Tag Archives: american idol

Queens woman makes it to American Idol semifinals

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook.com/tennatorresmusic


She was one of our own before she made her way to Vegas as one of American Idol’s semifinalists for Season 12.

Tenna Torres, 28, is from Jamaica, Queens and worked as a promotional model before Idol.

According to her Facebook artist page, the pop singer and song writer is currently not signed with any record label, but that may change soon.

One dream, however, already came true for Torres when she auditioned for her musical idol, Mariah Carey, one of the season 12 judges.

“I’ve been listening to Carey since I was five years old,” she said in her pre-audition introduction. She even went to Camp Mariah and sang for her when she was 13, which Carey instantly remembered as she looked through Torres’ pictures.

Belting out “You’ve Got A Friend” by Carole King, Torres not only impressed Carey with her singing skills, but the other judges too, including fellow Queens native Nicki Minaj, and was unanimously voted through to the next round.




Pia Toscano helps Howard Beach recover

| tcimino@queenscourier.com

From 3,000 miles away, Pia Toscano watched and worried.

The “American Idol” finalist, now living in Los Angeles, saw news coverage of the destruction Sandy wreaked on Queens, and hoped and prayed that her family and friends in Howard Beach were safe, especially since she couldn’t get in touch with them.

“I grew up there, my whole family lives there,” she told The Courier. “It’s heartbreaking to see them go through this.”

And though she said her family was lucky, suffering only limited damage and nearly two weeks with no power, photos of Sandy’s wrath made her feel “helpless.”

So she came back home to pitch in.

On Tuesday, November 13, Toscano was at Father Dooley Hall, which has become a collection/donation site, to bring food, supplies – and a warm smile.

“It is beautiful to see the community come together to help out,” she said. “There is clothing, supplies, people are cooking. I wish there was more I could do. I really wanted to boost morale.”

Of the long road to recovery, Toscano is touched by everyone’s efforts and encourages the good will to keep coming.

“I urge everyone to keep a smile on their face and keep donating,” she said. “Anything is appreciated.”

She herself will continue to give back to those whose lives were touched by Sandy – even from across the country.

“I am releasing a song I recorded with Jared Lee [fellow “American Idol” alum], a cover of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You,’ and all proceeds will go to Sandy victims.”

To purchase the song click here.

Queens Morning Roundup

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Friday: Sunny, with a high near 82. West wind 5 to 8 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 67. Southwest wind 6 to 8 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: A Night of Traditional Irish Music

Performers include John Munnelly, an award-winning songwriter and musician specializing in up-tempo, honest, often raw, uncensored songs, and Michael Brunnock, who is known for clear crispness and clipped tones, arranged melodies and a heart-filled soul. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Queens couple accused of shaking their baby to death want trial, reject plea deal

A Queens couple accused of shaking their infant daughter to death rejected a plea bargain this morning, saying though their lawyer that they “look forward” to going to trial. Hang Bin Li, 28, and his common-law wife Ying Li, 23, were arrested months after their daughter, Annie, died in October 2007 from brain damage which doctors say were sustained from Shaken Baby Syndrome. Read more: NY Post

Cancer-stricken woman, 28, fights for right to die

The parents of a terminally ill New York City woman are waging a court battle over whether to keep her on life support. A brain-stem tumor has paralyzed 28-year-old Grace Sung Eun Lee from the neck down, and she depends on a tube to eat and one to breathe. Read more: NBC NY

Carey beefs up security after Nicki Minaj allegedly threatens to ‘shoot’ her

When did “American Idol” become “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”? Singer Mariah Carey today said she has beefed up her personal security after fellow-judge Nicki Minaj allegedly threatened to shoot her at an “Idol” audition this week in Charlotte, N.C. And Minaj immediately jumped on Twitter to mock Carey for keeping the incident alive. Read more: NY Post

NHL cancels first two weeks of regular season

As a result of its ongoing player lockout, the National Hockey League is canceling regular-season games through October 24, the league announced Thursday. The season was scheduled to start October 11, but recent meetings between representatives for the players union and the NHL have failed to produce a collective bargaining agreement. Read more: CNN

