March 16, 2013

American Idol Top 10 Taping

    It's the morning after American Idol (when I first sat down to write this), and my mind has finally slowed down long enough to really comprehend everything that happened last night. I was excited before we went, but nothing would have prepared me for last night. Whenever this show is involved, though, I'm always guaranteed to have a great time, and I did indeed. Anything can literally happen. Actually, I think "great" kind of degrades the experience; this was so much more than that.
    My mom and I woke up pretty early, got ready, then were on the road by a little after 8. Thanks to me forgetting something, we had to turn around and go back to the house, but we hadn't gotten very far when I remembered. It didn't take long to run in and grab what I needed. We were back on the road, grabbed breakfast from Jack in the Box, then hit the freeway. I listened to Ryan Seacrest's show on KIIS FM for awhile, then turned my ipod for a little Keith Urban, and a few other random songs. When I got tired of scanning through songs, I went back to the radio.
    About an hour and a half later, we had made it to LA, without hitting much traffic or running into any other unforeseen obstacles, which was nice. We found our way down Beverly, then parked at The Grove, stopped at the restrooms, and walked to CBS Studios, where American Idol films. Usually, there's a huge line for any show that is taping that day, but there were only two people when we'd gone by the first time, and I thought maybe they were waiting for the bus, but as it turned out, it was in fact the line. It was really strange! I felt a little paranoid at the beginning, making sure we were in the right spot! HA! And it didn't get much longer as time went on, especially for past seasons. 
    My mom and I were second in line for the show, and ended up hitting it off with the ladies in front of us. We started sharing some memories of Idol experiences we'd all had; they usually come down to a taping each year, we've been to the past couple finales and of course, going to the live concerts. And as it turns out, they're from the same city we are, which was really cool. But, I was still anxiously waiting for our friend, Yolanda, to get there.  About an hour later, I could breathe again, and we started catching up with her, talking about Idol and everything in between. Big thanks to Idol, since they're how we met in the first place :)
    A little time passed, then a couple of girls (that we found out were from Texas) walked up to our group, asking about how they could get tickets or how the process worked for getting them. They were going to try to wait in line, when the ladies in front of us realized they had two extra tickets, so they decided to join us. We ended up talking to them for quite awhile, and they were around my age, which made it nice. We talked about our majors a little bit, Keith Urban, and what they'd done since they'd been in LA!
    I honestly don't remember what time they finally came by to check our tickets, because we didn't have phones and my mom's watch stopped working, but they did, and a little later, they walked us through the gates of the studio to get to the American Idol stage. On our way there, we passed the trailers of Dancing with the Stars and even Bruno Tonioli, one of the judges from the show. Our group waved to him and said hi, to which he smiled, waved and said "hi" back! And I was thinking that would be the coolest story I'd have to tell about the night. Boy, was I wrong!
    We walked a little further up the street, and came to the lady handing out tickets. She gave Yolanda and my mom regular tickets, then asked if I wanted pit. I wasn't so sure, because I wanted to hang out with the group and didn't want to leave them. But, the lady kept pushing that it would be a great experience, and my mom and Yoyo were encouraging of it as well, so I thought, "why the heck not?!" I got my pass and we headed up to the security checkpoint. After I had the pass in my hand, I was wondering what I was possibly thinking in almost turning it down.
    It didn't take long at all to get through security, then we had nothing but time to wait. The girls from Texas were going to be in the pit with me, so we were all super excited about that. We talked for a bit, getting to know each other more; talking about concerts, school, siblings, our states, etc. There was time for restroom breaks and to get something to eat before we headed in. The time passed off pretty quickly once again, and before we knew it, the On Camera Audience crew members were coming out to explain what was going to happen.
    Our other half of the group was called in first through one door, then it was our turn to go through another. We walked into the soundstage, past a set of bleachers where the seats were, the backstage makeup room (where they've done interviews right after finishing their song), then as we came around the corner, I saw the stage. It was glowing with orange/yellow lights, and looked just as I'd imagined, only quite a bit bigger than I realized. The three of us looked at each other and just couldn't believe it. One of the crew members told us to wait with her, then they led us to the pit in front of the stage, and we were SOCLOSE to the judges, and on Keith Urban's side, which is what I'd been hoping and praying for. I always thought it was much further back, but we were technically within (almost) touching distance. Of course, that never would have happened with the security guard standing right there.
