Here’s a refresher before the season-eight finals kick off Tuesday night.
It’s hard to believe that this “American Idol” season started just two months ago. But, after endless audition rounds and weeks of eliminations, we’ve finally arrived to the first night of the big show.
The first-ever top 13 contenders take the stage Tuesday night (March 10) in Hollywood to perform the songs of Michael Jackson, with special guests Kelly Clarkson and Kanye West dropping by during Wednesday night’s elimination show.
With one of the most diverse casts in the show’s history, we thought it was worth taking a trip down memory lane to refresh you on their backstories.
Why You Remember Him: The musical-theater-meets-rock belter impressed judges with his vocal range and swagger during auditions. He’s partial to black leather, lots of accessories and sticking his tongue out when hitting the Axl Rose-like high notes.
Trivia: Not surprisingly, Lambert loves Michael Jackson, late Queen singer Freddie Mercury and gender-bending rocker David Bowie, as well as Madonna, Pink and Katy Perry. The formally trained singer got started when he was 10 and also dabbles in acting.
Why You Remember Her: The spunky married mother of three, who works as a customer-service representative and lost her home in a tornado, blew the judges away from day one when she sang Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do” during the audition round. She hasn’t stumbled once since and seems poised to be one of the top finishers.
Trivia: Rounds, who started singing when she was 3 years old, cites Alicia Keys as one of her favorite singers, but judge Randy Jackson has praised her Fantasia-meets-Mary J. Blige style. She recently said in an interview that she’s not intimidated by the fact that the male finalists outnumber the ladies eight-to-five this year.
Why You Remember Him: Aside from his butter-smooth blue-eyed-soul voice and friendly stage demeanor, producers focused in early on the tragic story of Gokey’s wife, Sophia, who died just weeks before his first audition. Along with Rounds and Lambert, Gokey is an early favorite to win the competition.
Trivia: Gokey is a music teacher in a church in Milwaukee and the founder and president of the children’s charity Sophia’s Heart Foundation, a nonprofit he set up in his late wife’s name.
Alexis Grace Age: 21 Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
Why You Remember Her: The spunky blonde with pink highlights and a rich, soulful voice won over the judges with her version of Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feelgood.”
Trivia: She’s the daughter of Randy Middleton, who used to play bass for R&B singer Ann Peebles. Alexis first auditioned when she was 16 and again when she was 19, finally making it this year. She’s a member of the Memphis Music Foundation’s Memphis Music Resource Center, which provides educational programs for area musicians.
Kris Allen Age: 23 Hometown: Conway, Arkansas
Why You Remember Him: Allen broke the cardinal “never cover Michael Jackson” rule by singing “Man in the Mirror” during the second elimination week. The judges were mixed on it, but he got voted through anyway.
Trivia: The married Kelly Clarkson-loving singer is working on a college degree in business at the University of Central Arkansas.
Allison Iraheta Age: 16 Hometown: Los Angeles
Why You Remember Her: This year’s youngest contestant, the flame-haired spark plug blasted her way into the finals with a powerful cover of Heart’s “Alone.”
Trivia: Iraheta came in first place on the Telemundo reality show “Quinceañera” when she was 15 for her cover of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and won $50,000 in prizes. She also appeared on Disney’s Superstar Kidz 2 CD.
Scott MacIntyre Age: 23 Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona
Why You Remember Him: The show’s first visually impaired contestant impressed the judges with his passionate singing and piano playing, which he’s promised more of in the finals.
Trivia: MacIntyre is the picture of an overachiever. In addition to playing the piano, guitar and drums and being a computer programmer, he’s a Fulbright Scholar who graduated from Arizona State University summa cum laude at 19 and has released five independent CDs.
Megan Joy Corkrey mAge: 23 Hometown: Sandy, Utah
Why You Remember Her: Two words: “The Corkrey.” Despite her too-cute, signature hip-swiveling dance, the tattooed, runway-ready mom didn’t make it through to the finals until the wild-card round. But the judges have consistently given her props for her quirky, “relevant” style, with comparisons to Adele, Amy Winehouse and Duffy.
Trivia: The single mom is a font designer whose dream is to sing a Björk song on the show. Among the images on her ink sleeve: a castle with a night sky above it and roses growing up the side and a stained-glass window with a king and queen behind it, as well as a fairy godmother, a wizard and a prince, which represents her 2-year-old son, Ryder.
Jorge Nuñez Age: 21 Hometown: Cidra, Puerto Rico
Why You Remember Him: He got his chance to compete for the title by singing in both English and Spanish during his audition and wept when judges put him through to the top 13.
Trivia: In addition to English and Spanish, Nuñez is fluent in French and has put his pursuit of a comparative literature degree in his senior year on hold to compete on the show. After judges first told him to lose the accent, then bring it back, he’s said he’s hoping to sing in both Spanish and English in the finals.
Jasmine Murray Age: 17 Hometown: Starkville, Mississippi
Why You Remember Her: Another of this year’s youngest finalists started off with promise but only made it into the top 13 when judges brought her back in the wild-card round. She’s proven to be a tough competitor with a seasoned R&B diva’s voice, though judges have faulted her for coming off as too “old.”
Trivia: She’s still a high school student at the Mississippi School of the Arts and won the 2007 Miss Mississippi Outstanding Teen pageant. She also sang at the Miss America pageant in 2007.
Michael Sarver Age: 27 Hometown: Jasper, Texas
Why You Remember Him: The humble married father of two is a roughneck on an oil rig in Texas who has sailed through the audition and Hollywood rounds thanks to his smooth voice, charming smile and winning personality.
Trivia: Sarver, who plays piano, drums and guitar, is a music minister in his local church and hopes to sing R&B and soul if he makes it through to the top spot. Also, like several contestants, he loves Michael Jackson and, um, Celine Dion.
Anoop Desai Age: 21 Hometown: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Why You Remember Him: One of this year’s most charismatic, endearing finalists, ‘Noop Dogg moved smoothly through Hollywood Week. He only made it to the big show when the judges decided to add an unprecedented 13th contestant during the wild-card round after his energetic performance of Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.”
Trivia: Desai is working on his master’s degree at the University of North Carolina after getting a political science and American studies undergraduate degree from UNC. The former member of the UNC a capella group Clef Hangers made national news last week when he gave a shout-out to former UNC student-body president Eve Carson, who was murdered last year.
Matt Giraud Age: 23 Hometown: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Why You Remember Him: The Justin Timberlake-esque Giraud killed it with his take on Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be” at his audition, then blew it with a Coldplay cover only to get back in the game last week in the wild-card round with his soulful take on “Who’s Lovin’ You?”
Trivia: The dueling piano player’s nickname is “White Chocolate,” which was also the name of his Hollywood Week group. He used to play keyboards and sing in the Kalamazoo-based cover band Drop 35. By Gil Kaufman