AI Aftermath: 12th place finishers - VIDEOS
by Jason Hughes, posted Mar 13th 2008 3:30PM
Hello and welcome to a new weekly feature here on TV Squad. As this is the year in which American Idol is focusing more on current and past contestants, I thought we should do no less. So each week, as one more Idol hopeful is eliminated from the competition, we'll take a look back at contestants past who were eliminated in the same week. We'll examine how they did on the show and what they've been up to since their elimination.
This week: 12th place finishers, featuring Vanessa Olivarez (Season 2), Leah LaBelle (Season 3), Lindsey Cardinale (Season 4), Melissa McGhee (Season 5) and Brandon Rogers (Season 6). Season 1 broke at the Top 10 so we don't have 11th and 12th place finishers to examine.
SEASON TWO - VANESSA OLIVAREZ
Vanessa Olivarez was one of the stronger vocalists on the second season of American Idol, so it was with some surprise that she was eliminated immediately after making the Top 12. Speculation at the time was that she was done in by a "rude" comment she made to Ryan shortly after performing that week. Before the commercial break, Simon asked her if she wanted to read the cue card to which she responded: "Oh, Ryan...I'm an artist, not a performing monkey like you! Read your own script!" She was booed on stage and eliminated the following night.
Since then, it has been revealed that the whole thing was a scripted "gag" that Idol producers had put together, intending it to be funny. Furthermore, theories have since cropped up that the whole stunt was a ruse put together by Idol to get rid of Olivarez. See, just before Top 12 week, Olivarez started coming out as a lesbian to some of the other contestants. Thus, allegedly out of concern that she might just out herself, or get outed, to the public at large Idol came up with the "gag" to make her look like a bitch and cost her votes. Before that night, Olivarez was polling as high as 4th and 5th in popularity according to many polls at the time.
Subsequently, Idol changed their plans for the summer American Idol tour, trimming the number of singing contestants from a planned twelve to only ten; the same for the Season 2 CD. After Corey Clark's ejection from the show entirely, 11th place finisher Charles Grigsby was elevated to placement on both the CD and tour, leaving Olivarez out in the cold. Even when 4th place finisher Joshua Gracin was unable to participate in the tour due to military obligations, producers opted to just tour with nine finalists rather than invite Vanessa. She kept busy enough that summer, by moving to Canada, recording a single ("One") that went to #9 on the Canadian charts and performing the lead role for many months in the Toronto production of Hairspray.
After returning to the states, Vanessa joined Butterfly Stitch as lead singer. There are currently two Butterfly Stitch CDs available, a live album and a 7-track EP. Butterfly Stitch's MySpace page remains active and they continue touring and performing in the Atlanta area. The site also has several samples of their music. I have to say, Vanessa and the group sound great together. She's gotten even better as a vocalist and I could easily hear some of those tracks doing very well on the radio today, though not on traditional pop stations. Here's the group performing live:
She also sang with local country band South 70 for several years, as recently as May 2007, but she is no longer listed as a member on the South 70 MySpace page, so I'm not sure what went down there. But you can still check her out performing live with them at some sort of outside event:
Vanessa sounded great even back on Idol, as evidenced by her last competitive performance of "You Keep Me Hanging On." How this girl needed to leave before the likes of Camile Velasco is beyond me. In fact, there were several singers who made it much further than Vanessa who don't have her chops.:
We'll end our walk down memory lane with Vanessa In Hollywood Week, where she sang Simon what-for in another solid vocal, this time a capella. While she's never spoken regarding the theories behind her elimination, I wonder if she wouldn't like an encore of this performance dedicated to the producers of American Idol.:
[via Wikipedia, CBC, andPOP, and more--it's a big internet!]
SEASON THREE - LEAH LABELLE
Leah LaBelle, as best I can tell, is working on establishing a music and/or modeling career. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston from 2006 to 2007 after spending much of 2005 working with various producers recording tracks in hopes of getting signed with a record label, efforts which appear to have not worked.
More recently, she has begun working musically (performing in a Christmas show this past year) and in modeling. Though the Leah LaBelle MySpace page is updated, it's still pretty vague as to what specifically she's up to these days professionally or personally.
She was one of those contestants who never really stood out too much for me on the show. I thought her vocals were off-key a lot and she was just one of those contestants thrown in there to fill in the spaces between the likes of Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson and Kimberly Locke. And she served that purpose for one short week and then much of the world pretty much forgot about her.
I'll give her credit for one thing, though. Not only did she grow up into a beautiful young woman, but she went and got good at singing, too. Real good! This is a video recorded in 2007 of her singing Jennifer Holiday's "Bed." It's just her and the backing track (karaoke machine maybe) and she looks confident and sexy, playing the camera well, and sounds way better than anything we saw on Idol. Maybe they should raise the low end of the age limit scale closer to 20. On Idol Leah was 17 and out of her league. Now, at 21, she's pretty damned good!:
Leah LaBelle performing "Christmas Time" in 2006 somewhere:
This is the sequence where she made it into the Top 12 as Paula's Wild Card choice (yeah, they did some weird stuff back in the day). She misses some notes here and there, and you can see that she wasn't the strongest vocalist in the competition. At least she's gotten a lot better. Paula probably just loved that side ponytail.:
[via LaFans.org and more!]