Louis Armstrong House Museum hires the historic site’s first curator

The Louis Armstrong House Museum has named its first curator for the famous jazzman’s Corona home, museum officials announced this week. David Reese formerly worked as curator for Gracie Mansion under four different New York City mayors from Ed Koch to Mayor Bloomberg. Read more: Daily News

Queens Morning Roundup

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Thursday: Areas of drizzle before 10 a.m., then a chance of showers between 10 a.m. and noon, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after noon. Areas of fog before 10 a.m. Otherwise, cloudy, with a high near 81. East wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible. Thursday night: Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly clear, with a low around 64. Northwest wind around 8 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Play By Ear

Mime Rob List combines anti-conceptual movement, dance and song to connect to his audience in a direct, modest and intimate way. Play By Ear strives to create a magical event without trickery and to let the work and the moment speak for themselves. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Obama and Romney, in First Debate, Spar Over Fixing the Economy

Mitt Romney on Wednesday accused President Obama of failing to lead the country out of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, using the first presidential debate to invigorate his candidacy by presenting himself as an equal who can solve problems Mr. Obama has been unable to. Read more: NY Times

Endorsements, cash flow in 15th District Senate race

Things are heating up in one of the most contentious state races in Queens this fall. Councilmember Eric Ulrich topped the list of those required to file a 10 Day Post Primary Campaign Disclosure Report with a war chest that boasted six-figures. Read more: Queens Courier

Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey’s fight during ‘American Idol’ auditions got ‘intense,’ says host Ryan Seacrest

Tuesday night’s shrieking smackdown between “American Idol” judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey will be great for the aging show, says host Ryan Seacrest. Minaj, a wig-wearing wacko rap superstar and Carey, a notoriously difficult diva, blew their stacks at each other when they disagreed about a contestant during “Idol” audtions in Charlotte, N.C. Read more: Daily News

Gotti at GOP fundraiser whips up interest in Queens state senate race

Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio may not be a “connected guy,” but his association with a member of the Gambino crime family is leading to unexpected attention in his long-shot bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Queens Senator Michael Gianaris. “From a purely selfish perspective, I thank you and all the press for all the attention you’re finally giving me. But I have been at this since March,” said Arcabascio. Read more: NY1

Bogus ‘no parking’ signs along 31st St. in Astoria linked to film production, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. charges

Bogus no parking signs popped up along a busy stretch of 31st St. in Astoria on Tuesday, the same day a TV comedy show was slated to begin filming there, prompting a local elected official to question who put up the signs. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the signs belong to them,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), whose office is on the affected street. “We have never seen these signs in the area and one day before filming this happens?” Read more: Daily News

Feds bust spy ring who smuggled ‘cutting-edge’ US technology to Russian military since 2008

A large-scale ring that for years allegedly illegally exported cutting-edge microelectronics through JFK Airport to Russian military and intelligence agencies has been busted up by federal authorities, officials announced today. The 11 defendants charged in an indictment unsealed today “spun an elaborate web of lies to evade the laws that protect our national security,” said Brooklyn US Attorney Loretta Lynch, whose office is prosecuting the case. Read more: NY Post

Queens native Nicki Minaj to join ‘American Idol’ as judge: report

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Phil Mcarten / FOX

Queens rapper Nicki Minaj will be joining the judges table on “American Idol” for the singing competition’s upcoming season, according to reports.

Sources confirmed to “Us Weekly” that the “Super Bass” singer will take one of the spots vacated when Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler announced their departure prior to the popular show’s 12th season.

“I’m not sure the deal is completely done yet, but yes, she is definitely doing it,” one source told the magazine.

The Young Money Entertainment artist from Jamaica performed her song “Starships” on the show last year.

Minaj — born Onika Tanya Maraj — was also rumored last year to be in the running for a judging position on Fox’s “The X Factor.”

Mariah Carey announced last month that she would be joining “Idol’s” judging panel.

The new season of “Idol” is set to premiere on Wednesday, January 18.


Recording studio showcases talent

| Phertling@queenscourier.com

Photo by Nathan West

Ears and Gears Studio in Astoria is a new hotbed for rock musicians and fans across New York City. Over the summer, the studio’s doors were open to the public for a live performance series that kicked off on June 30.

