Many believe Melinda Doolittle should've been named American Idol. But third place isn't shabby and the voice on this rising star means...

by Mischalova at

Wanna become the next Carrie Underwood? The latest Kelly Clarkson?

The chance to do so begins this Monday, as auditions for American Idol Season Seven kick off in San Diego. Before the latest batch of hopeful give their pipes a run-through, USA Today asked seven of last year's finalists to offer a few tips...

Jordin Sparks: Know that they're watching to see if you'll crack under pressure. Sing something nobody else is doing, because by the 10th time they've heard it, they're going to cut you off early, and you need all the time they give you. Smile. Dress nice, but not so nice. Maybe smart casual.

Blake Lewis: People have to realize it's a show, and producers want what's best for television. You're trying to get a job. You've got to be yourself and be confident. I didn't view it as television, so it was easy. You're not even singing a whole song. Just be true to yourself. There will always be other auditions.

Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis and other American Idols have advice for newcomers.

Melinda Doolittle: One of my friends did the whole audition with her eyes closed. She can sing beautifully, but she didn't connect with the judges. Even if you're nervous, look them in the eye. Sing a song you believe in, one that you can really sell. Capture their attention. They're looking for more than singing.

Phil Stacey: You've got to be real. The truth is, I would have left a better impression if I had done the music I wanted to do from the start rather than wait until I was comfortable. Blake went a long way because he was crystal clear about who he is.

Gina Glocksen: Don't get overwhelmed. It's going to be a long day. Don't sing Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston or Etta James. Make yourself be noticed without overdoing it. I remember this girl at the L.A. auditions who looked as if she didn't have a care in the world. She made it through.

Chris Sligh: Be comfortable. Have fun with it, and show some personality. Maybe tell a joke. I mean, three jokes got me to the top 10. Be original, be funny.

Haley Scarnato: Stay true to who you are, which is hard to do when you're on a TV show. Focus on the song and get caught up in that moment so you won't let everything else overwhelm you.

What, nothing from Antonella Barba? She must be too busy planning a major photo shoot with Amy Polumbo or something.

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by Mischalova at

With current depressing stories such as the killing spree of Chris Benoit and well, the life of Britney Spears, we're happy to focus on this positive piece of celebrity news:

Melinda Doolittle, this year's third-place finisher on American Idol, landed in Zambia Thursday for a four-day charitable excursion to help distribute bed nets provided through donations raised during the April 24-25 Idol Gives Back telethon.

As she partners with Malaria No More, Us Magazine reports that Doolittle, who calls her overseas travel "a lifelong dream," will work with First Lady Laura Bush to deliver the 500,000 nets.

In addition to her charitable efforts during the trip, Doolittle will also entertain locals with her version of "Amazing Grace." Many Idol fans believed this incredible singer should have won the title of Jordin Sparks back in May.

"I've been fortunate enough to travel internationally, but this is my first time to Africa," Doolittle said. "It was a lifelong dream for me to come to Africa and to sing with a children's choir - a dream I got to live out."

Through the Idol Gives Back initiative, $70 million was raised to benefit various national and international charities and, as Doolittle explains, a little bit goes a long way. She wants people to stop focusing on Simon Monjack for a moment and consider this cause.

"Just $10 buys a bed net, which can protect a family for up to five years," she says of one of the ways donations are used. "For the children of Africa, it can be the difference between life and death. I hope Idol fans begin to realize how easy it is to prevent malaria and how much of a difference even a small donation can make."

Amen, Melinda. Instead of searching for Antonella Barba nude pics or trying to beat box like Blake Lewis, viewers should take a look at the bigger picture sometimes.

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by Free Britney at

Learning that her journey on American Idol ended Wednesday night was the first time Melinda Doolittle had taken a breath in a really long time, the singer said yesterday.

"Knowing that I had made it this far and knowing that I was going to be able to sing from here on out without being judged and voted... it was just like this sigh of relief," Doolittle told Ryan Seacrest on his morning radio show. "Now I'm getting ready to sing just because I love it."

