The single biggest shock of the entire American Idol series came in season 2. (That was ten years ago!) In the Hollywood rounds, before the public got to vote - when the contestant first sings for the judges - Carmen Rasmusen was eliminated. She didn't even get onto the television broadcast of these rounds.
Strangely, she was brought back to perform in the Top 24 Wild Card night, along with a couple of other eliminated contestants - supposedly for demographic reasons. On this night, one performer was to be selected by America - that person ended up being Clay Aiken - and three were selected by the judges. When the performances were given.... well, Simon Cowell ripped her a new one. He very clearly called her "not good enough." Not. Good. Enough.
And the next night, when the choices were made? She was Simon's judge's choice. And no one was more surprised than she was.
I was quite happy. Carmen was, and remains to this day, my favorite Idol contestant ever. She was earnest, she was modest, and she took criticism well. Plus, she could sing, and she had a voice with an appealing vibrato. I don't think anyone has done more noble work with their Idol exposure.
She ended up in 6th place in Season 2. Sixth. America loved her. Utah (her home state) (she was a Mormon, yes) loved her a lot! Her vocal style clearly matured in her time on the show. She parlayed her vocal maturity and success on Idol into a modest music career. Here's one of her post-Idol singles. Now, tell me this isn't 1. radio-friendly and 2. an appealing, fun song!
By the way, Ms. Rasmusen Herbert, now a newspaper columnist, is not a fan of what Idol has become, although she calls Simon her favorite judge.
Here's one of my favorite performances of hers from Idol - her version of Blondie's "Call Me". I don't care what the judges say - I got it and I think she did it well.
And, because we like to feature these things on our blogs, here's Carmen singing Adele's little hit a couple of years ago. I still think this woman has a great voice!