billboard: “There was a group of people who kept yelling for me to come up, so I did.” Of course, once Urban was mingling with the audience, everyone wanted a photo and he barely made it back to the stage as the live show resumed.
More Urban folklore: As revealed last week by Harry Connick Jr., Keith brings food to the judges’ table and snacks during the show, but he denied Harry’s claim that he was eating cauliflower last week. “I don’t know where that came from. This week I had sushi and chocolate almonds.” Great combination! And what else is Keith doing at the desk? “I’m tweeting about whoever just performed or whoever is about to.” So yes, those tweets from Keith Urban are really from Keith Urban, not an assistant.
Some of the things not seen at home are also unseen by the studio audience. This week, no one knew that La’Porsha Renae was not feeling well, and going by her performance of “Come Together,” no one could have possibly guessed. “I was really sick,” she confessed to Billboard after the show. “My voice was gone. A day ago, I had a fever. I was praying that I would make it through. I told myself, ‘You’re not going to sing your best so that means you have to perform 10 times harder.’ When I did that, the sound came out too! I will be putting myself on vocal rest until the next show because I want to kill it next time.”
Watch Nick Fradiani Perform ‘Get You Home’ on ‘American Idol’
Asked about selecting the Beatles‘ tune, La’Porsha explained, “Choosing the song was really easy. I wanted to do something funky. Keith said I needed to move, so I wanted to show that I can do that.” And she did her homework about the song. “I had to do some research on it to find out what it meant. Every verse is describing one of the Beatles. I was able to connect with the song more once I found that out.” La’Porsha also revealed that she had never sung “Come Together” before. “I tried to give it my own flair, but I was definitely influenced by versions recorded by Tina Turner and Michael Jackson and the Beatles’ original.” La’Porsha also watched Carly Smithson‘s performance from season 7. “I got a feel of what I had to do to take it to another level.”
When Avalon Young was singing Michael Jackson‘s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” as part of the bottom three performances, 16-year-old Lee Jean, also up for elimination, was sitting on a stool onstage, but that didn’t stop him from doing something we hadn’t seen him do before: some wild chair dancing. “When Avalon told me she was going to do ‘P.Y.T.,’ I was so excited,” he told Billboard. “I’m a dancer and I haven’t gotten to dance on the show. I want to dance, but I don’t mind that I didn’t get to because I lived vicariously through Avalon.”
Season 14 winner Nick Fradiani thought he was going to be sitting in the audience for Thursday night’s show, and that Ryan Seacrest was going to interview him about his new single, “Get You Home.” But on Monday, while he was in Nashville, he got the call that the show wanted him to perform the new song on television for the first time. That allowed last year’s champ just two days of rehearsals. What you didn’t see is that Fradiani brought gifts for the top eight and delivered them before the live show hit the air. “I gave all the kids cool microphones that go right into your USB port. You can record with really high quality.” Fradiani also met with the top eight contestants in the third-floor holding room where he spent so much time last year, offering them advice and answering their questions.
During the live broadcast, the contestants are either sitting in the onstage lounge or are backstage getting ready to perform. That keeps them separate from their families and friends, who are seated in their own special audience section on stage right. So it was a surprise to see MacKenzie Bourg bolt over to that part of the set during a commercial break to give his folks a hug.