Editor's Note: Season nine American Idol alum Didi Benami, whose unforgettable rendition of "Terrified" we recently ranked among the show's 10 Best Hollywood Week Performances Ever, blogged exclusively for E! Online about the ladies' round of Hollywood Week, which kicked off Wednesday night. Read on for her reactions and behind-the-scenes insight!
Oh, Hollywood Week, aka "Hell Week"—one of the most intense experiences a contestant goes through to stand out in a crowd of over 100 singers with the same dream. This year, they twisted things up and pit the girls against each other and boys against boys. Not only that but the producers assigned people to groups rather than having them pick their own like in recent years. So did they separate boys and girls because they think that girls would have more drama without guys present? Possibly? Do people tend to be more dramatic around those of the same sex? Maybe you should help me answer that question...I want to know what you think.
I wonder, how did they group them—by vocal ability, by style, by personalities? And by personalities, I mean did they put the craziest people all together to cause the most drama? I will definitely say there were some awkward moments and groups that were painful to watch, like Daysia's group that sang Gotye. Was there a girl salsa dancing to Gotye?? OK, well I guess she was being herself and kudos to her. But maybe she should've asked the rest of the group what they were doing because it just looked so out of place. Not only was the singing unbearable, but so was her attitude after she got eliminated.
Truth is, pretty much everybody loses their voice by the end of the week, due to such little sleep and constant singing. So you have got to watch it, and good luck to anyone that is not watching their vocal chords from day one (hello, Kez Ban!). Hollywood Week is where you have to show your best moves, prove what you are made of, keep a positive attitude and have your first memorable moment, but most importantly, be yourself and shine as you are. It's insane, and it's just the beginning.
One of the vocal coaches, Michael Orland, was a favorite of mine. I worked with him back when I was on the show, and the best advice I can give is, you gotta listen to the vocal coaches! They are there to help you! They've been doing this for years. If they are telling you something, you should probably listen.
With that said, I was really impressed with several girls this year. Some of the best I've seen, and who I would pick to go far this year, are Angela Miller, Janelle Arthur, Candice Glover and Cristabel Clack.
Cristabel has this Pink sort of vibe to her (and I love Pink). I love Cristabel's tone. There's something special there for sure. Janelle has a very smooth, controlled and beautiful country tone. And Candice is a natural. Love her voice.
One of my favorites from the audition rounds was Seretha Guinn, and I was really upset when her group song was not really great and she got cut. Sad to see such an inspirational lady get cut, but I do wish her all the best, and I hope this year turns out well for her and her family.
Honorable mention goes to Brandy Neely, who got cut but had such a great attitude. I do hope to see her try again next year. She was a class act.
Zoanette is a riot. What a hoot! There's something about her I can't really explain but love to watch. She is fascinating, and her tone makes me think of Macy Gray a little bit.
Best Overall Group Performance: The Swagettes, "Hit 'Em Up Style." That was great.
No one said it would be easy, but I hope these kids made some good friends during Hollywood Week. I know I have some great memories from mine. I met some of my lifelong friends there, like Crystal Bowersox and Katie Stevens. I remember singing right next to Crystal during the "sudden death" round, and she was so good that she got a standing ovation from the contestants waiting to audition. That made me so incredibly nervous to sing after her. But I did it, and thereafter came "Terrified." I just knew it was do or die. I was legitimately terrified.
I remember group night was the toughest round, and it was really intimidating to see Siobhan Magnus and Todrick Hall's group kill it every time they rehearsed Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." I also remember I ripped a giant hole in my original pink tights I was supposed to wear to sing "Terrified" so I had my best friend come pick me up (bless you, Joel) to scurry around Hollywood the day before the show and find a new pair. There was so much excitement and nerves, but it was really, really fun.
Keith Urban said he'd love to see a girl win this year. I agree, and I think with this kind of talent, they definitely have a shot! C'mon, girls!
Didi's currently working on her first album, which you can learn more about by following her on Twitter @didibenami, visiting her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/dbenamiai9) or checking out her website, www.officialdidibenami.com. Her debut single, "Gasoline," is available now on iTunes and Amazon.