Monday, March 12, 2007

The Feud Continues

It seems as if the Simon Cowell-Jennifer Hudson sassback is not going to end any time soon. Prior to the Academy Awards, Cowell was all smiles and sweetness about Hudson. He surprised Hudson (via videocam) with this pre-Oscar win message: "We are rooting for you. I have a feeling you're going to win tonight. What you have done is literally extraordinary. None of us would have called it - apart from me. And I think I did mention the word Oscar when I first saw you in Chicago. I think you're going to win. And guess what? You deserve it." Hudson, responded with equal sugar, "It feels good. Thank you Simon, he left me a really sweet message."

But when Hudson failed to thank "Idol" after her Oscar win, and in fact called the show "a stepping stone" for her in an interview later that night, Cowell went ballistic. According to People magazine he said, "Jennifer Hudson said 'American Idol' was a 'stepping-stone' for her. Stepping stone? It was her big opportunity to become noticed and she got noticed and she got 'Dreamgirls.' " He also said that other past contestants "deliberately turn against the show that made them successful. The reason [people] come on the show is because all the doors had been slammed in their face."

And he didn't let it go there. He took another shot at Hudson while praising Melinda Doolittle Wednesday night, saying, "It is very, very nice that you are actually enjoying every second you're having on this show. We hear previous contestants saying 'It was my stepping-stone, it was this.' You are loving it, and you should. This is your time in the spotlight."

Well, apparently that peeved Hudson enough that she shot back with this comment, according to "If I'd been any better at my job when I was at Burger King in my middle teens I wouldn't be here either, so should I thank them too?"

Hudson accused Cowell of not being a fan of hers when she was on the show and even issued a challenge to prove it when she was recently on the Fox station in Los Angeles, saying "He wasn't; someone should rewind the tapes."

Well, 'Extra,' which employs Cowell's girlfriend, Terri Seymour, as a correspondent did. And the results won't please Hudson. "You have proved why you're in the final 12," Cowell told her after she performed "The Circle of Life." "That was great." At other times, Cowell told Hudson, "You've now put yourself in the position where you could be a frontrunner" and "You've created something in this competition we've never had before, which is a battle of the divas." And when she was eliminated, Cowell actually expressed shock, remarking "Tongue, floor" after the vote was revealed.

Only one instance was found in which Cowell criticized Hudson. "I think you're out of your depth in this competition," he told her early on in the competition, for a sub-par performance. To see film clips of all of this click here.

Others have blamed Cowell of being responsible for Hudson's ouster from Season 3 of "Idol." Most recently, after a negative critique, Antonella Barba made the mistake of telling Cowell "You were wrong about Jennifer Hudson, so, hopefully ..." Cowell lost no time correcting her with, "We put Jennifer Hudson on 'American Idol.' The American audience voted her out; I didn't kick Jennifer Hudson out."

Cowell also told "Extra's" Seymour that he doesn't think Hudson owes him an apology. "Does she owe me an apology? No. I wouldn't expect an apology from Jennifer, funny enough. I think she should remember the team behind her ... and you can remember the audience people who bothered to pick up the phone, but, no, I wouldn't expect an apology from Jennifer, no." Seymour asked, "If you could sit down with her, what would you say to her?" Cowell answered, "I'd say thank your lucky stars, you've had two breaks in your life, 'American Idol' and 'Dreamgirls.' It doesn't get any better than that." See it here.


"If I see a baby, it's a baby. If I see a puppy, it's a whole different ballgame." - Simon Cowell

Who knew about Simon's softer side? But he's an animal lover, for sure. Check out this spot he did for PETA (warning there is some horribly graphic footage), where he talks about animals and more, including his soft spot for Fantasia.


