The ninth season of American Idol kicked into high gear last week when the Top 24 took the stage. Though the judges comments were harsh, and at times a little weird (thanks, Ellen, for your Paula-esque rambling, banana analogy for hopeful Alex Lambert), the top 12 girls and boys powered through the three-night event. And despite Ellen's wishes that everyone should stay, four contestants did have to leave. After the nationwide vote Idol bid farewell to: Ashley Rodriguez, 22; Janell Wheeler, 24; Joe Muñoz, 20; and rocker Tyler Grady, 20. This week, the remaining 20 contestants will battle it for a spot in the Top 12. Hopefully, the nerves that seemed to run rampant last week will be gone by then!
To read what this week's eliminated contestants had to say about their time on the show, click here.
What was your memorable moment throughout the Idol experience?
Janell: Probably elimination night, but in a great way. I am so proud of myself that I went out in the way I did. I felt like I kept it together and sang my song better than I did the first time and am really happy with how it went.
The judges seemed to contradict themselves. How hard was it to deliver what they wanted?
Janell: I think I knew exactly what they wanted, but I was going to do it the second week. The first rehearsal, the song was a lot more country, but it lost a lot of its energy, so I did switch it back to a rocker version. I should have brought the guitar out to secure a place in the next round.
How was Ellen as a judge?
Janell: I love Ellen. She did a bang up job for her first show.
Why do you think nerves took over so much this week with everyone?
Janell: Being there is so different! Being live, the band is loud and aggressive, and you get into it. Everyone sounded good in-house, but going back, I definitely heard pitch problems, and it was our first show, so we didn't know how the sound works. It's going to get better each time as they get used to the sound.
Is there a memorable experience that stands out for you, Ashley?
Ashley: The Top 24 photo shoot was a blast. It was super-glamorous and our opportunity to shine.
Would you have done anything differently?
Ashley: No, I went in giving 100 percent all the time and think it's an awesome thing that I can walk out of it saying I have no regrets. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that one opportunity will lead me to the next thing.
Did you think the judges were a little too harsh?
Ashley: They were not taking chances this week. People thought they may have been lenient given it was our first live show — turns out they were throwing punches. I wouldn't say they were too hard, but we could have used some love during our first week. They gave a lot of criticism but didn't back it up with anything positive, which was unfortunate. We all felt Simon and the others were harsh, as there were lot of jitters and nerves on the first performance, but it's their job.
What will you take with you?
Ashley: It showed me more than ever I have to fight for what I want and get a taste of the dream. I am willing to work hard for it now. I am taking Idol for what it was for me — a great platform and awesome opportunity.
What inspired you to want to do the show?
Joe: I have been passionate about music since I was a little kid. It's something I feel I have been good at. It was my love of music that drew me to Idol.
Do you think your lack of screen time hurt you?
Joe: No. Others didn't get screen time, either. I did what I could and have faith things will get better after this. A lot of things were going through my mind last night, and I just tried to keep calm and not get too overconfident. But I will keep on trying, and you will hear more from me in the future.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
Joe: I really love pop music. I'm a pop guy, so I see myself doing a pop record. There are a lot of artists doing various things, so I'd love to be that kind of artist. I'd love to do musical theater, TV and make records for people.
Why do you think you were eliminated?
Joe: I honestly have no idea. It's an unpredictable show, and you never know what will happen.
You made some comments to the judges — how do you feel about that now?
Tyler: I just want everyone to know I really meant no disrespect by that. I felt, while watching the show, I got too caught up in the moment to stand up for myself. I was kind of shocked with the criticism so I was just expressing myself and am not bitter.
The judges said to change things up. What would you have done next week?
Tyler: I would have stuck to my guns and built on the fan base I had. I may have chosen a more recent rock song, but wouldn't have come out in baggy jeans. The fans are supporting you because of what you are doing, so you can't turn on them and change up what you are doing to the point you are irritating them. You need to give them what they want.
The judges loved your 70s' look at your audition and said they wanted it in the competition, but then told you to lose it. How did that make you feel?
Tyler: When you are a contestant and getting conflicting views, it is confusing, but I am trying to move on from that. There's no bitterness. I will go back and work with my band, Wailing Waters, and you will see the same kind of performance, with so keep an eye open for us. But Idol is one of the best education you can get, and there's no better school for the entertainment industry. We had the best of the best with the band — you get a phenomenal crash course.
Is the show hard?
Tyler: It's certainly stressful and made me appreciate performers who do TV. I had never been in that situation before and it really is a different ballgame. But I had the best time of my life on the show.