    We were planning ways we could Keith's attention or how we could get a hug from him, and what it would be like when everyone came out. Meanwhile, the stage manager was running around, trying to get last minute things checked out, sound and lighting guys were setting up, and audience members were still filing in. There were also more people coming into the pit with us. After awhile of freaking out, we were finally calm enough, and occasionally, crew members would come over to explain what was expected of us since we were so close to everyone and everything, like, "Do not approach the judges at any time (well, there goes our plan, I thought) and making sure we're participating and giving the contestants feedback, depending on what kind of song they do. "Even if it is the most boring song in the world, act like you're enjoying it," and then we were good to go.  Then there were just a few minutes before the show started....And the energy was kicked up again. They introduced Ryan Seacrest, so he came out for several minutes to explain what was going to be happening that night, and just had a few other words for the crowd.
    Idol has been doing their "Across America" race the past few weeks, bringing the Idol microphone back to the Idol stage just in time for the first top 10 show from New York, and I was SO glad I got to see that. Past idols from other seasons, like, Michael Johns, Pia Toscano, Ace Young, Diana Degarmo, and Brooke White, were all there to pass the torch. The ceremony for that took place; they took a few pictures of them with the top 10, as well as a video shot. When they were done, everyone left the stage, and there were just a few more minutes of waiting for the show to start. I was freaking out that Brooke White was there, because I still keep up with her; follow her on Twitter, read her blog, etc. I just always felt like we had a lot in common.
    My new friends and I were starting to feel the nerves. You can definitely feel the energy from the stage, and it's nerve-wracking, with so many people running around with serious looks on their faces and making sure everything happens right on time. They have a show to do, and timing is everything, although the stage manager, Debbie said, "lighting as everything," while they worked out a few tweaks here and there. We also ended up talking to her daughter, who was standing right behind us. She was really nice and told us a few things of what it was like to have been around the show so long. Gotta love hearing those behind the scenes stories, and it never hurt when her mom would bring important people a little closer to say "hi" to her or introduce them, like Ryan Seacrest or Keith Urban.
    Finally, it was show time. People were speaking into the mic, and counting down for the big moment. If we were nervous in the pit, I can only imagine what is going on in the contestants' minds, and for the first time, I was kind of glad that I wasn't on the show (to some degree). It's definitely more intense than just watching it at home. GULP! So, everything you see on the show is basically how it is, except for when the contestants are singing on stage, you don't think about the camera crew that is running around trying to get the perfect shot, or other crew members running around off-camera to move set pieces or get other things set up. I'm always so amazed with all of those little details that come together to make this incredible finished production that you see on TV, and you have no idea what's happening while the Idols are singing for their lives. I can definitely understand how nervous the contestants can be so nervous or freeze under pressure. I know I would.
    I was bummed Keith didn't come down to our row to shake hands, but was excited about everything else, so it was okay, and I thought there might be other opportunities. But, then I just kept looking around...Where's Nicki? Hmmm...Is she not here tonight? But, I wanted to see her. Of course, the one night we come, she's not here, what's up with that? But, then, Ryan explained just a couple minutes later that she was stuck in traffic. And during the commercial break, you could hear them going back and forth about what they were going to do when she arrived. Someone said she was stuck on the 101, and Ryan thought she was stuck on the 405. It sounded like no one was quite sure about what was going on, but regardless, she should have been there on time. And from the sounds of it, she's never there when she's supposed to be.
    And eventually she did, as everyone watching on TV saw. She came walking in like a diva, with her jogging suit, snow boots, glasses and hood on, like nothing had happened. She seemed to be in a weird mood, then just sat down. Immediately, her entourage surrounded the table to fix her makeup, but they didn't get it finished in time, so she kept the hello kitty glasses on for awhile during the show. They kept coming back, until finally her makeup was done. I just kept thinking, you're getting payed how much to do this and you just walk in like it's a rehearsal or like you just don't care??  Mariah Carey is just as I thought she'd be; she kept playing with her hair, they kept bringing her a new drink, and looking off and you could see her cutting her eyes at Nicki's remarks at times. Even Keith and Randy were getting touched up from time to time, but they didn't make a big show about it, because guys have to get a bit of makeup too to look good on camera. I was fascinated by watching the judges and just the facial expressions they'd make because you don't always see them when the cameras are rolling. They're pretty funny to watch! And I also loved that when the show was half over, some guy brought several chain necklaces over to Nicki for her to pick from. After going through them a couple times, she settled on a few and put them on, just in time for the commercial break to be over. Otherwise, I would have gladly taken her leftovers! HA!
    Right before Kree came out, they told everyone in the pit to stop turning around when the judges speak, because it was showing up on camera. I thought that was a little weird, but we did. It felt a little more awkward when they're talking and we're just staring at the stage, but oh well. They have their way of doing things, and that's why the show is so successful.