Entertainment Weekly asked the finalists:

Any song you haven't sung yet, or haven't gotten cleared yet, that you really want to perform?
Haley Scarnato: ''Songbird'' by Eva Cassidy.
Brandon Rogers: ''Crazy'' by Gnarls Barkley.
Melinda Doolittle: Donnie Lane's ''It's Not Over,'' Vivian Green's ''Keep on Going,'' and a James Brown song called ''Bewildered.''
Blake Lewis: ''Hide and Seek'' by Imogen Heap, I kind of want to do that, with strings or maybe a capella.
Sanjaya Malakar: ''Are You Going to Be My Girl'' [by Jet] — I really wanted to sing that song because it would be really fun to just rock out, but I doubt it'll ever get cleared.
Lakisha Jones: ''I Will Always Love You'' by Whitney Houston. Yes, definitely. Man, I want to do that one a cappella.
Jordin Sparks: ''Harder to Breathe'' by Maroon 5.
Gina Glocksen: ''Who Knew'' by Pink, but she doesn't clear her songs.
Chris Sligh: I actually tried to do one of my own songs, and they felt like the show wasn't ready for it yet. When we get down to, I think, the final three, you get to sing your own choice. I'd love to be able to do my own song at that point. Hopefully America will love me enough to be ready for it. I also wanted to do ''Hysteria'' by Muse and ''City of Blinding Lights'' by U2, but neither one of those got cleared.
Phil Stacey: Whatever song it is that wins the competition for the winner [of American Idol].

There are a lot of theme nights coming up. Any you're looking forward to? Any you're not looking forward to?
Chris Sligh: I'm looking forward to Bon Jovi week, if I can make it that far. Diana Ross is going to be tough, because she had this weird range, about seven or eight notes, and that's about it. So it's really hard to, like, rock out to Diana Ross, you know what I'm sayin'?
Stephanie Edwards: Diana Ross. I love ''Baby Love, ''Ain't No Mountain High Enough,'' and ''You Are So Beautiful.''
Melinda Doolittle: Tony Bennett. I love classics and standards. I'm also looking forward to Diana Ross. I'd take almost any song that the Supremes have done, as long as I can do the movements — probably ''Stop in the Name of Love.''
Phil Stacey: I'm looking forward to the Tony Bennett night. I remember hearing him sing ''I Left My Heart in San Francisco'' when I was a kid and thinking, ''Man, I want to be Tony Bennett.''
Blake Lewis: Tony Bennett. I have a [music] improv background, so if I can work with that man, that'll be just, man, awesome.
Chris Richardson: I would love to make it to the inspirational week. For me, Diana Ross week is strenuous because Diana Ross is a woman and the Supremes were all women, and it's hard to make a woman's song a man's song, but you can do it.
Jordin Sparks: Being so young, J.Lo, Gwen Stefani, they're current, but everybody else [coming on] my parents knew growing up — they're idols to them. I can't wait; I'm excited! I can't wait to meet them!
Lakisha Jones: It's going to be a challenge for me, because I'm used to just listening to only the music that I like. I'm like [after hearing there will be a British Invasion week], I've never listened to British music in my life. I was like, black girl singing British, oh my God, hold on — how am I gonna pull that off? How am I gonna feel that? I've just got to grab it and get a good song.

Is there something about your appearance you'd like to make over, or definitely don't want to touch?
Stephanie Edwards: I want to cut my hair even shorter than it is. And color it red. Do something radical.
Gina Glocksen: I want to chop off my hair. I said that from Day One. I've always wanted short hair.
Sanjaya Malakar: [Gesturing to his hair, with a huge grin] I think it would be really fun to just shave it off! I don't know if it's smart, but I think it would be really, really fun to just see people's reactions.
Haley Scarnato: I'm up for anything, but I don't want any crazy colors. [Laughs] So nothing, like, too drastic.
Blake Lewis: Definitely not. I came here with my own style, just being me. No one's telling me what to do. Everything you see here are all my own clothes.
Chris Richardson: I don't want to change anything, I am who I am and they might want to change something but I just want to stay true to myself.
Brandon Rogers: I like me just the way I am... and nobody's changing my hair.
Chris Sligh: I've lost about 30 pounds since Hollywood. So I'm trying to look better. Obviously, TV is a visual medium, and I understand that. I'd want to keep [my hair] a little longer. I don't want to go in the same direction that Justin Guarini did, but I think we're going to look at making it fall a little bit more and making it a little more rock star.
Phil Stacey: I'd pretty much be down for whatever, if they start putting wigs on my head, that kind of thing. It's fun. We'll see. You never know.
Jordin Sparks: [Takes hold of a ringlet of hair] I think they're going to straighten it, and they might do some extensions with different colors. Like, Gina — I love her hair! I don't want to be Gina, but I want hair like that. Maybe some pink and some red, and I might throw some green or blue in there if I'm feeling like it! [Laughs.]

