Casey Abrams, Idyllwild Arts Academy Class of 2009, Music (Jazz) Casey Abrams captured America’s imagination and won the admiration and affection of the judges during American Idol 2011. The judges enthusiastically asserted that Casey is a one-of-a-kind musicianperformer who takes the risks that only a true artist takes, declaring, “The whole world is watching you, not because you’re a singer, but a true musician.” CBS Eye on the Desert interviewed Casey’s former band mates at Idyllwild Arts who are inspired by their friend’s success. All agreed that Casey has never been a “selfish musician,” and confirmed that he has an “incredible imagination” and “a way of interpreting a song in his own style,” “taking it to so many places” and making it his own. A timeline of his performances and success on American Idol 2011 follows: 1. Austin Audition: I Don’t Need No Doctor by Ray Charles: A capella with a melodic to set the tone. The judges responded with a loud, “All together, now – YES! You’re going to Hollywood!” All three judges were so excited by Casey’s version they asked him to play his melodic instrument after he finished singing and then, since he was the last contestant of the day, followed him out of the studio in a conga-line dance. 2. Hollywood Top 60 Audition: Casey’s first solo, Ella Fitzgerald’s Lullaby of Birdland evoked an easy “yes” from all the judges. He then performed with a group of six other contestants, singing The Temptation’s Get Ready. Only two made the grade, Casey and Julie Zorilla, another Idyllwild Arts’ ’09 alumna. For his final performance and second solo Casey played the stand-up bass, and sang his version of Georgia On My Mind written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, which again impressed the judges so much that he’s on his way to Vegas. 3. Las Vegas Week, Top 24, Beatles Week: Along with co-contestant Chris Medina Casey performed A Hard Day’s Night. Steven Tyler responded loudly, “Casey, Chris – you’re freaks!” Casey and Christ add some props to their performance to woo the judges… But did it pay off? Casey, “It would kill me to hear ‘no,’ it would absolutely kill me. I put my heart and soul into every single performance I’ve ever done on American Idol. Your heart and soul aren’t in the right place, is what it says if you get a ‘no.” After Casey blew the judges away in Austin and sailed through Hollywood, with one unique performance after another, he has shown how versatile he is. Casey’s on his way back to Hollywood. 4. Hollywood Week, Final Round: Casey wowed the judges again with his performances of Kansas Joe McCoy’s (with a Peggy Lee influence) Why Don’t You Do Right and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You. The judges were awestruck. Randy Jackson praised Casey, “I don’t think we have ever had a musician as talented as yourself. You are like three people in one!” Jennifer Lopez called him a “rock star musician.” Shaking his head, Steven Tyler could only say, “Wow!”
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5. American Idol Top 12 Men: Casey performed Joe Cocker’s With a Little Help From My Friends. Casey explained that Joe Cocker sings as if he feels the music throughout his whole body, “You don’t hear the music, you feel the music.” The judges couldn’t praise him enough. Laughing and yelling Casey’s name, Jennifer Lopez continued, “You know what? We go by what we feel. And at one point I grabbed Randy’s arm and said, ‘What am I watching? I’m watching someone important! Wow! Blew me away, blew me away!” Randy Jackson, “Every time you sing I’m always excited about what you’re going to do this time. You are so unbelievable and so exciting, you make listening to you sing fun! I loved it.” Steve Tyler was so inspired he became poetic in his praise, “You are a rainbow of talent. You never cease to amaze me every time you get up there with what you do. You are a plethora of passion. Everybody in the house felt everything you did.” 6. American Idol Top 12, Year You Were Born: In trying another unusual song, Casey’s rendition of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991) evoked Steve Tyler to exclaim, “Casey, Casey, you are so crazy and so talented. And that’s the perfect match, and to have it all together at the same time, you got it, man, you got it!” Jennifer Lopez was just a little critical of parts of the song where Casey got a little bit “screechy-screamy” and wished this performance could have had more of the “pleasantness” of all his other performances but apologetically said, “You know I love you so much.” Casey then asked her, “What do you think I am?” Giggling, Lopez responded, “I think you’re sexy!” Randy Jackson emphatically commended Casey, “What I’m most impressed with and what I love the most about what you do is that you love taking risks. I love