Devyn Rush, a contestant on “American Idol” Season 10, performed on opening night —a night that was full of excitement for Ears and Gears founder Mor Mezrich.

Mezrich, 32, founded the studio in early 2010 after moving to Queens the year before. Originally from Israel, Mezrich graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 2006, majoring in music production and engineering. After a few years of working in Los Angeles, Mezrich moved to New York and worked for Manhattans’ Avatar Studios. While there, he took a few months to brainstorm and finally decided it was time to start a studio of his own.

“I was very inspired by the musicians and the groups that I knew,” said Mezrich. “I felt like it was the time to do my own thing.”

Since opening, Mezrich has made it his goal to keep Ears and Gears a high quality studio that is economically feasible for his musicians.

“There’s a lot of great talent in New York City,” he said. “I just make sure that I make myself affordable to them.”

In an attempt to showcase local talent, Mezrich created the “Live at Ears and Gears” series this summer. Featured artists have been scheduled to perform once a month at the studio for an audience. Mezrich’s crew photographs and videotapes the artists while also recording the live performance.

Pauline Pisano, 29, performed at Ears and Gears on July 28 with her band, “I, Revere.” Pisano met Mezrich about two years ago, when both were working with a band called “Walking For Pennies.”
“It really helped us,” said Pisano. “We now have videos and live recordings of our songs.”
Bands such as I, Revere have really appreciated the opportunity to showcase their talent at Ears and Gears. The nights have been an enjoyment to all in attendance, as Pisano recalls the party-like atmosphere.

“Mor is really smart by capitalizing on this aspect,” said Pisano. “[He’s] making these house parties where you can listen to artists or get introduced to new artists.”

The emergence of the Ears and Gears Studio is running parallel with the widespread of talent occurring in Queens, and especially in Astoria, according to Pisano.

“Astoria has a huge budding rock scene,” she said. “It’s really good for any musician in the city.”
Mezrich can only hope that the buzz keeps buzzing, and that the good times keep rolling.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Mezrich. “It’s a great way to celebrate the Astoria music scene that’s really thriving.”

I, Revere will be releasing “The Lure of a New Harbor” EP later this year at the Ears and Gears Studio. The next live performance will take place on August 25, featuring country crossover artist Kerri Leigh. All events are RSVP only.


Heejun Han to tour with “American Idol” this summer

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Michael Becker / FOX

Fans clamoring for more Heejun Han, will have the chance when the “American Idol” tour rolls through New York this summer.

The “American Idol Live” concert tour — featuring the show’s top 10 performers — lands at Nassau Coliseum on August 22.

Han, a graduate of Francis Lewis High School, will be among Colton Dixon, DeAndre Brackensick, Elise Testone, Erika Van Pelt, Hollie Cavanagh, Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips and Skylar Laine on the Uniondale stage.

The 45-city tour kicks off on July 6 in Detroit and lasts through September 11 when it finishes in Milwaukee.

The Flushing resident was sent home from “Idol” on March 29 after reaching the show’s top 9.

Season 11’s “American Idol” will be named on May 24.

To purchase tickets fans can visit ticketmaster.com.


James Durbin Goes From American Idol To Rock Star

| choahing@queenscourier.com


At this time last year, singer James Durbin was bravely competing on one of TV’s top shows—American Idol. The country anxiously watched as the charming and talented young man from Santa Cruz, Calif., who has both Tourette’s and Asperger’s syndromes, proved that a rocker can make it to the finals on Idol. Durbin wound up finishing Season 10’s contest in fourth place and, today, he has a well-received album out, a tour in the works and a new bride!

Durbin’s debut, Memories of a Beautiful Disaster, came out in November, only a few short months after his stint on American Idol and the brand’s summer tour. With 11 hard rocking tracks displaying the 23-year-old’s powerful vocals and some big name songwriters and studio musicians (plus one special guest), it’s no wonder that Revolvermagazine nominated Durbin for Best Vocalist at their Golden Gods Award Show and that People magazine gave the album three out of four stars.

