'Idol' finalist from 2008 here Tuesday to judge 'All-Campus Idol'

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Posted by simon on April 20, 2009 at 12:47:25:

'Idol' finalist from 2008 here Tuesday to judge 'All-Campus Idol'

by Katjusa Cisar April 20, 2009

The last (and first) time "American Idol" finalist Michael Johns was in Wisconsin, he and David Cook sang a show in Green Bay wearing cheesehead hats.

He'll be back on Tuesday evening -- minus Cook -- at the Overture Center downtown to judge All-Campus Idol, one of the headlining events this week at UW-Madison's All-Campus Party. It's co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Alumni Association and the Blair Beinhaker Friendship Foundation.

Johns, an Australian native now living in California, wowed judges with his soulful interpretations of Otis Redding and Queen last year during the seventh season of the television show, but ultimately came in eighth place behind winner David Cook and runners-up like David Archuleta and Brooke White. His elimination was a surprise to many, and his fans keep a well-run and often-updated website.

Last week, Johns spoke with 77 Square about the show, the paradigm shift in the music industry and what he'll be looking for on Tuesday in the All-Campus Idol hopefuls.

What's your earliest musical memory?

I remember sitting on my mum's lap when I was about five or six and listening to Sam Cooke. And there was that song called, uh, remember that song, like, [sings] "Don't know much about history, don't know much about philosophy. But I do know that I love you..." It's called "Wonderful World." I remember my mum bouncing me on her knee and listening to Sam Cooke.

Do you watch "American Idol" religiously?

No, not this year. I mean, it's weird for us, and all of us feel this way: you still feel like you're there when you're watching what these kids are going through. It's still a little fresh for us. Your stomach turns a little. We watch it and then we have to turn it off and then we want to watch it again. It's so weird.

What do you think of this season's line-up of "American Idol"?

The show's getting better and better by the week, in my opinion. They saved Matt Giraud last night, and I think it was well deserved. The next six weeks or so are going to be really, really interesting.

Do you have any favorites so far?

I think Allison's great -- I love her, regardless of what happens on the show. I think Adam (Lambert)'s very interesting. A bunch of them have great voices, and it's just now in the last couple weeks that they're starting to find themselves at artists. So I'm reserved on judgment of who can win the thing.

Do you vote?

No. And that's the worst thing! People go, "Oh my God, you were voted off too soon!" And I go, "Well, did you vote for me?" "No. But we really loved you!" Well now, I got kicked off. The only people I voted for -- and I watched six seasons before my season -- and I think I voted for Kelly and maybe two other people. Like, once. Not 2000 times. That's what's funny about American Idol, especially on my season. (David) Archuleta and (Jason) Castro and bunch of other guys -- they got those teenyboppers voting for them hundreds of times a night. And then the people that liked myself and Cook, maybe Carly and Brooke -- "Yeah, we voted for you one or two times."

What do you think of the Kara DioGuardi, the new judge?

Oh, Kara's great. As a talent and what she does in the music industry, I mean, she's in the upper echelon. For the show, I don't know. I mean, people have been saying it's been running a little slow this year. Four judges is a lot to get through -- and it's nothing against Kara and what she has to say because I think she's absolutely someone you want to listen to. But four comments is a lot, and that takes another couple of minutes out of the show. A couple of minutes is a performance! But if Kara had advice for me, I'd listen any second.

What will you be looking for in the contestants on Tuesday?

I'm looking for people who can sing from the heart and, you know, can really hold a note.

How do you know when someone's singing from the heart?

You know. That's the one thing that you can't put your finger on. Why do I like this person? It's usually because they're baring their soul up there when they sing.

What's the advantage of doing a competition like American Idol over the traditional route a young musician might take to getting themselves out there and getting known?

Well, I did it for 10 years and the traditional route is almost nonexistent anymore. And it sucks. The game's changed. There's so much to do now. On a Friday night, do you want to go to a movie, do you want to go bowling, to a club? There's so many things to choose from. Think about how many shows are on TV. It's overabundance. I think the reason "Idol" is so massive is because they've gone out and found talent -- they've found the Kelly Clarksons and the Ruban Studdards and the Clay Aikens and the David Cooks that labels wouldn't sign or would never have even known about. It just goes to show that America really wants a good singer's skill but is not necessarily getting it because the labels aren't signing it.

So, where is the new game taking us?

Well, the beautiful thing is that technology has gotten so amazing. Young bands now don't need major labels. They can actually go and do it with Myspace and Facebook and Twitter and get their stuff out there. I think a full paradigm shift is going to happen, and (the power) is going to come back into the artists' hands. People still want music, it's just how they get it. It's one of the most exciting times in music of all time.

What website do you visit the most?

"What Would Tyler Durden Do?" It's wwtdd.com. I love the way he writes. They have great celebrity gossip. I do that and the Huffington Post. They're about as far apart as you can get, lowbrow and highbrow. I mean, Arianna Huffington is one of the most genius people -- she is just amazing to me, everything she says.



All-Campus Idol

Tuesday, April 21, 7 to 9 p.m.

Overture Center, 201 State St.

Free and open to the public

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