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‘Idol’ vets offer advice to the hopeful

‘Be yourself,’ says Carrie; and no theater songs, adds Paris
/ Source: The Associated Press

The sharpest advice columnists might be stumped, even sage Dr. Phil. But past “American Idol” finalists know what to tell those yearning to follow them to stardom.

“Be yourself and pick songs that make you stand out,” advises Carrie Underwood.

“Be yourself and sing like it’s your last time singing,” counsels Fantasia Barrino.

“Be you,” suggests Paris Bennett. “And no theater songs. Boring.”

Be realistic about your talent, says Katherine McPhee: “Don’t sing Etta James’ ‘At Last.’”

And for those taking part in the nationwide season six contestant search, which was to begin Tuesday in Southern California, here’s a practical tip from Bucky Covington: “Plan to go to two cities. A lot of good people get cut in the first round.”

OK, so a key step is, obviously, no faking it. Know thyself, as Plato told us, and then be thyself, as Underwood et al. instruct.

In song terms, think “I’ve Got to Be Me” — but don’t actually sing the Broadway tune made famous by Sammy Davis Jr. Theater songs are boring, remember?

That’s all well and good, but there must be more to making it with “American Idol.”

There is, said Constantine Maroulis, the fifth-season heartthrob who took a break from his current East Coast tour (and preparing for his upcoming album) to amplify.

“First and foremost, act like a professional” in the audition, Maroulis said. “Not that you know it all but you’re someone who can be trusted, as in any other job interview — because, basically, that’s what it comes down to and that’s what it is.”

Pick a song with a great lyric “you can connect to emotionally, that you can tell a great story with,” with a strong bridge and chorus, he said.

If you get on the show, focus on your own talent and don’t worry about competing with the others. In fact, it’s “definitely healthy” to make friends with your competition, and not just to find new pals, said the New Yorker.

“You never know who these people are going to become one day. Just because they didn’t make it on ’American Idol’ doesn’t mean you’re any better than them. They might be a huge casting director down the line, a huge songwriter down the line.”

And have fun, but not too much.

“It’s so easy to fall into the party boy, party girl mode ... but you have to be responsible and you have to be a role model,” he said, noting that as he spoke, a small crowd of youngsters was hovering nearby for pre-concert photos and autographs in Dewey Beach, Del.

Finally, he said, remember that your newfound fame likely comes with a sell-by date.

“There’s going to be a huge buzz when you’re on ’American Idol’ and shortly when you get off it, and then there will be a quiet time. And for 99.9 percent of the people, it will remain quiet. They’re not going on to great things. That’s just a fact, Jack.”