    I was still trying to get over the fact that I was just a few feet away from Keith Urban. I kept looking at him, but it didn't seem real, because I had been waiting for a moment like this for so long. In some ways, I still felt like I was just watching it on TV and it wasn't actually happening right before my eyes. But, indeed it was. Also, during commercial breaks, there's a guy who pumps up the crowd, talks to audience members, and gives a few things away, so that was exciting. He usually does the finale, too.
    Towards the end, during one of the commercial breaks, I was hoping Keith would look over towards our direction, so I could get his attention or at least wave. He finally looked my way, and we made eye contact. I'm sure I was looking rather awkward or weird about it, because after they had told us not to approach the judges, I didn't want to get in trouble. I waved, and after a second (he had probably been zoning out) he waved back, then said, "Well, hi there," in that Australian voice of his. So it wasn't the hug I was wanting, or that is on my bucket list, but I'm making progress. The first time I met him, it was nothing but a handshake in Nashville. This time words were exchanged, more from him than me, but that's okay ...He has a nicer voice anyway. But, I might have mouthed hi...I can't be certain on that one. I was freaking out inside. Keith Urban and I actually shared a moment.  I don't really remember what happened after that, I just remember turning around to the stage and pretty soon, the show was ready to go again.
    As far as the contestants go, I was pretty impressed with all of them, even the ones I might not have been that crazy about before. I was extremely impressed with Janelle, Paul, Angie, and Kree. I thought Janelle really came into her own Wednesday night; she was working the stage, she stayed true to who she was, and Mariah was right about her "aura" radiating a star quality. I just LOVE Paul's voice; it's smooth, and has a sincerity to it that I don't think a lot of other guys in the competition have, and I really liked his version of "Amazed," because I like the song, but I used to get a little annoyed with the original, and I love his personality! Seems like a great guy. Angie's vocals and stage presence are ridiculous in the best way, and Kree is that quiet, yet powerful star; she has the talent, but it isn't quite as obvious and in your face like the others, and usually it works to the advantage of people like her. I'm with Keith that I would absolutely buy a record from her as soon as she releases it. And I loved Lazaro too, I thought he did good on "Breakaway", I just think he thought about what Jimmy said too much. He was doing just fine before he took his advice. I really hope he takes Nicki's advice and will just go back to doing what he feels comfortable with.
    Another one of the coolest moments for me was that Ryan Seacrest was practically around us all night! I never talked to him or said anything, which I'm sure he actually wouldn't have minded, but I'm sure he has a lot on his plate and has things to do, so I didn't want to hold him back. Pretty soon, he was walking back and forth, in front of us for so long that pretty soon, it felt normal. Oh, it's just Ryan! Catch ya later, Seacrest. As a journalism major, I have mad respect for that guy. He is a hard worker and he deserves all of the success that he has achieved in his life.
    When the two hours was up, the show came to a close, and that was a wrap. My feet were so sore, because we'd been standing for so long, and I was REALLY hungry.  The judges stayed there for a couple minutes after, but I didn't want to run up to Keith like I had imagined myself doing in my daydream, so we watched them leave. They let the audience out two different ways, so my mom and Yolanda got out before we did, then we caught up. As I was running towards my mom, I noticed some of the Idols walking out from another door, being followed by a camera crew. I remember seeing Paul and Janelle really closely, so I waved to them, and Paul waved back to all of us. Janelle couldn't see me at first, then she quickly moved around Paul and waved back and said hi! I said, "you were really great", and I think she said something like, "Aw, thank you so much!" I remember seeing Angie, and I'm pretty sure the rest of them were all close together, but it all happened so fast and they were motioning for people to leave, so we did. I was pretty excited we got so close to them, though.
    I said goodbye to the new friends I'd made, then we headed towards the main gate. Some of our group had to stop to pick up the cell phones they'd checked in, and by that point, I was losing energy and needed to eat. We waited for them to get their phones, then we headed over to The Grove, which was just around the corner. Over the years, a lot of Idols have been known for going to The Grove to hang out after the tapings, so I was hoping we'd run into some of the contestants. We said goodbye to the two other ladies we'd gotten to know, then had dinner with Yolanda. We had planned on going to Cheesecake Factory, but the wait was too long, so we just got some Cheesecake to go, and ended up at a Chinese place in the Farmer's Market section. It was alright, but mainly I was just so hungry at that point, I didn't care what I was eating. We talked about the taping and how we thought it went, and how we still had to wait a couple hours for voting to open on the west coast.
    We walked around one more time to see if any of the idols were there, but things were pretty dead, and I was really worn out, and we still had a two hour drive home. We dropped Yoyo off at her car, then hit the road. We made pretty good timing, and made it home in about an hour and a half. But, when I got home, I was ready to tell my dad all about our adventures for the day. We watched the episode back on TV, to see if it sounded different or if we could spot ourselves, and we did! I was so happy and so tired, and found myself replaying all of the amazing moments in my mind the rest of the night.

Here's a short video that documented a few moments of the day :) Hope you enjoyed!

That's all for now,

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