Minutes after Catie Turner and Jurnee were eliminated from American Idol on Sunday night, Billboard spoke to the two former contestants, as well as Sheila E. and the three judges. Since this season’s winner is likely to find a berth on the Billboard charts soon, as all their predecessors have, we asked Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan to recall their reactions to their first appearances on the charts.
“I just celebrated 10 years of my first official single that went to radio, and eventually that song [“I Kissed a Girl”] went to No. 1, thank God,” Perry told Billboard. “But I had no idea what was going on. I was caught in the storm, and it takes some time stepping out of the storm to realize how big that storm was. After 10 years, I’m just now realizing, ‘That doesn’t happen all the time.’ I remember after having the five [No. 1] songs in a row, I turned to my managers and said, ‘Does this happen a lot? Like, is this normal?’ And they were like laughing at me, drinking champagne, going, ‘No!’”
Richie says he remembers the first time he saw a copy of Billboard with his group on the charts. “The first time, you think, ‘Oh my God, that’s The Commodores.’ Then you start looking at the names above and below. There’s Al Green. And Earth, Wind & Fire. Then as time goes on, you realize what’s really happening. Is that ‘Three Times a Lady’ in pop? Is that ‘Three Times a Lady’ in country? Then you start to realize you’re jumping categories. [Billboard] is always going to be the standard as far as I’m concerned, because that’s where you go to find out where you are.”
Bryan also remembers his first time on the charts. “I was at my publishing company In Nashville, and Billboard was laying there on the table. I picked it up and said, ‘Holy shit, I’m in this thing!’ And then I watched it every week, seeing my song climb. And then when it gets to No. 1, the first thing you do is you take the Billboard, you put it in a plaque, you put your CD next to it and you get to stare at it the rest of your life.”
While no longer in the competition, Turner and Jurnee still have a chance of charting in Billboard, as more than 70 Idol contestants have already done. Both of the eliminated finalists were upbeat and optimistic when they spoke to us. “I saw my mom in the bleachers and she was giving me the supportive mom talk and I nodded, ‘It’s my time,’ and she said, ‘It’s OK,’” says Turner. And then the minute it was down to me, Jurnee and Michael J. [Woodard], it all fell into place and I was OK.”
And how did Jurnee feel the moment she realized she was going home? “I had this warm, mellow feeling that I only get when I’m with my family. It’s not a bad thing for me. I’m excited that I get to go home and get my creativity going and relax and see my family before I go off on tour.”
So what were Turner and Jurnee walking away with following their eliminations?
“My growth,” says Turner. “I’ve aged 17 years in two months. I have more confidence and stage presence. I walked around [onstage] tonight, and I couldn’t do that during my first audition. I was just a girl who hid behind her guitar and I dropped that throughout the competition and I really came into my own.”
“I feel the same,” acknowledges Jurnee. “I’ve grown so much. Without this, I might have given up if something didn’t happen, but now my career starts and I know so many people are behind me.”
Finally, Billboard spoke with Sheila E. about her Idol performances as the contestants sang numbers from the Prince catalog. “These kids are amazing,” she assessed. “They did a fantastic job. It was nice to hear their renditions, some of them different than what Prince would do and I loved that about them because that’s their rendition of his music. No one can replace him and we’re not trying to do that, but the most important thing is celebrating his legacy, which is his music.”
One particular performance had the greatest effect on the percussionist, who started working with Prince when he was recording Purple Rain. “I thought that Michael J. did an incredible job with ‘I Would Die 4 U.’ I had said I wouldn’t play that song for a very long time, and it was the first time I played it tonight since Prince’s passing. So it was very emotional for me, and I think Michael did a great job. And I was going to play percussion on Caleb [Lee Hutchinson]’s rendition of ‘When Doves Cry,’ but I felt that it wasn’t necessary. I thought he did an incredible job.”
There are only two weeks left for Idol’s initial season on ABC. On May 13, the top five — Gabby Barrett, Cade Foehner, Hutchinson, Maddie Poppe and Woodard — will be mentored by season 4 winner Carrie Underwood. Two more finalists will be sent home at the end of the live broadcast, leaving three to perform on the two-night season finale May 20-21.
ABC has already renewed Idol for another season, the second on the Disney-owned network and the 17th overall.