While the album’s first and last songs—the heavy “Higher Than Heaven” and the anthemic first single “Stand Up” (which was widely used by the NFL this past season)—may be its best, there’s no filler in-between. Other standouts include an epic ballad about the death of a loved one (“May”), a fun song to sing along to about the not-so-fun topic of bullying (“Screaming”) and a mid-tempo number about a relationship gone sour (second single “Love Me Bad”).

Aspire chatted with Durbin in late January to get the scoop on his red-hot career and happy home life…

Where did the album’s title, Memories of a Beautiful Disaster, come from?

JAMES DURBIN: I knew that I wanted to do “memories” of something, I just didn’t know what. So, after a long time wracking my brain, “beautiful disaster” just popped in my head. It had kind of a dark elegance to it.

Are you the “beautiful disaster”?

JD: I think I’m the disaster. It’s, basically, about looking back on moments of my life that, at one point, I thought were disasters. But to look at them now and see the beauty in the pain, it made me who I am today and I never want to change that.

You worked with Season 7 American Idol winner David Cook on the song “Screaming.” Were you a fan?

JD: I thought he was really great at what he did on Idol. I was in New York and knew that I’d be writing and, randomly, he was at the studio at the same time. It wasn’t really planned—he was there and I was there.

On the cut “Outcast,” you worked with your favorite band, Hardcore Superstar. Who are they and how did you get them in your corner?

JD: Hardcore Superstar is a band from Sweden and they have been my favorite band for the past couple of years. They created their own subgenre called street metal, which is merging both grunge and hair metal—two genres that pretty much hated each other at the time because they canceled out each other. It just really worked and it’s a really great sound. [When I started making my album], I wouldn’t shut up about them and kept begging my team to get in touch with them. We finally got through and I was able to get on the phone with those guys and talk to them and tell them what I was thinking as far as what kind of song [I wanted to write with them]—a mixture of [David] Bowie and [Hardcore Superstar songs] “Hope for a Normal Life” and “Dreamin’ in a Casket.” They sent a couple of songs, one of which, “Outcast,” ended up making the record. And we got Mick Mars from Mötley Crüe to play guitar on that song.

How cool was it working with the legendary Mick Mars?

JD: Mick is a real class act—a really nice, kind guy!

You co-wrote five of the songs on the album. Do you feel weird singing songs that you didn’t pen?

JD: Sometimes I do. But, lately, I’ve been able to switch them up a little bit live and make them more personal for me by singing them a little differently than the way they were written so I get my own satisfaction out of it.

You’ve already made music videos for the songs “Stand Up” and “Love Me Bad”—do you enjoy that process?

JD: Music videos are a lot of fun to make. I’d love to make a video for every song!

What made you ink a deal with Wind-Up Records as opposed to another label?

JD: We had another offer, but it just really wasn’t what I wanted—it wasn’t right at all and I knew we could get something better. We found Wind-Up and met with them when I was in New York. I hadn’t signed anything and, a couple of days later, they just called me to see how I was doing. They didn’t have to do that. It really meant a lot to me that they would call to check in on me and see how I was doing, not to talk business.

When you first auditioned for American Idol, were you worried about doing the rock thing since there haven’t been many rockers who’ve made it from the show?

JD: No, I wasn’t worried about it at all. I was really looking forward to it.

Do you think having Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler as a judge helped you out more in your Idol journey?

JD: I think, at first, I may have thought that, but Steven was very non-biased with me and I think it was because of that reason.

Have you remained friends with any of the other contestants from Idol?

JD: Yeah, I’m still in touch with a couple of them. Stefano [Langone], Casey [Abrams] and Hayley [Reinhart] were at my wedding. I talked to Scotty [McCreery] yesterday and Paul [McDonald] a few days ago.

Speaking of your New Year’s Eve wedding, how is life with your new bride, Heidi?

JD: Married life’s treating me really good. I’m just taking it one step at a time. There’s a lot to be grateful for so I don’t want to miss any of it.

At your wedding reception, you sang Queensrÿche’s “Take Hold of the Flame” with the band’s lead singer Geoff Tate.

JD: I had no clue that he was going to be there! It was pretty cool—and really weird. Geoff’s really cool!

Does your 2-year-old son Hunter have any musical aspirations?

