Image Credit: Frank Micelotta/FoxDidi Benami used her distinct voice and singer-songwriter style to crack the top 10 on American Idol. But in the end, Benami was the third girl in so many weeks to get voted off the show. In a phone interview with EW.com, 23-year-old Benami talks about what went wrong, her awkward moment with Ryan Seacrest during Tuesday night’s show, and her plans to record the music penned by her friend Rebecca Joy Lear, a fellow singer-songwriter who died in a car accident in 2005.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, here we are. I can honestly say I didn’t think you’d be the one voted off after Tuesday night. What do you think happened?
DIDI BENAMI: I don’t know. America voted. [Laughs] I know that I gave it my all during every performance. I will say that. I won’t say that Tuesday was my best performance, and I definitely wanted to come back with Beatles week, but it’s okay. This is a great platform for me, and I get to go on tour and do a record – which, eventually, it’s going to happen. I’m excited about all these things. And I get a little bit of time in between to rest, which is really nice. That’s what I was counting on, ”Well, at least I can just sleep at some point.” It’s been a really amazing experience, and I’m content. I would have liked to make it further, but, you know, life happens.
Your performance, like you said, wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t your strongest. Do you think part of that came from the fact that it was such an emotional song for you?
It could have been. It wasn’t really my week there in general. I’m not really R&B. I really didn’t know what to do with the theme. It would have been way cooler for me if it was Beatles week. I think I would have been able to do much better with that than with what I was given. But you gotta do the best that you can with what you have. It was my week to go, as much as I hate to say it. At the end of it all, I felt it coming a little bit. I was like, ”Okay, I know I’m going to be in the bottom three. I hope I don’t go home, but if I do, I have to be prepared to go.” All in all I think I got a lot from the experience. I’m glad to have met the people I did.
What are your thoughts about your exchange with Ryan Seacrest on Tuesday night? Some viewers weren’t happy about him being so persistent in trying to get you to talk about your tragic, personal connection to ”What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”
I don’t think that he had bad intentions… It was a little uncomfortable for me because I wanted to convey a message through the song, not through a conversation. My conversation was the song. It was an emotional piece for me, and I was just trying to do what I could with the theme. You know, I just didn’t [sighs loudly] necessarily want to talk about it. I didn’t want to break down on stage again. It was already enough that the mentor shoot was as emotional as it was. I was frustrated because it was like, every time I had a moment there were cameras all the time, and I’m a strong person. I’ve been through a lot. It’s just that right when something happens, they’re ready right there with the camera. It’s not like I’m the only person with emotions, but you know, I’m me at the end of the day. I’m a human being. We all are, and I think that I did the best that I could. It was tough, and it was uncomfortable Tuesday night. I think that I reacted in a way that I should have. I didn’t want to talk about it. Bottom line. I wanted to get it over with and go, you know? It was tough. It was hard and there was nothing I could do to change what he said. So, it sucked.
I was really sad to see another girl go because there were such high hopes for the girls this season. Why do you think they’re dropping like flies?
You know, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask America. You know, it’s tough because I think sometimes people start off with really high expectations, and all we can do is give each performance our best. That’s all we’re doing and a lot of us were getting sick. It’s tough being under so much pressure and trying to do your best in a very short amount of time and give your best performance. I don’t know. [Sighs] I hope my girls are going to hold up the fort and you know, get through the next couple of week because I want them to.
It can’t just be a boys’ show.
It can’t. I totally agree with you. I think they’ll be fine. I think there are three really strong ladies left in the competition, so I look forward to seeing what they do.
I know how Idol usually is, but it was interesting to me, in this case particularly, how one not-so-good night affected your voting number so much.
I found that interesting too. You know, that sucked. [Laughs] What can I say? I feel like everything happens for a reason, and I wish it hadn’t gone down that way. But it did and there’s nothing I can do to change it. I’m just okay with it. I hope to come back strong.
What are your plans for after the tour?
I definitely want to get into the studio and write and record some music. I definitely want to record some of Rebecca’s music. There was some stuff she did that she didn’t get out there that I really wanted to do. That was really kind of the point of me doing this whole thing. I’ve also gotten to know myself better throughout this whole experience and just living in L.A. in general and working with music, it’s been very therapeutic for me. I needed it. Along the way I’ve been finding myself. I’m deep and I like to convey that. I don’t want to be just another girl who sings some songs.
What about Rebecca’s music stands out to you so much?
She has really amazing lyrics in her songs. You’re caught up in this game of life/There’s no time to close your eyes/You gotta keep moving forward, gotta keep up with the crowd/If I rest for a moment I might get left behind. What she was writing about really spoke to me in a way that so moved me. It inspired me to pursue a career in music. I want to do that for other people. I want to do for them what she did for me. That’s really important. That’s what a lot of really great artists have done for people, just be an inspiration and kept them going when they didn’t have hope or know where they were going and didn’t know what to do.
What song did you just quote?
It’s called ”No Destination.” There’s a song called ”Shoot the Moon” that’s really inspiring. There’s a song called ”Journey” and ”Lullaby.” Those are all wonderful songs that have kept me going, and those are ones I want to record for sure. I definitely want people to hear her music more than anything. I think she had a lot to say. I also have a lot to say. [Preview more songs at Rebecca’s website.]
Was she a lyricist or a singer, too?
She was a singer-songwriter. She was a really amazing person, so young.
While we’re on the subject of people who inspire you, do you look up to any past Idol contestants?
I really look up to Crystal [Bowersox]. I mean, she’s still on the show, but I think she’s very true to herself, and I like that about her. I love that she stands up for herself when she needs to. I think Carrie Underwood is great. I think Jennifer Hudson is great. Kelly Clarkson did an amazing job. All of them kept it going for themselves regardless of what happened [on the show]. Kelly and Carrie won, but Jennifer didn’t, which is inspiring to me because [laughs] clearly I didn’t win. [Chris] Daughtry, by the way, has an amazing career right now. I don’t know when he left, but I know he didn’t win. So that’s really inspiring for me. [Note: Daughtry placed fourth in Idol‘s season 5.] I’d love to have a career like Daughtry’s. I think he’s on tour right now. Daughtry and Jennifer, they still give me hope. I’m not worried about it. I think I was blessed with amazing fans and people who are going to want to hear something from me, and I want to give that to them.