Melissa McGhee, a spirited 21-year-old Tampa, Florida, native, became the first casualty of the “American Idol” final 12 after America sent the smoky-voiced crooner home Wednesday night. On Tuesday’s show, McGhee had flubbed the lyrics twice during her renditions of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Lately” (once while in Wonder’s presence), and while the judges were quick to point out her faux pas, they were surprisingly light on the criticism. Simon Cowell even said it was her “best performance so far.” Still, “Idol” voters weren’t impressed.
MTV: What percentage of the public’s decision to vote you off might be attributed to the fact that you messed up the lyrics? Did the fumbling come from some Stevie Wonder-fueled nervousness?
Melissa McGhee: I think it weighed a lot on the actual decision, because America is not that forgiving. And it was definitely nerves. … I started thinking way too much about my lyrics once I got onstage, and it threw me off.
MTV: How did you manage to get through the performance after the flub?
McGhee: It was tough, but I actually ended up laughing at myself. Other people on the show were like, “If that were me, I totally would have just stopped and cried.” But I just kept going and making up words, and my goal by that time was just to make it through.
MTV: Were you surprised to get such positive feedback from the judges?
McGhee: I was! I thought I was going to be butchered, so it was nice to leave the show without having any kind of negative comments because I’ve kind of been battered these last few weeks.
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MTV: Even though it’s still early in the competition, there seem to be some clear front-runners. Chris Daughtry is always getting rave reviews from the judges, and they love Taylor Hicks’ passion, and Simon just recently compared Katharine McPhee’s performance to an early Kelly Clarkson. Is there a sense around the house about who’s really landing on top right now?
McGhee: Actually, no, there’s not. Everyone I’ve spoken with kind of feels the same way I do, which is that the competition is really up in the air. There’s a lot of unbelievable talent and it’s really about who performs the best every single week. And if it drops one week, that person’s in jeopardy [to go home]. I spoke to Ace and Lisa [who both landed in the bottom three], and obviously they were shocked at the results. It’s crazy, but it’d be shocking if you put anybody down in the bottom three.
MTV: Who are you rooting for?
McGhee: Right now, I think it could be anybody. This year’s talent is so strong that I think anyone can pull it off.
MTV: OK, what’s the deal with Kevin Covais? A lot of people are surprised he’s made it this far, and he didn’t even land in the bottom three last night. Is he getting the “granny vote,” as Simon said last week? What’s your theory?
McGhee: What can I say? America wants Chicken Little. They just love him, and that’s why he’s still there.
MTV: What’s next for you?
McGhee: Right now I’m just gonna go home and relax and take some time to kind of absorb everything that’s been going on. Then hopefully I can start writing some music and get myself into a studio to pop out an album — just try to stick to the music, because that’s what I want to do.
Will we ever hear from Melissa McGhee again? If history is any lesson, the odds aren’t good. Read about it yourself in the feature “No Love For ‘Idol’ Losers.”