SEASON FOUR - LINDSEY CARDINALE
In 2007, two years after her elimination from Idol, Cardinale signed with Aria Records of Nashville. She's been firmly entrenched in her country roots, performing at local fairs and festivals through the Louisiana area. Now, she alternates her time between Southeastern Louisiana University and the recording studio, where she is working with Grammy winning producer Paul Jackson on a debut album.
Lindsey is also scheduled to appear March 18 on American Idol itself. She won't be singing, but look for a quick shot of her in the crowd at some point during the performances. Cardinale remains close friends with Season Four winner Carrie Underwood. In fact, Underwood hinted on Great American Country, that she'd like to perform a duet with Cardinale. So with Underwood behind her and her face and name appearing on the biggest show on television next week, 2008 may shape up to be a good year for Lindsey.
In 2006, she released a maxi-single, and while it appears to be out of print, you can hear the tracks at Lindsey Cardinale's MySpace page. She always had a smoky sultriness in her voice, and she has honed that sound to perfection in the intervening years since her run on Idol.
I can't find any newer video of Lindsey, but at least we can remember her unique voice from Idol, like here on "Standing Right Next to Me.":
But, of course, for me it was always her first audition. Her vocals were so pure and thick, creating a beautiful sound. Lindsey was definitely something a little different, and I think her voice fits great in country music, so hopefully the new album will come together and she can make a run at the kind of stardom her buddy Carrie has achieved.:
[via IdolWaves.com, AmericanIdol.com and Shock Ink]
SEASON FIVE - MELISSA MCGHEE
On Melissa McGhee's MySpace page, she talks about how she took some time to find herself before thinking about recording an album. During that time she performed as a mermaid in the Weeki Wachee Springs Hurricane Expo 2006, as well as participating in various singing festivals around.
More recently, she posed for the Little Pet Project 2008 calendar, proceeds of which go to help stray animals. Bad news guys, as Melissa was January 2008 it's already too late to hang her up and pretend you only have it there for the calendar. But you can still buy it.
She performed in Beaumont, TX back in 2007 with 4th season finalist Anthony Federov at one of his concerts. They did a few songs together to a pretty appreciative crowd. So apparently Melissa was finding herself as a musician by performing, which I guess is a pretty good way to go about it. While the audio on this clip isn't the best, they did a good job:
Her final performance on American Idol was Stevie Wonder's "Lately," with a personal blessing from the Wonder himself. Unfortunately, though she sounded "ai'ight" she forgot her lyrics and fumbled a bit in recovery of that. But she didn't recover enough in the votes and was eliminated the following night.:
The week before, this is the song that put McGhee into the Top 12. Singing "What About Love" on the Idol, I think this captures what was good about Melissa for me. She dressed the part just right, she was sensual in her performance and her lower voice just fit the song perfectly.:
[via St. Petersburg Times, WeekiWachee.com and more]
SEASON SIX - BRANDON ROGERS
Brandon Rogers was the other background singer (he sang at The Grammys and behind the likes of Christina Aguilera) to make it onto the big stage in Season Six, along with Melinda Doolittle. Unfortunately, though his vocals are both smooth and polished, Rogers didn't last long on that stage. He is, however, currently performing on stages all in and around the Los Angeles area (Brandon Rogers performing at Zoe's Cafe & Loft this Saturday - 3/15/08).
You can sample and download up to five audio tracks right from Brandon's MySpace page. Also available again is the independent album he released before appearing on American Idol. You can buy Brandon Rogers' Automatic CD at CD Baby right now, if you want. I always liked Brandon's voice, though I recall his attitude seemed a bit arrogant and off-putting. And as a fellow background singer he couldn't help but be compared to the timid powerhouse that was Melinda Doolittle. And who can compare to that?
Brandon Rogers also recently taped a guest appearance on FOX's Bones with fellow Idol Ace Young. Originally scheduled to air early in 2008, due to the writer's strike the episode has been pushed back. The episode, titled "The Wannabe in the Weeds," was the last episode produced before the writer's strike. As there are three episodes remaining unaired, and the first one looks like it's scheduled to air April 14, 2008, Brandon Rogers' big TV debut should follow shortly thereafter.
It's only been a year since his ouster from American Idol, but it looks like Brandon Rogers isn't having any trouble keeping himself busy. Here's a really dark recording of him playing and performing "Joy" in March 2007:
On Top 20 night, Brandon did a heartfelt rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" that the judges didn't care for at all.:
He also did a Keith Urban joint. The problem I had is that Brandon kept picking these songs that just didn't seem to fit with his voice. He has a velvety smooth vocal, but this song is so up-tempo and peppy, it just fell flat.:
This guy, though. This guy when we first saw him can BLOW! If this is the guy who records a major album it'd be worth checking out!:
SEASON SEVEN - DAVID HERNANDEZ
And now, joining their ranks is David Hernandez. Only time will tell what, if anything, David manages to do with his Idol exposure. He certainly had impressive vocal talent, though his performance was a little wonky for me at times.
And he's definitely got public awareness, though maybe not for the reasons he'd prefer. Still, the world is his stage, so to speak, and this is his chance to make the most of it. Hopefully he'll give us all kinds of good and interesting things to report here next year.
NEXT TIME ON AI AFTERMATH
We take a look at the eleventh place finishers, featuring Charles Grigsby, Matthew Rogers, Mikalah Gordon, Kevin Covais and Stephanie Edwards. See you there!