Youmans: Hitting the wrong note on 'Idol'

Shaking, I stepped forward apprehensively and clutched the microphone.

Then, in what seemed like a mile-long walk, I wobbled onward in my three-inch heels and quickly hit my mark for the cameras. All with a beaming smile, of course.

Looking out into the double-decker auditorium, I saw only empty seats — an unusual sight for an avid live performer like myself. But in reality, those vacant seats represented a fraction of the million viewers at home that would see my final moment on "American Idol" air in February.

During the first round of Hollywood auditions, which actually took place in December, I was briefly shown singing Heart's "Crazy on You," receiving surprised reactions from the judges in response to an off-key note. Consequently, I was eliminated.

So, you may be asking "What went wrong?" The answer is simple: nerves.

The only way to conquer these nerves is by consistently being in a reality TV situation like "American Idol" all of the time. For many contestants, it was their second, third or fourth time in the Hollywood round, and they became less nervous each time they tried out.

So, even though I've performed a lot and possess ample professional experience on movie soundtracks and in musical theater, nothing could've prepared me for Hollywood Week. That was my first time being in that unconventional environment.

When you're in the music business, not the reality TV business, you are surrounded by band members and people in the studio who want you to do well. In the competition of a reality show, you don't have that band or the support of people. Everybody there is vying against you, and they all want you to do poorly.

In the end, the ones left are those who can take the pressure of the situation.

It also didn't help that the song choice was at the peak of my vocal ability. Taking on a Heart song is a very gutsy move. Ann Wilson, lead singer of Heart, is among the best of her generation — those are some awfully big shoes to fill.

And, singing a cappella, or without music, is considered exceedingly arduous for even the most distinguished singers.

Still, I never foresaw the vocal malfunction and told the judges, "That's not how the song sounded it rehearsal."

My fellow contestants could attest to that statement. Before my elimination, other competitors overheard me practicing in my hotel room and approached me about joining their groups in the group round. So, all of my peers were expecting me to get through, and the whole room was taken aback.

It was a shocking occurrence, even for the judges, whom I first impressed at the San Diego auditions with a rendition of Carole King's "Some Kind of Wonderful." Those who are familiar with my musical ability, including the judges, still know what I am capable of.

And for that matter, a reality competition doesn't dictate someone's talent. Listening to somebody's voice for 10 seconds and trying to establish who they are as a singer is like trying to get a rocket scientist to explain his life's work in the same amount of time. That will never happen.

But, needless to say, "the tribe" has spoken.

Success really depends on how you take rejection. It's a fact of life in the entertainment industry. I have a thick skin, and I take each dip in the road as a reason to work hard and come back stronger than ever.

In regards to the clip shown of me singing off-key, I'm not ashamed of the footage aired. Everybody has a bad day. Yes, it's unfortunate that they showed me having a bad day, but what can you do?

Looking back on my final moment on "American Idol" evokes a series of bittersweet emotions. On one hand, an invaluable opportunity slipped through my fingers, but on the other hand, I am grateful that a million people now know my name.

On YouTube, my video plays and likes have skyrocketed and, hopefully, people are realizing the clip inaccurately represented my musical abilities. That's the beauty of social media. Everyone has a voice, not just the mega corporations.

Getting cut is not going to stop me from pursuing music like I always have.

For now, I plan on performing around Los Angeles with guitarist Jon MacLennan. Also, there have been talks with producers regarding possible movie soundtrack work in the future.

As for the prospects of a re-audition, the jury is still out. Initially, I was opposed to giving "Idol" or any other reality competition another go, but I've now decided I'll know if it's the right decision when the time comes.

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HEATHER YOUMANS is a freelance writer and Fountain Valley resident.

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