Idol Contender

The former backup singer called Seacrest's 102.7 KIIS FM show and told the host that she didn't feel any resentment after being voted off - despite receiving immense and consistent praise from the American Idol judges.

"Two amazing people are in the finale right now and I couldn't be more proud of them," Doolittle, 29, said, referring to next week's pair of finalists, Jordin Sparks, 17, and Blake Lewis, 25.

"Those are still my babies. I'm still their mama. I'm so proud about it and don't feel cheated at all. There are always opportunities out there to grab onto and to take a hold of so I'm just ready for that."

According to Doolittle, Simon Cowell may be prepared to help her find the right opportunity.

"Simon was especially supportive and said, 'I want to see you succeed,'" she said. "That means the world to me. It was great to hear last night."

The ousted American Idol hopeful admits the rigorous process of rehearsals, performances and getting judged on reality TV week after week was difficult.

"I felt like I was working so hard and when [the judges] would say good things I was so excited to hear it... it would put a look of shock on my face."

That isn't the only thing that shocked Melinda Doolittle, who said that the level of fame and recognition she has achieved so far also surprised her.

"Nothing could have prepared me for this. I knew that the show was huge. I did not know that it was this huge," she said. "The fact that it awarded such a big opportunity to me is just the most amazing thing ever."

In other Idol news, Petty Officer Third Class Phil Stacey has been given the go-ahead by the U.S. Navy to join this summer's American Idol tour.

"It is absolutely true," U.S. Navy spokesman Bob Anderson confirms. "They are working on the logistics right now: what he'll be paid, wear, stuff like that."

Stacey, a married father of two (his second child, McKayla, was born while he was trying out for American Idol), will join the top 10: Haley Scarnato, Sanjaya Malakar, Melinda Doolittle, Lakisha Jones, Blake Lewis, Gina Glocksen, Chris Richardson, Chris Sligh and Jordin Sparks as part of the American Idols Live! tour.

Sadly, Shyamali Malakar won't be there. At least not on stage. We think.

The nationwide tour kicks off July 6 in Sunrise, Fla., not far from Phil's Jacksonville home, and wraps up on September 22 in Manchester, N.H.

"I give the Navy all the props in the world," Stacey said the day after his elimination May 2.

"I have loved every moment in the Navy... to do my duty and be a part of what was happening in the war against terror. I don't have any plans of getting out early."

"The Navy is proud of him," adds Anderson. "He's done very well. We want the best for him."

So do we. We're looking forward to seeing Phil on tour. And seeing Jordin Sparks win it all next week. No offense to Blake Lewis, who's an awesome talent with a bright future, but the Gossip has made its choice. We hope you'll make the same one and vote Jordin Sparks!

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by Mischalova at

We've got two words for you, Melinda Doolittle:

Chris Daughtry.

An Idol Tradition

After last night's shocking ousting, the American Idol vocalist can find solace in the success of last year's surprising, early exit by Daughtry. The man has certainly found success since then.

In reality, though, were you that surprised when Ryan Seacrest sent Doolittle home to end the show? While one of the best singers this reality show has ever seen, it's evident by now that voters are looking for a lot more than mere range and talent.

They want Blake Lewis, his charm, style and beat boxing skills.

They want Jordin Sparks, her looks, charisma and and youthful innocence.

And they want to drive those that believe this is purely a singing competition, such as Simon Cowell, insane.

Fortunately, all types of American Idol viewers can be happy if Jordin wins. She has the look, personality and talent of a deserving winner. Vote for Sparks, folks, and we could easily have another Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood on our hands.

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by Mischalova at

The big news on American Idol last night wasn't that Sanjaya Malakar was finally shown the door.

It was the confiding whisper that Ryan Seacrest passed along to Melinda Doolittle while cameras were rolling. Did you miss it?

Seacrest

Apparently, Ryan was afraid that Mindy Doo wasn't an avid reader of The Hollywood Gossip and missed the day when Shana Wall insisted that the American Idol host was heterosexual. So Seacrest felt the need to remind the singing sensation last night.