There's more fun Q&A's at Entertainment Weekly.


In a New York Post story about the contestants answering the judges back ...

Judge Simon Cowell said: "I think if we talk to them, they're entitled to talk back to us. The only thing is they don't make a lot of sense. And interestingly, the girl who left tonight, Antonella, I remember thinking Wednesday night, 'You've just sealed your fate by answering back again. I gave you a lifeline there, and you just sank yourself.' Sometimes, it's better just to shut up." [Cowell told Antonella: "You've gone as far as you can go, Antonella. The reality is that you're surrounded by some pretty amazing girl singers. But I don't think your voice is going to get any better. I feel for you because you've taken a lot of stick in the media." Barba answered back: "I know I'm surrounded by really talented people, and I think that I have a different style. I just wish the judges wouldn't compare me to everyone else, because I try to be myself."]

Contestant Haley Scarnato said: "As a singer and with so many people watching, you don't want to talk back. You're there to sing. And you're trying to be the next American Idol. So a certain classiness is expected."

Contestant Blake Lewis said: "Sometimes, I want to talk back. I don't want to bite my tongue too much. But you have to be PC on television."


How was it trying to focus on the competition when the rumor mill was working overtime, putting out pictures of you less than fully clothed? It was very difficult. It was distracting and I tried to block it out and not go on the Internet. When it comes down to it, the pictures are irrelevant to me as an artist. That's my personal life and it was exploited.

Do you know which friends leaked the pictures? I have no way of tracing who it was. It was personal private property that got stolen from my computer. It was not meant for anyone else to see but me.

And the pictures of someone performing a sex act that some claimed were you?Those explicit ones were definitely not me.

On the plus side, you got more publicity than any other contestant. I know you can't talk specifics, but have offers been coming in? I haven't set up any meetings yet, but yeah, there have been offers.

Do you think you'll stay in Los Angeles to pursue them? I'd love to move to L.A. I hope there's an opportunity for me here. I need to see what offers are out there on the table.

If you're thinking about moving to L.A., you're probably thinking about acting or modeling, right? I'd love to do all three, act, model, and sing. I'm definitely willing to sort out the offers I get and figure out what's best for me. I'd love to act, but singing is my ultimate goal.

I'm sure men's magazines will be offering you covers. Would you consider that? I'm definitely willing to look at whatever I'm offered and sort out what feels right to me.


I love how honest you were last night with Ryan about being really shocked that you were the one going home. What else did you expect? I was just shocked. I was not expecting it at all. I really wasn't. The voting was off but what are you going to do?

What do you mean the voting was off? Because of any reason in particular? I think that Simon's comments on Tuesday had a lot to do with what's going on. I don't know what else to say. With Paula saying I need more coloring? It really bothered me. I went on YouTube and checked out my performance again and again. I thought vocally and my stage presence was good. I was critiquing myself as if I was a fan. I have no regrets. I think people really listened to the judges or thought I was safe.

Granted, I often don't understand what Paula means, but what did she mean this specific time by saying you needed more coloring? I don't know if Paula knows what she means sometimes. She just said that maybe I should go lighter in some areas as opposed to just singing the song full all the time. My thing was, I have a minute and a half to wow you. Let me do it all out.

Does it slay you that there's at least one less talented singer than you still in the top 12? For a few nights it'll bother me. I didn't get much sleep last night thinking everything over. Especially because I'm a tall guy, I'm 6'4'' so when Ryan called me up I looked right down at the cue card and I saw what the outcome was. As soon as I saw that I was like, ''WHAT?'' but I couldn't show it. Even seeing it I didn't believe it.

