'American Idol' Finalist Pia Toscano Plots Her Strategy

Cover of the Pretenders' 'I'll Stand By You' secures her spot in top 13.

It's easy to think big when you're the underdog. And that's definitely the position New Jersey "American Idol" auditioner Pia Toscano is coming from. After wowing America last week and earning a spot in the finals, Toscano spoke to MTV News at Thursday night's post-elimination bash about her plans for putting together a successful run on the show.

"I definitely want to have those big ballads. Since I was a little girl, I've always taken to those huge voices: Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey. So I definitely want to bring that back," she said of her plan to stick to the strategy that got her where she is now. "But I also want to have those fun dance hits as well."

After flying mostly under the radar so far this season, the raven-haired singer made headlines Wednesday when she performed a stunning cover of the Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You," which stole the thunder of the rest of the female competitors that night and locked in her place in the top 13.

Toscano, 21, was stunned by the reaction from the audience and the judges following her performance. Holding her hands in front of her mouth as Randy Jackson reminded her of the standing ovation she had just received, she seemed floored when he told her that her performance immediately ranked among the best performances in the show's history. "That was unbelievable," Jackson told her. "That's how you do it!"

Steven Tyler, after invoking one of his nonsensical Tyler-isms ("You know, after Monday and Tuesday, even a week says WTF" — WTF??), agreed with Jackson's assertion that she was "unbelievable," adding as well that it was "gorgeous." Jennifer Lopez kicked the praise up a notch, calling the performance "out of this world." "You were saving that for when it counts!" she teased Toscano.

Talk about saving your best for last. Toscano said that after not getting much screen time during the early rounds of the show, she was glad that she peaked before the final cut-down. "I felt like I never really showed all that I could do on the show, and I'm so happy that I did save it for when it counted," she said. "I've grown so much as a person and as a vocalist throughout this competition, and I'm so happy that that was my moment to shine."

Toscano will have to prove that she's more than a one-trick pony Wednesday, when the top 13 take the stage for the first round of live performance and results shows and get a taste of the pressure that comes with singing on live TV every week.

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