No offense to Doolittle, but we're a little surprised Ryan didn't make this declaration to past contestants such as Alaina Alexander or Antonella Barba. They lacked Melinda's vocal talent, but made up for it in other, nude ways.

Anyway, we're gonna consult with Neil Patrick Harris to see if his gaydar detects whether or not Seacrest is lying here. We'll get back to you.

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by Mischalova at

Here's all you really need to know about Melinda Doolittle: She may be the best singer American Idol of all-time.

Sorry, Carrie Underwood, but just take a listen to this contestant. And while you're at it, take a look at the following bio:

Katelyn Epperly Promo Pic

Age: 29
Relationship Status: Single
Pre-Idol: Brentwood, Tenn.-based backup singer for Aaron Neville, CeCe Winans and Idol alum George Huff
Why She Auditioned: "Some friends invited me to go with them to the Memphis audition, saying it would be fun to watch the funny singers," says Doolittle. "On the way we decided the whole car had to audition, and I ended up being the only one to make it."
Idol Style: "I'm a bit of a tomboy, so these heels and all this are not normal for me. It's fun, but it's like playing dress-up, so when I go home, it's snatch the wig off and lie down!"

* The Hollywood Gossip note: Beyonce has also been know to take off wigs.

Backstage Secret: "I am the oldest one here," she says, "so the other contestants call me Mama. I love to be silly. Everybody thinks I'm shy, but I'm not shy. I just get a little nervous occasionally."
The Makeover: "I am the worst," says Doolittle of her style sense. "Thank God I have help."

Fortunately for fans, none of that help has come from Sanjaya Malakar.

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by Mischalova at

Thanks to Entertainment Weekly for this insightful look at the 12 American Idol finalists ...

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There are a lot of theme nights coming up. Any you're looking forward to? Any you're not looking forward to?

Lauren Alaina Photo

CHRIS SLIGH: I'm looking forward to Bon Jovi week, if I can make it that far. Diana Ross is going to be tough, because she had this weird range, about seven or eight notes, and that's about it. So it's really hard to, like, rock out to Diana Ross, you know what I'm sayin'?

STEPHANIE EDWARDS: Diana Ross. I love ''Baby Love, ''Ain't No Mountain High Enough,'' and ''You Are So Beautiful.''

MELINDA DOOLITTLE: Tony Bennett. I love classics and standards. I'm also looking forward to Diana Ross. I'd take almost any song that the Supremes have done, as long as I can do the movements â€" probably ''Stop in the Name of Love.''

PHIL STACEY: I'm looking forward to the Tony Bennett night. I remember hearing him sing ''I Left My Heart in San Francisco'' when I was a kid and thinking, ''Man, I want to be Tony Bennett.''

BLAKE LEWIS: Tony Bennett. I have a [music] improv background, so if I can work with that man, that'll be just, man, awesome.

CHRIS RICHARDSON: I would love to make it to the inspirational week. For me, Diana Ross week is strenuous because Diana Ross is a woman and the Supremes were all women, and it's hard to make a woman's song a man's song, but you can do it.

JORDIN SPARKS: Being so young, J.Lo, Gwen Stefani, they're current, but everybody else [coming on] my parents knew growing up â€" they're idols to them. I can't wait; I'm excited! I can't wait to meet them!

LAKISHA JONES: It's going to be a challenge for me, because I'm used to just listening to only the music that I like. I'm like [after hearing there will be a British Invasion week], I've never listened to British music in my life. I was like, black girl singing British, oh my God, hold on â€" how am I gonna pull that off? How am I gonna feel that? I've just got to grab it and get a good song.

Any song you haven't sung yet, or haven't gotten cleared yet, that you really want to perform?

HALEY SCARNATO: '' Songbird'' by Eva Cassidy.

BRANDON ROGERS: ''Crazy'' by Gnarls Barkley.

MELINDA DOOLITTLE: Donnie Lane's ''It's Not Over,'' Vivian Green's ''Keep On Going,'' and a James Brown song called ''Bewildered.''

BLAKE LEWIS: ''Hide and Seek'' by Imogen Heap, I kind of want to do that, with strings or maybe a capella.