JD: He loves to sing my songs. And he can’t play guitar without a pick. So there’s definitely something there.

What are your concerts like?

JD: We just came off two really good shows—intensity in two cities! That was a lot of fun. We, basically, played the whole album minus three songs.

“May” is probably hard to play live.

JD: Yeah, definitely. I’ve done it twice and it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to happen both times…but what can you do?

Who plays in your backup band?

JD: My lead guitarist Dylan [Rose] and my bass player Tyler [Molinaro] I’ve known for quite a while. They were both in local bands: Dylan being in a metal band called Archer and Tyler being in a now-defunct hair metal band called Dirty Penny. I knew that I wanted them to be in my band so I gave them a call and they were totally down. We had closed auditions and found Jeff [Fabb] and Blake [Bunzel] who were both in In This Moment. They were both there on the same day, randomly enough, without the other knowing. I picked them to be in the band and they quit their other band.

Tell us about the charity work you are doing with WWE.

JD: I just started with their “Be A Star” anti-bullying campaign. The tagline is: “Don’t be a bully, be a star.” I was bullied throughout elementary, middle and high school and pro-wrestling was one of my escapes other than music. It’s something I’m really happy and honored to be a part of. I just recorded a PSA [Public Service Announcement] for them and I get to go into a couple of schools in March with some of the WWE superstars to talk about bullying. I’m really excited to be a part of it!

For more information on James Durbin, visit his website: DurbinRock.com.

Heejun Han sent home on ‘American Idol’

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Phil Mcarten / FOX

For the second straight week, Heejun Han found himself in American Idol’s bottom three. This time though, neither viewer votes, nor the judges were able to save him.

Han was joined in the bottom three last night by Skylar Laine and Hollie Cavanagh, but it was Han whose Idol dreams were ended.

After host Ryan Seacrest announced that Han received the least votes, Steven Tyler informed the 22-year-old that the judges would not be using their one save on him.

After the show Jennifer Lopez consoled Han, saying she wanted to save him, but couldn’t.

Han advanced as far as fellow Queens crooner Pia Toscano made it last year. Both finished in ninth place in the singing competition.

In his Idol exit interview, Han said he felt surprisingly upbeat.

“I feel great actually,” the Flushing-native said, “This is not as bad as I thought it would be. I feel like I showed what I got and I finished with a high note.”

Han’s performance of “A Song For You” on Wednesday night’s show drew a standing ovation and praise from the judges.

“Finally the Heejun that we selected came back to us tonight,” Randy Jackson said. “Welcome back.”

“It was my first time getting a standing anything and it happened to be Steven, Randy and Jennifer, so it was an awesome experience.” Han said.

One aspect of the show that he said he will miss though is the stage and everyone cheering for him.

“Stay crazy, stay humble and stay with me. It’s only going to get crazier,” Han tweeted after last night’s show.

By making it to the top ten, Han guaranteed his spot on the Idol concert tour that will kick off this summer.

Heejun Han receives standing ovation from judges on ‘American Idol’

| brennison@queenscourier.com


A week after the American Idol judges were on Heejun Han’s back for not taking the competition seriously, the Flushing-native had them on their feet with his rendition of “A Song For You.”

The top 9 Idols performed songs from their personal musical icons with Han choosing the Donny Hathaway classic.

The song, which was a complete departure from last week’s jokey performance, displayed the Queens crooner’s capabilities and earned a standing ovation from the judges.

“Hee-man you did it, you turned it around,” Steven Tyler said.

Last week’s playful performance was a result of Han not knowing how well he can sing, the Aerosmith frontman said.


“That is the most beautiful tone,” said Jennifer Lopez. “When you connect and you really sing to us, you move people.”

Veteran judge Randy Jackson was just glad to have the old Han back.

“Finally the Heejun that we selected came back to us tonight,” Jackson said. “Welcome back.”

After the show Han tweeted that “A Song For You” was for his fans.

“Thank you all so much. What a life,” wrote Han. “It was [a] song for you guys.”

Tonight on Idol the viewer votes will reveal who will be sent home and who will advance to the show’s top 8 at 8 p.m. on Fox 5.


