[Warning: This story contains spoilers from tonight’s episode of American Idol on Fox].
And then there were 12.
Season 14 of American Idol is moving along at a fast clip. The show narrowed down the field on Wednesday to an even dozen — 10 finalists chosen by America’s vote and then two more added to the mix as the judges’ wild cards, giving us a top 12.
Moments after the last dozen standing learned they were still in the game, Billboard spoke to them about their experience during this very special episode.
Quentin Alexander, 20?
New Orleans, La.
“I have to give the biggest possible thank you to Keith [Urban], Harry [Connick Jr.] and JLo [Jennifer Lopez]. Sitting there waiting to hear your name is draining and yet refreshing. You get to see your friends go up there and kill it. You can’t help but be excited for them and be happy that you even get the chance to sit there and watch them. I always try to keep the countdown out of my mind. If you count them down, you stress yourself out. In Detroit, I was sitting there freaking out. I try to keep myself centered. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It would be crazy for me to stress out over the unknown.”
Clark Beckham, 22
“I was the last guy chosen except for the wild card. It was scary. Great singers have been going home since we were at the House of Blues, so you just don’t know if you’re the next one. I think I’ve done what I needed to do and performed close to my best, but when you’re at such a high level of competition, it doesn’t always pan out like you think it will. You’re constantly guessing. It’s an honor to be part of such an incredibly talented group. Everyone has winner potential.”
And what did Beckham think when mentor Scott Borchetta said he had one of the best voices this season? “That was unbelievable. With such a ridiculous amount of talent on the show, for him to say that, I was floored. From such an established, knowledgeable and wise industry professional, it was everything. It carried the most weight of any compliment. Then I realized, wait, he’s talking about me, maybe I’m about to go up!”
Joey Cook, 23?
“I never, ever thought it would get to this. A lot of people are very confident and very sure that they would get here. For me, it was the exact opposite. I never even thought I would make it past the first audition. I’ve been told my whole life that I was weird and ‘no’ and ‘shut up’ and everything like that. It’s very validating and knowing that America put me in this place gives me hope for future weirdos out there. Waiting to hear my name, I took a lot of deep breaths. Exactly what Scott Borchetta said we should do. Visualize them calling your name every single time so you’re prepared for it. I still wasn’t prepared for it. Ryan said something about Virginia and I immediately started looking around for Rayvon. I didn’t realize he’d already been called. I thought it was Rayvon the whole time. I’m learning. Confidence is key.”
Sarina-Joi Crowe, 19?
“I’m ecstatic. I was the first one to be called. It was really scary. I’m happy and ready to go to the next round. It’s incredibly difficult because you have to reel it in and become calm or you take the excitement and throw it all into your performance. I took all the happiness I felt and threw it into the song. Hopefully everybody loved that and they saw it throughout the performance and they still thought it sounded good. I did think to myself when I walked up to the stage, ‘I sound terrible,’ but everybody assured me that I didn’t.
Adanna Duru, 18?
Diamond Bar, Calif.
“It feels so amazing to have made the top 12, especially on a wild card. It was such an emotional rollercoaster. By the time they got to the very last spot, I was sitting there holding Loren’s hand and Alexis’ hand, being with Adam and Mark. That was so nerve-wracking. And when they said my name I said, ‘Repeat that! You didn’t just say my name!’ It was a dream. It was so hard to sit there the entire time and watch 11 people go up and sing, knowing there were fewer and fewer spots left in the top 12. At the end, I said, ‘you know what, whatever happens, it’s supposed to happen.’ Then they said my name and I was like, ‘Whaaat!?!?’ In my head I wanted to scream and cry and shout and jump everywhere. But I still had to perform. I couldn’t jump around, I had to deliver a solid performance so I can get enough votes to get into the top 11.”
Nick Fradiani, 29?
“I’m still in shock. Finding out and then going on stage and singing is difficult. It’s hard to see people go but it is a competition. My roommate, Mark, didn’t get through, so it’s tough. Waiting to hear your name called is not fun. It’s the hardest thing to sit there. You don’t know if you’re going through. You have to get from that nervous feeling to being excited to, ‘I have to get up on stage.’ You see the audience and you high-five them, and then you’re singing.”
East Brunswick, N.J.
“It’s a dream come true. I was really nervous about a) not getting through and b) if I were to get through, having to go up and perform because it’s so emotional and you have to perform, literally within seconds. What helped was the crowd. I looked around and people had signs with my name on them and that was so reassuring. It made me feel like I was doing something right. Even if I didn’t feel confident, at least some kids really enjoyed it. And that’s the goal – as an artist I want to touch people. I would rather have been called up first. It’s so stressful, I wanted to get it over with. I was thinking, ‘how am I going to handle this if I do go home? I have to keep my composure. I have to be a good role model.'”
Tyanna Jones, 16?
“I am beyond excited about being in the top 12. When I saw my mother’s face in the audience, it made me happy. I was overwhelmed with joy. The last couple of times I was called up first, and this time I was in the middle. On stage, I had to keep singing because I felt like my voice was leaving me.”
Qaasim Middleton, 19?
“It’s a blessing. I’m so happy. I am elated. I’m ready to keep going. I had a strong hope but I don’t necessarily put my trust in it. I put my trust in God. So whatever outcome is best for me, I’m happy with that. My mother and my brother were here. They always give me a very strong sense of assurance. I look at my mother. She stares at me, it’s very calming. I love my brother. He’s my comic relief.”
Rayvon Owen, 23?
“It’s life-changing. Knowing that America saw something in you to pull you through, that somebody is rooting for you, that’s a really cool feeling. I did not think I was going to be the second person to get called up. Something told me Sirina was going to go first. She had that upbeat fun song and she’s one of my favorites. Then they said ‘the next person is’ and I knew it wouldn’t be me…and then it’s me! I almost fell back in my seat cause I was so thrown. Did they really call my name?”
Daniel Seavey, 15?
“I’m excited to go forward and see what I can show America. Waiting for my name to be called, I had a feeling I was going home this week. So I was taking it all in, enjoying looking around the room. I was going to be fine with whatever happened. Now I’m even more fine, being in the top 12.”
Maddie Walker, 17?
“I’m freaking out. Out of all these incredible musicians, we are the 12 they picked. It’s surreal. I was sitting there thinking, ‘Call my name, call my name, call my name.’ When they did, I questioned, ‘did I say that in my head or did they say that out loud? It feels great. You want to hug everyone in the crowd. But you can’t because you have to run up there and sing your song.”