SANJAYA MALAKAR: ''Are You Going To Be My Girl'' [by Jet] â€" I really wanted to sing that song because it would be really fun to just rock out, but I doubt it'll ever get cleared.

LAKISHA JONES: ''I Will Always Love You'' by Whitney Houston. Yes, definitely. Man, I want to do that one a cappella.

JORDIN SPARKS: ''Harder to Breathe'' by Maroon 5.

GINA GLOCKSEN: ''Who Knew'' by Pink, but she doesn't clear her songs.

CHRIS SLIGH: I actually tried to do one of my own songs, and they felt like the show wasn't ready for it yet. When we get down to, I think, the final three, you get to sing your own choice. I'd love to be able to do my own song at that point. Hopefully America will love me enough to be ready for it. I also wanted to do ''Hysteria'' by Muse and ''City of Blinding Lights'' by U2, but neither one of those got cleared.

Is there something about your appearance you'd like to make over, or definitely don't want to touch?

STEPHANIE EDWARDS: I want to cut my hair even shorter than it is. And color it red. Do something radical.

GINA GLOCKSEN: I want to chop off my hair. I said that from day one. I've always wanted short hair.

SANJAYA MALAKAR: [Gesturing to his hair, with a huge grin] I think it would be really fun to just shave it off! I don't know if it's smart, but I think it would be really, really fun to just see people's reactions.

HALEY SCARNATO: I'm up for anything, but I don't want any crazy colors. [Laughs] So nothing, like, too drastic.

BLAKE LEWIS: Definitely not. I came here with my own style, just being me. No one's telling me what to do. Everything you see here are all my own clothes.

CHRIS RICHARDSON: I don't want to change anything, I am who I am and they might want to change something but I just want to stay true to myself.

PHIL STACEY: I'd pretty much be down for whatever, if they start putting wigs on my head, that kind of thing. It's fun. We'll see. You never know.

JORDIN SPARKS: [Takes hold of a ringlet of hair] I think they're going to straighten it, and they might do some extensions with different colors. Like, Gina â€" I love her hair! I don't want to be Gina, but I want hair like that. Maybe some pink and some red, and I might throw some green or blue in there if I'm feeling like it! [Laughs.]

Which contestants from Idols past would you most like to emulate?

GINA GLOCKSEN: Kelly Clarkson, I don't think that anyone thought she could win until week five, and she just brought it. She's a rocker girl, but still the girl next door; she's beautiful and really grounded. That's what I really hope doesn't change for me. I really want to stay the person that I am.

LAKISHA JONES: I think I relate more to Fantasia, because she is a single mom, she has probably been through a lot of struggles that I have been through.

SANJAYA MALAKAR: I think Fantasia is amazing. I think she puts her soul into her performance, and I would love to be able to do that.

CHRIS RICHARDSON: Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, I'm a big fan of Elliott [Yamin]. But for me I still listen to Kelly Clarkson in the car, I roll down the windows and blast it! I'm a man, I can admit it.

BRANDON ROGERS: Elliot has a beautiful voice, a phenomenal sounding voice, and Chris Daughtry has got that great voice and was always himself.

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by Mischalova at

Before we get to the actual talent behind this season's American Idol, let us say this: Antonella Barba did not suck last night.

And that's not even a reference to her infamous blowjob pictures. Seriously, it's not.

Chelsea Sorrell Photo

The New Jersey native sang a decent rendition on last night's show - but she's simply surrounded by too many talented artists to remain past this evening's vote off. At least that's what we assume. And it's what Simon Cowell pointedly said. But you never know.

Anyway, the two best women didn't disappoint - although one of them may have increased her lead by a sizeable margin. Melinda Doolittle was downright amazing as she sung "I'm a Woman" by Peggy Lee. The only thing more impressive than her vocal ability is her constantly grateful, embarrassed expression every time the judges throw a compliment her way.

Meanwhile, Lakisha Jones sang perfectly well. She chose a Whitney Houston song and actually sounded just like the diva on stage. The only drawback in that?

Somewhere, Bobby Brown is thinking about breaking parole in order to meet Lakisha. Look out, woman!

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