Francis Lewis supports its ‘Idol’ Heejun Han

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Heejun Han's Yearbook Photo From His Years At Francis Lewis High

Heejun Han can count on his alma mater to keep him in the running in one of the biggest singing competitions in the nation.

The 22-year-old “American Idol” contestant from Flushing survived to advance to the show’s top nine last week, although not without landing in the bottom three for the first time this season.

Now, it’s up to Francis Lewis High School — where Han graduated in 2007 — to secure his seat to the end.

“There’s a lot of energy inside the school. We want him to win because he’s one of us,” said junior Nina Pierre.

An electronic display board outside the Fresh Meadows school reads “Congratulations To Heejun Han. Class of 2007. American Idol Finalist!” And every day — during second and ninth period — Pierre said the school gets on the loudspeaker to announce Han’s progress.

“We make sure to tell everyone to watch and vote and make him the next American Idol,” said Principal Musa Ali Shama. “We’re all very excited about this whole thing. It’s a great community item to share. A student from our school is on ‘American Idol.’ We’re really having fun with it.”

Alumnus Vincenzo Fiorito said he and Han were teammates on the school’s varsity soccer team — and they often shared a bench together.

“We both sucked at soccer, but he was a funny kid,” Fiorito said.

Although the superstar now sings weekly for an audience of millions, school officials said he was not involved in musical programs, and he never took part in a school play.

Richard Hyman, a music teacher at Francis Lewis and head of the school’s chorus and choir teams, said Han took one college-level music theory course with him, but it involved no vocal performances.

“I had no idea he could sing,” Fiorito said.

Han told the Courier last week that he only auditioned for the show as a means to propagate his organization — a group called Milal that assists special needs children. He told judges during his audition that he had never received professional vocal training, and that singing was only a mere hobby.

“That makes me feel more confident about my singing because if he could do it, I could do it too,” Pierre said.

Other students at the school said they were feeling the Heejun Han hysteria.

“It’s pretty cool that someone from our school could actually be representing us on such a big thing like ‘American Idol.’ It really shows Francis Lewis off,” said junior Naib Chowdhury, who said he casts a vote for Han each week. “Hopefully, he gets to the top. He can count on my vote.”

Han has now advanced as far as last year’s Queens contestant, Pia Toscano.

The top nine will perform again on Wednesday, March 28 at 8 p.m. on Fox 5.

Check back with www.queenscourier.com to see if he made it to next round.


— With additional reporting by Billy Rennison and Alexa Altman

Heejun Han survives the bottom three on American Idol

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Michael Becker / FOX

Queens’ Heejun Han found himself in American Idol’s bottom three vote getters for the first time this season, but survived to advance to the show’s top 9 and keep his Idol dream alive.

Han was joined by DeAndre Brackensick and Erika Van Pelt as the bottom three vote getters with Van Pelt being sent home.

After being saved Han tweeted to his followers, “Thank you so much for giving me another chance.”

Han has now advanced as far as fellow Queens crooner Pia Toscano made it on last year’s show.

This week, the Idol top 10 tackled the songs of Billy Joel. Han previously performed Joel’s “New York State of Mind” last month in his final performance before the judges chose the top 24 semifinalists.

This time, the Flushing-native sang “My Life,” but not before starting with something “much too slow.”

Han entered the stage in a tuxedo seemingly to perform a ballad, but as the piano began, Han ripped off his tuxedo and requested something he could dance to.

In a seeming preemptive to the judge’s criticism, Han sang “I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life,” during his “My Life” performance.

“I love that you brought a little fun to tonight, that was a breath of fresh air,” said Jennifer Lopez, but added that she did not think he hit the vocal as well as he can.

Steven Tyler told Han he has to take his singing a little more seriously.

“There were still some vocal problems, but as much as you were entertaining I was just happy to see you have a good time,” Jackson said. “We’ve become to know you as a funny dude. I loved that part of it.”

The top 9 will perform again next Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Fox 5.


Heejun Han performs Billy Joel’s “My Life” on American Idol

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Michael Becker / FOX

Queens’ Heejun Han lit up the American Idol stage with the bright personality he has become known for, though the judges felt his vocals were lacking luster.