that you put art first. This wasn’t your best performance but I like that you’re fearless. You’re funny, fearless, and versatile – a great artist!” Casey is currently in the Top 11 and greatly predicted to win. 7. American Idol 2011, Top 11, March 24th: The segment that determines who will make it into the top ten who will then go on to tour the country. All contestants had to choose a song from the Motown era – inspirational music that has stood the test of time – and make it their own. Casey san Marvin Gaye’s Heard It Through the Grapevine. Steven Tyler, “Hear that [the audience applause]? I think you are the perfect entertainer. Perfect pitch and perfect mix of crazy @**, outof-control ego. That’s what makes an entertainer today. And you’re beautiful. I loved it!” Jennifer Lopez, “I’m listening to you, and … you’re so specific who you are. People already know who Casey is, what he sounds like. That’s such an incredible thing. And I’m thinking, ‘Is there anybody out there like you right now? I don’t even think there is. You might be like the guy right now. You can really carve out a niche for yourself and be amazing!” Randy Jackson, “You are definitely a true original. You come out, you take chances, you tell everyone who comes up here, I don’t care what the song is, do you. You can only do you. And that you is great! We loved it!” 8. On American Idol 2011 March 25th Thursday night results: Casey was “saved” by what is considered the surprise of the season. As Casey started to “sing for his life” Randy Jackson waved the musicians to stop and explained, “Listen, we know
who you are. We don’t need to hear you sing anymore, do we Steven?” “Yeah, this is crazy wrong. We’ve made a decision here to keep you on.” Casey was so overwhelmed he could hardly stand or catch his breath. He couldn’t believe the judges had used their one and only save of the season for him. It was an extremely emotional segment of American Idol. 9. Elton John week at American Idol 2011, March 30: Casey sang I Hope You Don’t Mind, I Hope You Don’t Mind, Casey style. Randy Jackson responded, “I’m sure that I speak for my fellow judges when I say that it’s one of the greatest “saves” we’ve had on the show, saving you. And that performance, hearing you sing but not lose all of who Casey is, that makes you different, is absolutely brilliant. Very nice choice and well done.” Steven Tyler, “I have to concur that one of the finest moments of this show was putting the decision to save you through. You sing different every time. It shows a true artist.” Jennifer Lopez, “One decision I didn’t lose an ounce of sleep over was saving you. I slept like a baby! And you proved why tonight. With the character in your voice, your choices that you made in that song, it was just very … Casey.” 10. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was the theme for American Idol 2011, April 6, Top 9: Casey played his stand-up bass and sang Credence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain. Randy Jackson, “You definitely made CCR proud. Casey is making upright bass COOL! This is revolutionary! Casey is revolutionary! I love it, I love it! Steven Tyler, “The whole world is watching you, not because you’re a singer, but a true musician. You bring a stand-up bass which no one can play.” Jackson, “Nobody!” Jennifer Lopez, “That’s just it. That’s exactly where you belong, right there, with your bass. I’m paying top dollar to be in the front row!” 11. American Idol 2011, Top 8 – Songs from the Movies Week: Casey had a difficult decision to make for the April 13th American Idol, to choose between Phil Collin’s In the Air Tonight or Nat King Cole’s Nature Boy. The show’s in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine strongly advised Casey to choose the Phil Collin’s song. Casey acknowledged that In the Air Tonight would make a good show, but said, “I don’t want to lose myself in this process, so I decided to resurrect Nature Boy. I’m not going to feel comfortable on stage unless I’m doing what I know I can do.” Accompanied by piano and conga drums, Casey started out soft but gained in strength as he progressed, staying true to himself. Casey received the only standing ovation from the judges, who yelled, “Encore, encore!” The audience responded as enthusiastically. Jennifer Lopez called out over the applause, “Casey! I gotta say, at the beginning I was nervous… I thought, he’s not going to win any popularity contest with this song.” She went on to say how this season was about all the various forms of music – rock, pop, country, gospel, jazz. “… The music itself crosses the boundaries and touches people. I honestly feel and hope that America got that. Because that’s what you do. You bring that type of special thing to music. Good job! Good job!” Randy Jackson, “Jennifer is so right. What I’m so happy about this season is that we have true artists on the show. I don’t think we’ve had anybody exactly like you, ever. The fact that you give a Grammy type performance – I hope American gets it! What I like about this season is, it’s about education. It’s about embracing who you are. I thought it [Nature Boy] was brilliant! I thought it was