Who consoled you last night? Luckily my parents came out. I was able to hug my mom and listen to my dad tell me everything was going to be okay. Me and Antonella are real close and Sundance was my roommate so we all supported each other. I think with us not getting through we all kind of looked at each other like, ''Something's wrong.'' I really thought I would have gotten further. I didn't even have to win. I just wanted to stay a few more weeks to get my name and my face out there. Hopefully I made enough of an impact to spin something off.


So you're standing next to Sanjaya and you're thinking no brainer you're going to stay, right? I had no idea I was going to go home. Not even the slightest.

Do you have a sense of what went wrong for you? I don't know exactly what happened. I guess people decided I was safe and automatically in the top 12. I just don't know what happened. I had the most number of votes of all the guys for the two weeks before that though.

Do you wish you hadn't sung ''Jeremy''? No, not at all. I love that song. I did a good job. I have regrets about Simon Cowell saying I was screaming the song. Apparently he never heard the song before. I only regret singing ''Nights in White Satin'' because I had to hold back on it and I'm more of a belter.

Did you have time to process the whole experience after the show? I'm still confused over it. As soon as the show ended I went down to see the American Idol psychiatrist and my wife was there. They told me my second cousin had died in a house fire and was burned to death. At that point I didn't care about American Idol anymore. I was heartbroken.

I'm so sorry, Sundance. Everything happens for a reason. I'm just so confused right now. I need to go home and find myself and figure out what I want to do.

Was the American Idol shrink helpful? It was really helpful. But at that point I didn't want to talk to anyone about anything. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. When they told me I was going home I did my thing, sang my song, made a joke. It didn't hit me until I was backstage.

Any ideas of what you want to do next? I just want to do something great in my life. I just want to be remembered for being a guy who was nice to people, always humble, always making friends along the way.

I love that you put it out there that you need a job. Has anyone called? I'm fielding offers. I'd like to do TV. At this point I don't want to go back to a blue-collar job. I don't want to go back to being a supervisor at a machine shop. After going through this whirlwind where you're treated like a celebrity for two months, it's confusing when it gets taken away from you. It's like being a Daytona 500 driver who hit a wall and you have to get out of your car and watch everything go up in flames behind you.

Did you have ideas of which Diana Ross you were going to sing next week? I was going to sing ''Reflections'' and I was going to do a slight punk rock version of it.


Sabrina, the look on your face when Ryan announced Haley was staying and you were leaving was one of total shock. Has it set in yet? It's starting to set in after talking about it all day.

You must have thought you were safe, especially considering Simon couldn't remember Haley's name the night before. Haley was my roommate and good friend. We talked about it a lot, what's going to happen. You just never know. I kept saying I was going to go into this week and have fun and enjoy my song and not worry about the Thursday thing. I was really at peace during the day today.

So what went wrong? Part of it maybe was because of the comments the judges said that I would be in the top 12. I didn't think at the time, ''Oh wait. This could backfire.'' You just never know what to expect with the show. I've watched it for five years. I know that's the way it goes.

The judges also seemed disappointed. Did they say anything to you? Absolutely. They all came up to me and their words of support were really encouraging, about how at this point it's no longer about singing and it's about popularity. You can't always count on everyone who wants you to go ahead and vote.

Because it's a popularity vote to an extent, did you think about things like how you wore your hair or what outfit you put on more than you might have otherwise? Absolutely. Especially this week I really tried to take the comments from the second week into consideration. The judges said I didn't come off as young. I tried to return to that. I felt like I looked my best. I felt like I sang strongly. I enjoyed the song. That's the way to go out. If I had been disappointed in my performance I would be more upset today.

Which Diana Ross song were you planning on singing next week? ''You Can't Hurry Love.'' I was already planning it out in my head how I wanted the band to do it. I was thrilled about meeting her. She's an icon. The '60s and '70s are my genre. That's the real disappointing part, not getting to work with all the people coming. Hopefully I'll still get to work with them someday.

Are you pursuing any offers we should know about? I do have some agent meetings. I'm still represented by 19 Management until the show is over so I have some time. I'm going to take a week, go to Santa Barbara, go to a spa, and relax. From there I'll keep writing music and get everything lined up so when the calls do come in I'll be ready.

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