This week, the Idol top 10 tackled the songs of Billy Joel. Han previously performed Joel’s “New York State of Mind” last month in his final performance before the judges chose the top 24 semifinalists.


This time, the Flushing-native sang “My Life,” but not before starting with something “much too slow.”

Han entered the stage in a tuxedo seemingly to perform a ballad, but as the piano began, he ripped off his tuxedo and requested something he could dance to.

In a seeming preemptive to the judge’s criticism, Han sang “I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life,” during his “My Life” performance.

“I love that you brought a little fun to tonight, that was a breath of fresh air,” said Jennifer Lopez, but added that she did not think he hit the vocal as well as he can.

Steven Tyler told Han he has to take his singing a little more seriously.

“There were still some vocal problems, but as much as you were entertaining I was just happy to see you have a good time,” Jackson said. “We’ve become to know you as a funny dud. I loved that part of it.”

Viewer votes will choose the Idol hopeful who will be sent home tonight on Fox 5 at 8 p.m.


The Accidental Idol: Heejun Han talks with The Courier

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Michael Becker / FOX

Heejun Han landed in “American Idol’s” Top Ten by accident. The 22-year-old from Flushing auditioned for the show as a means to propagate his organization – a group called Milal that assists special needs children. He sought to spread the word, hopefully help the kids he adored. He never thought music, something previously regarded as merely a hobby, would become his life.

He now sings weekly for an audience of millions.

Originally from Korea, Han moved to Queens with his family when he was 12. As a kid, he performed songs in front of his parents and practiced singing in the bathroom, but never received any professional vocal training.

Han’s musical influences include a lineup of legendary balladeers — Michael Bolton, Billy Joel and Michael McDonald. For his first “American Idol” audition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Han sang Michael Bolton’s version of “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” – a performance so moving, it brought Jennifer Lopez to tears.

As he advances to the semi-finals, Han is beginning to feel the pressure. The show keeps its contenders on a rigid schedule. Training sessions consume a majority of their time, strengthening participants’ voices and practicing their song for the following week with mentors and coaches. Han says the contestants do not interact with the show’s three judges — Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson — outside of the few minutes following their performances, when the officials offer their critiques.

Han says the biggest challenge of competing on “American Idol” is holding your ground and remembering yourself in the spotlight.

“It’s hard to know yourself and not act like a star,” said Han. “The circumstances can make you bigheaded. You need to just focus on who you are.”

Regardless of how he wound up a semi-finalist on “American Idol,” Han is ecstatic.

“When I tried out, it was to help my organization at home,” said Han. “Now, I’m in a position where I can help a lot of people. The fact that I get to do stuff for other people, it’s amazing.”

“American Idol” airs Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on Fox 5.


Heejun Han performs “Right Here Waiting” on American Idol

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Carin Baer / FOX.

After American Idol’s dozen finalists were narrowed down to 11 before the show even began, Heejun Han took the stage to mixed review from the judges.

Host Ryan Seacrest opened the show by announcing that “with the cooperation of law enforcement we discovered information that left us with no choice but to eliminate one of our finalists from the competition.”

The unnamed finalist that was disqualified was Jermaine Jones, one of the three wildcards chosen by the judges to advance to the top 13.

The remaining contestants performed songs that debuted in the year they were born.

The 22-year-old Han sang the 1989 Richard Marx ballad “Right Here Waiting.”

“Dude, for me, I didn’t really enjoy this at all. It was pitchy all over the place,” said judge Randy Jackson to boos from the crowd.

Jackson said he felt it was the wrong song choice and that Han is usually better than what he showed last night.

Steven Tyler agreed that Han didn’t choose the right tune to perform.

“You stepped far outside your circle to do this. It wasn’t a great song for you,” Tyler said before adding that he loves Han’s voice no matter what.

Jennifer Lopez was the most impressed of the three with the Flushing native’s performance.

“I could tell you were struggling with the song a little bit, but then for me I felt like you started fighting through that a little bit more and going for it towards the end and it got really beautiful for me,” Lopez said. “I felt your heart in the song.”

The viewer’s votes will be revealed tonight on American Idol at 8 p.m. on Fox 5. Tune in to see if Han survives to advance to the show’s top 10.