absolutely genius!” Steven Tyler, “You are an artist in the true sense of the word. You took a song that my mama sang to me when I was a little baby, and you took it and you do what’s in your heart regardless of what Jimmy Iovine and the rest of them said. You believed what’s in your heart and you did it anyway. That’s the truest sense of the word artist. You are so good, I got to tell you!” Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson added their enthusiastic “YES!” to that. 12. American Idol 2011, Top 7 – Songs of the 21st Century: Playing guitar this time Casey sang Maroon 5’s Harder to Breathe – with Jimmy Iovine’s blessing. With just one line left to sing, he approached the judges table, paused while he leaned down as if to whisper something to Jennifer Lopez who then turned her face as Casey softly sang the last few words of the song, “It’s gets harder and harder,” kisses Jennifer on the cheek, and finishes, “to breathe…” a very dramatic and unexpected finale, Casey style. "Casey's got soft lips," Jennifer Lopez said. "I loved it – the performance!" Steven Tyler piped in that Casey accomplished what he’s been trying to do for four months. The house went wild. Randy Jackson reiterated and emphasized what he has said before, that Casey continues to surprise him and he always looks forward to seeing and hearing what he’s going to do next. Steven Tyler couldn’t hold back swearing his praise and appeared after the break with a piece of duck tape across this mouth. In a short interview after his performance, Casey joked: "I kissed Jennifer Lopez and made Steven Tyler swear. Not a bad night.”All the judges agreed it was an absolutely amazing performance. One comment online echoes what the judges have said, “He can take any song whether it be rock, jazz, blues, or pop and turn it into something that all generations love.” “The Kiss” made national news on ABC The View.” 13. American Idol 2011, Top 6 – Carol King week: Casey Abrams performed an energetic and colorful version of That Old Sweet Roll (Hi De Ho), originally by Carol King and made popular by Blood, Sweat and Tears. Jimmy Iovine commended Casey for choosing “a difficult song – that takes pure, one-hundred percent personality. He’s always pushing his boundaries, and when you do that, you can fall on your butt, or you can rise to the heights.” Randy Jackson said, “You always keep this show different. It was like this song was written for you. I’m excited every time you are up there because I know I am going to see something different and entertaining.” "Casey, you definitely found your niche," said Steven Tyler, adding that it was "the best mother – (pause) – lovin' show I've seen. It was beautiful!" Jennifer Lopez told Casey she wanted to see him “loosen up a little bit.” “You were definitely in your element. You’re such a musician and such a vocalist with such a special voice. That’s something I’d like to see – just loosen up your legs a little bit.” In another of the season’s shocking eliminations, on results night, April 28, 2011, Casey was voted off and came in 6th place. Casey joins the ranks of many talented young artists eliminated on American Idol: Notably talented Pia Toscano who is rumored to have a recording contract ready and waiting;
Chris Daughtry whose album became the fastest-selling debut in SoundScan history and one of the overall top sellers of 2007, making him one of the four most successful Idols of all time; and then there’s Oscar and Grammy award winner Jennifer Hudson who came in 7th place in 2004, who has since won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her debut in the 2006 film Dreamgirls, a Grammy Award in 2008 for her debut album, Jennifer Hudson, and has performed at the White House.
Background on American Idol: Contestants go through three rigorous sets of cuts. The first is a brief audition with three other contestants in front of selectors which may include one of the show's producers. The number of auditioners can exceed 10,000 people each city, but only about 100–200 contestants in each city may make it past this round of preliminary auditions. Successful contestants are sent through to audition in front of producers. More contestants are cut in the producers round before they can proceed to audition in front of the judges, which is the only audition stage shown on the show. Those selected by the judges are sent to Hollywood. Between 10–60 people in each city may make it to Hollywood.