7. Junot Joyner
The second time in Hollywood proved a charm for Junot, 26, of Bowie, Md., who lists his name as Ju’Not on his MySpace page.
He lists Marvin Gaye and Ronald Isley as his musical influences and, in his profile, says he wants “to impact the world like a Barack Obama or a Tupac Shakur. I hope to do it through music.”
As for the second-time-around business, Junot made it to Hollywood in season seven, only to be cut. How did he feel after getting a golden ticket this year. “When I made it to Hollywood, my first thought was, ‘Wow, here we go again,’” he says in his Idol video interview. “Last season … of course, it didn’t turn out as I would have liked, but you put the past behind you.”
Viewers got to see very little of Junot until Tuesday’s final show from Hollywood, when he turned in a fine version of “Hey There Delilah.” Watch Ju’Not sing “I’m So Down” with Kenny Kohlhaas.
8. Kai Kalama
Kai, 26, of San Clemente, Calif., is the singer profiled at the end of the San Francisco audition show, the one who put his music career on hold for a year to care for his sick mother.
The Orange County Register profiled Kai in a Jan. 21 story. Apparently he and his brother, Ryan, formed a band while they were in middle school and have been performing in Southern California ever since.
The band, Off White, has a Web site that says it specializes in “soul rock straight from the broken heart of Southern California.” Register on the Web site and you’ll be able to download three of the band’s songs as MP3s for free. “Couldn’t Do It Til Now” is particularly impressive.
The Web site also credits their mom for teaching them to sing via the church choir. In his Idol video, Kai confirms his favorite type of music is “soul rock, you can get a little rough and a little soft at the same time.”
9. Kris Allen
Chalk up Kris as another contestant who has already released an independent CD, in his case “Brand New Shoes,” which came out in September 2007.
Kris’ MySpace page identifies him as a singer-songwriter out of Little Rock, Ark., who taught himself to play guitar at age 13. Among other instruments he plays: the viola and ukulele.
The FOX affiliate in Little Rock, KLRT 16, identifies Kris as a business major at the University of Central Arkansas. And KARK Channel 4 reports that he performed with the worship team at New Life Church in Little Rock for years.
He auditioned with his brother in San Francisco, but only Kris got a golden ticket. In his Idol video interview, the 23-year-old says he prefers singing soul music.
10. Matt Breitzke
Matt, 28, is the welder who had to square off against Michael Sarver, the oil rig worker, in a sing-off at the end of Wednesday’s show. Of course, as we all know by now, both made the semifinals.
Matt lives in Bixby, Okla., and, according to the Bixby Bulletin newspaper, he has been singing and playing the guitar since fifth grade.
His wife, Shelly, is a third-grade teacher at Peters Elementary in Broken Arrow, Okla., and the Union Public Schools Web site has a page applauding Matt’s efforts on Idol. The page also features a photo of Matt with their son, Travis, that Shelly sent around the school via email because so many teachers wanted to see what her husband looks like. “Ironically,” she writes, “he is wearing the same shirt that he wears in his audition. (He really needs to go shopping)!”
Cute. But, hey, if you’ve heard him, this guy can really sing. In his Idol interview, he says his wife and co-workers coerced him into auditioning. “Sheer numbers said I wasn’t going to make it, but I did,” he says, adding that he really doesn’t have a favorite kind of music. “I like to think I’m pretty well rounded.”
11. Matt Giraud
Matt, 23, is the dueling piano player we met during the Louisville auditions. This lad from Kalamazoo, Mich., has also apparently released two CDs worth of material as an independent artist, one in 2003 (”Perspective”) and one in 2006 (”Mind, Body and Soul”). You can listen to 30-second clips of the songs at payplay.fm and several other sites.
On his MySpace page, Matt says he played drums for his local church, eventually became more serious about playing music and taught himself how to play the piano. He attended Western Michigan University, which issued a press release in June 2007 congratulating Matt and four other jazz students for winning awards from DownBeat Magazine. The release says he and Gerald Mattei won for Blues/Pop/Rock/ Outstanding
Performance for the Giraud/Mattei Project, which include a song called “First Impression.”
As for his dueling piano gig, he’s a featured performer at Monaco Bay in downtown Kalamazoo.
12. Michael Sarver
Michael, 27, of Jasper, Texas, is the oil rig worker we met during the Phoenix auditions. You know, the guy who’s singing has been knock-your-socks-off good every time he’s appeared on the program.
As a bit of a tip-off that he made the final 36, FOX crews showed up at Harvest Church in Jasper on Sunday to film a segment, according to the Beaumont Enterprise. The newspaper reports that Michael leads a worship and praise team at the church and was once a lead singer at Victory Christian Center in Houston.
And, of course, we learned about his family and his oft dangerous job during the audition show. He’s married with two young children and says during his Idol video interview that his first thought after getting his golden ticket was “what this could mean for my family.”
He says he’s been singing seriously since age 11 and prefers singing pop and R&B.