Anoop Desai made an impression on "American Idol" viewers with his fun personality by singing Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," and he made it all the way to the top seven with his honest interpretations of heartfelt ballads.
We caught up with the University of North Carolina graduate student to talk about not being eligible for the "judges' save," whether he'll go back to school and more.
Q: Did you think you were going home?
A: I think we always think about that sort of stuff on the inside, but it's amazing how many people out of that group were sure they were going home last night. It was really a toss-up.
Q: What was going through your mind when you had to sing after being voted off?
A: Nothing! Actually, that was the easiest performance I've ever done. [Laughs.] Hopefully that's how it's going to be on tour. There's something about the burden of having four people sitting in front of you who you know are your harshest critics. And with that burden relieved, I was free to sing the song with personality, which sounds strange to say. That was the freest I've ever been onstage. Watching it back, I think it shows. I was relaxed, and honestly, that was a persona that I've been trying to put onstage for a little while, and it just so happened that it came out when I was most relaxed.
Q: How did you feel about being eliminated on the first night this season when the judges' save wasn't in play?
A: Honestly, the save process was just something that you had to deal with. One of the things I learned from this show is that you've gotta roll with the punches. Things are not always going to work out for you. This was a format change; I don't think that ultimately it changed anything. As I think we all know, the only real order that matters is [who wins the show]. Everything after that, you can do whatever you want with your career. ... I actually told Ryan right before the show, "Hey, man, don't mess around with me tonight." I was glad that it was relatively quick, and if I had a choice, they would mail me the results. [Laughs.]
Q: What did you learn from your time on "American Idol"?
A: For me, I think I really learned how to bounce back from things. A lot of times I'm really hard on myself, because if I don't live up to my own standards, to me, the way I used to look at it is as a failure. I learned how to learn from my mistakes and bounce back from them.
Q: What did you learn from the other contestants?
A: I think everyone has something different they bring to the table. To me, it was very humbling to see how good everyone was. It's not a skill or a vocal ability that we learned from the contestants; it's more about how to play to your strengths. ... Throughout the competition, you kind of find your own niche. It's almost a communal experience. We're all finding our places in this competition, and that's going to help us out by finding our place in the industry, hopefully.
Q: Do you think you'll head back to school or pursue a music career?
A: I'm definitely going to pursue a music career. If I learned nothing else from this experience, it is that singing is what I am the happiest doing, and I think it's what I do the best. I'm looking forward to releasing that pop/R&B album. I really like the things that Ne-Yo's doing right now. ... I'm really interested in pursuing that direction in music. One of the best comments I got from the judges was Kara's for this last performance, when she said she could hear that song on the radio. That's what I was really striving for with the fast section of "Dim All the Lights." We put it to a very modern, almost electronic beat. That's the type of music that I feel most comfortable with and I look forward to making in the future.
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