Adam Lambert, Alex Wagner-Trugman, Anoop Desai, Brent Keith, Danny Gokey, Jorge Nuñez-Mendez, Season 8 Contestants

Idol guys: What you need to know, Part 1 (videos added)

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Idol Gals, Part 1: Alexis, Allison, Ann-Marie, Arianna Casey, Jackie

Idol Gals, Part 2: Jasmine, Jeanine, Felicia, Kendall, Kristen

Idol Gals, Part 3: Lil, Megan, Mishavonna, Stevie, Tatiana, Taylor

Idol Guys, Part 2: Ju’Not, Kai, Kris, Matt Breitzke, Matt Giraud, Michael

Idol Guys, Part 3: Nathaniel, Nick, Ricky, Scott, Stephen, Von

By MARK FRANKLIN

So, you thought those Idol gals had a lot of experience to be appearing on a show that’s all about finding new talent.

Well, the 18 guys who made the semifinals include one contestant who has recorded six independent CDs.

I’ll keep you guessing on which one until you reach him in the profiles that follow.

Again, sorry they’re in three parts. Cranky html coding is to blame, if you read yesterday’s blogs about the 18 female semifinals.

Here goes. Introducing Idol’s guys for 2009.

1. Adam Lambert

adam-lambert-4.jpgThink back to that horrendous audition episode from San Francisco. The saving grace was this 26-year-old from Los Angeles, who’s been singing and acting for a while.

According to the artist profile on the Web site for the Upright Cabaret in Los Angeles, he’s been in the cast of “Wicked,” starred as Joshua in “The Ten Commandments” opposite Val Kilmer at the Kodak Theatre in 2004 and has also appeared in “Hair,” “Evita” and “Grease.”

Hey, no wonder he looked so comfortable at the Kodak Theatre during Hollywood Week.

As for music, the site says he joined forces with composer/guitarist Monte Pittman (who toured extensively with Madonna) to form an “alt/pop/rock/electro” band called The Citizen Vein and that the group was hoping to record an album. But he’s no longer listed as a member of the band on the Citizen Vein MySpace page.

In a just-posted video on the Idol Web site, Adam credits his fellow cast members in “Wicked” — he was part of the show for two years — for pushing him into trying out for Idol. In his Hollywood week interview, he says “I guess I consider myself a pop singer, whether it be pop-rock, pop-soul or pop-R&B.

2. Alexander Wagner-Trugman

Let your friends convince you to take a road trip, and look what happens?

That’s apparently how Alex, 19, of Studio City, Calif., wound up at the American Idol audition in Phoenix. Two of his friends wanted to travel to Phoenix, and the Idol auditions were their excuse, Alex explains in his Idol video interview. “We auditioned for fun, and I made it.”

alex-wagner-trugman.jpgThis guy is quite the character. When we first met him on the Phoenix audition show, he told the judges he taught himself to sing in a moldy closet. Simon’s response: “So, you’ve come out of the closet.” Ha, ha.

Oh, and here’s something to look forward to. In a video Idol posted today, Alex says he can juggle. In fact, if he makes it far enough on Idol, he says he’d like to juggle fire on stage. Wow, don’t think that’s been done before. As for music, he prefers poppish, rockish music, he says, anything with soul.

Has he really spent all his singing time in a closet? I’m not sure. But I found a Web reference for an Alex Wagner-Trugman who attended the Buckley School, performed in musicals there and accompanied a school troupe to a performance in Scotland. Anyone know if it’s the same guy?

3. Anoop Desai

anoop-desai.jpgWow, Anoop nailed that Boyz II Men song during the Kansas City auditions, didn’t he?

Little surprise. He’s apparently an old hand at singing Boyz II Men. In fact, if you head to http://www.clefhangers.com/ you can buy two albums of music by the Clef Hangers — “Facing Clarence,” released in 2005; and “Time Out,” released in 2007 — with Anoop as the featured vocalist on six tracks. Those songs include Boyz II Men’s “Can You Stand the Rain.”

The Clef Hangers are an a capella group of University of North Carolina singers, and Anoop is their president emeritus, according to a message posted on the site wishing the 22-year-old the best during his Idol run.

The Chapel Hill News recently ran an extensive feature on Anoop, reporting that he also founded a men’s a cappella ensemble at East Chapel Hill High School. Here’s what Charles Askew, a current member of the Clef Hangers told the newspaper: “Honestly, Anoop is the best singer I’ve ever heard in person. I’ve been in a capella groups for eight years, and I have yet to come across someone that talented.”

In his Idol video interview, Anoop says he prefers singing R&B.

Chapel Hills News story

4. Brent Keith

brent_keith.jpgBrent is one of two season eight contestants to previously appear on the Idol-like country singing competition Nashville Star. He was on the show’s second season in 2004 and finished sixth. (Kristen McNamara would also finish sixth two years later).

Brent, 29, also sang the title track to Country Music Television’s 2007 documentary about the life of racing legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. The film was titled simply, “Dale;” Brent’s song was “Looking for the Road” and is still available on YouTube.

In his Idol video interview, Brent said he’s been watching Idol the last couple of seasons and decided to audition this year because it’s the last he would be eligible to do so because of the show’s age restrictions.

He lives in Nashville and says he prefers singing contemporary country and classic rock.

5. Danny Gokey

Danny, 28, credits his wife, Sophia, for convincing him to try out for American Idol. Of course, as we all know by now, Sophia died four weeks before his American Idol audition in Kansas City, Missouri.

According to On Milwaukee.com, Danny is an employee of Wisconsin’s Faith Builders International Ministry. And in a video interview posted Thursday, he talks about spending a lot of time singing with his church.

danny-gokey-mug.jpgDanny has also started “Sophia’s Heart Foundation” in honor of his wife. According to its Web site, the foundation’s mission is to “help mend and heal the hearts of children who have been touched by poverty, sickness, disease, broken families and broken dreams.”

This Robert Downey Jr. look-alike says his wife remains his inspiration. “Once she passed away, something on the inside me just bubbled up, and I have so much purpose. I feel like there’s so much destiny now in what I’m doing. I feel like there’s a message I have to give.”

Judging from the judges’ reactions to date, he’s been doing everything right.

6. Jorge Nunez-Mendez

jorge-nunez-mendez-2.jpgAmerican Idol came to Jorge, or we probably wouldn’t be seeing him in the semifinals next week.

The 21-year-old explains that his grandfather always wanted him to audition for the show and promised to finance his travel to the United States so he could do so.

But his grandfather died six months ago. Then, when Jorge discovered American Idol planned auditions in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he just had to try out.

In his Idol video interview, Jorge said he’s been singing since age 10 when he was in a choir. As a solo artist, he says he likes anything from classic to pop music. He also says he’s fluent in three languages — Spanish, English and French.

Adam Lambert sings “Dust in the Wind” at the Upright Caberet

Adam Lambert sings “As Long As You’re Mine,” a song from “Wicked”

Anoop Desai sings “Angel of Mine” with the University of North Carolina Clef Hangers. The performance is dedicated to Eve Carson, who Anoop refers to in one of his Idol videos, saying having a close friend died made him want to do more with his life.

Anoop Desai sings “The Only One for Me” with the UNC Clef Hangers

Brent Keith sings “Found”

Brent Keith sings “Looking for a Road” the theme song from the documentary “Dale.”

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