From her first top-24 performance, LaKisha Jones let America know exactly who she is.
The 27-year-old from Fort Meade, Maryland, tore down the "American Idol" semifinals stage with her powerful take on the "Dreamgirls" showstopper "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Simon Cowell's response was equally powerful: "I am very tempted to say to 23 people, 'Book your plane tickets home.' "
But three of those people managed to outlast the single mom, who was voted off after her Bee Gees-night performances of "Stayin' Alive" and "Run to Me" (see " 'American Idol' Kisses LaKisha Jones Goodbye" and " 'Idol' Recap: Melinda's Worst Is Still The Best; Blake Needs To Think Outside The Beatbox").
We caught up with the latest "Idol" castoff on Thursday (May 10) to talk about her friendship with Sanjaya, what kind of album she wants to put out and how Simon rates as a kisser (hint: she might want a repeat performance).
Q: What was your favorite performance?
A: "And I Am Telling You." That was my opening number, and the message was, "I'm telling you, America, I'm gonna stay. I'm not going nowhere."
Q: Do you think it hurt you to start out as an early favorite?
A: It did. I believe that everybody wanted the "And I Am Telling You" moment every week. And when you're singing different genres of music, and because it's such a different style of music, those styles don't necessarily have the big song that everybody's expecting every week. I think I did the best with what I was given, and I went out there every week and I gave it my all.
Q: Did you know you were going home on Wednesday?
A: I was hoarse on Tuesday, and I tried to sing past my hoarseness and give it my all, because on "American Idol" you can't say, "My voice is jacked up and I can't sing this week." ... You have to just kind of do what you gotta do, and I kind of knew [on Bee Gees night] that those weren't the best songs, but I did the best with what I was given.
Q: When you were singing your second song on Tuesday and your voice cracked, what was going through your mind?
A: I kinda gave up, because I was hoarse, as I am now, and you can only sing so much until your voice is like, "OK, enough." ... We do dress rehearsal before the actual show, so I had sung that song at least four times that day. It put a strain on my voice.
Q: What did your daughter have to say after your elimination?
A: I was crying last night. She wiped my face and said, "Mommy, I'm not mad." I just thought that was really cute. It's almost as if she was telling me, "You know what? I'm proud of you."
Q: How do you feel about finishing fourth?
A: Only thing I can say is, look at Chris Daughtry.
Q: Some people questioned your song choices, especially when you performed songs by two "Idol" winners back to back. What was the thought process behind that?
A: I was thinking that they were two winners, and I was also thinking of the message within the song. [Carrie Underwood's] "Jesus Take the Wheel" — I was going through some things, and I needed Jesus to take the wheel, period. I was like, "You know what? I can't do this competition by myself. Lord, you're gonna have to help me get through it." And then [Fantasia's] "I Believe" — I do believe in myself, and I do believe that no matter what happens, God has a plan for me and that I will be successful.
Q: What was your favorite comment from Simon?
A: My favorite comment would have to be "She's in a league all her own."
Q: What was your least favorite?
A: "You're shouting."
Q: Is Simon a good kisser?
A: He is a good kisser, and I would do it again. His lips were really soft and thin.
Q: It seemed like you and Sanjaya were close when he was on the show. How did you spark up that friendship?
A: Sanjaya was like a little brother that got on your nerves all the time. ... He has this energy, and I could be just having a moment, and he's jumping all over the place, and I'm like, "Sit down somewhere!" I appreciate the fact that he trusted my judgment, he took my advice and he was also there for me when I needed him.
Q: Who do you think will win the competition?
A: They're all talented, and whoever's supposed to be the "American Idol" will be the "American Idol."
Q: What do you like about the remaining contestants?
A: I like Jordin. One, she's so doggone cute, and she just has a really wonderful spirit about her. She's really genuine. Blake, oh my God, I love him. Blake keeps me going. I tell you, at times when I was like, "Oh my God," Blake was like, "Nope, uh-uh, come here" [she mimics Blake's beatboxing], making up something to make me laugh and smile. He was really cool, and he has originality and personality. He's great. [And] Melinda, oh my God, that girl has so much soul and power.
Q: If you had a do-over on any song or performance, what would you change?
A: Tuesday night's performance [Bee Gees night]. The songs, I wouldn't have sung either one of 'em.
Q: You mentioned during a clip package on Wednesday night that everyone has a story, and then you kind of teared up. What were you thinking about?
A: Everyone has a story, but nobody knows mine like I know.
Q: When do we get to hear that story?
A: I don't know, maybe a movie or something.
Q: After the tour, will it be back to the bank or will you pursue a music career?
A: I just plan on singing, and hopefully great opportunities come my way.
Q: What kind of album do you want to record?
A: I'm not sure exactly what I want to do yet. I know that I want it to be kind of sassy and soulful with a little inspiration.
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