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"American Idol" Gives Back

Aired April 7, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, they're all here -- Simon, Randy, Paula and Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is "American Idol".


KING: We're going take you inside "Idol Gives Back," the star- studded event that's changing lives and the world.

Plus, we're going to rate the final eight.

Which contestant will be the country's new singing sensation -- Carly, Michael, one of the two Davids -- or somebody else?

"American Idol" next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's a big and busy week at America's most popular television show, "American Idol." So it's an amazing feat that we have all four featured performers with us. Tuesday is another "Idol" competition and Thursday the final eight gets cut to seven. I feel like the NCAA. But on Wednesday, something very special will take place. "Idol Gives Back".

Let's meet Paula Abdul, "American Idol" judge. Simon Cowell is a judge, as well. As is Randy Jackson and our old buddy, Ryan Seacrest, the host of "American Idol".

Ryan, we'll start with you.

What is America -- what is this "Idol Gives Back?"

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, "AMERICAN IDOL": It's something we did last year for the first time, the brainchild of Simon Fuller and Richard Curtis. And it's a way, I think, for us to say thanks and create a little awareness. You know, we've been afforded the opportunity to be on this great television show and have a lot of viewers. And as Simon has said before, we're not there to preach at the audience, but we are trying to use that vehicle, that machine that is "American Idol," to create a little bit of awareness when it comes to problems here in our own backyard with kids and also kids around the world.

KING: So how do you give back, Randy?

What do you do? RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": Well, basically, you know, we went and did packages for our own charities. Paula and I went up to Goshen for Save the Children Foundation which, you know, the last year I went down to Katrina with them in New Orleans. They -- you know, with the California wildfires and Katrina, they gave back a lot to kids and families that were displaced. And, also, this time their whole initiative is about education, literacy, about kids learning to read and also about healthy lifestyles, you know, because there's a lot of obesity and a lot of problems with kids in America now.

KING: Simon?

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": It's what the guy said. You know, when we had the approach from the charity in the U.K. , would you do it. And they do it very successfully in the U.K. with a show called "Comic Relief." Why it works is that it mixes comedy and raises a ton of money.

So we said from the beginning, you've got to make sure that the show is still entertaining. And as Ryan said, you can't preach to people, you know, because at the moment here, U.K. , a lot of people are struggling themselves. So you make people aware. We were made aware of these few situations. A lot of stars turned out this year. So hopefully the show will be as entertaining as it was last year.

KING: So the viewer is entertained, Paula, as well as seeing you give?


PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": Absolutely. And it's done through not -- wonderful performances and...

KING: Like who?

ABDUL: Like Heart and Fergie and -- oh my God, there are so many.


ABDUL: Mariah. Mariah Carey, who looked fantastic. And Randy played bass...

COWELL: We had Heart on the stage, though I didn't know who they were. The next thing is you've got Fergie coming on doing cartwheels...

ABDUL: He didn't want to do...


COWELL: like black rubber trousers.

ABDUL: She was fantastic.

COWELL: It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was fantastic.

ABDUL: She was fantastic.

JACKSON: But there's a lot -- you know, Gloria Estefan was on.


JACKSON: You know, it's really good, the "Idol" kids come up and they do their thing...

ABDUL: Carrie Underwood.

JACKSON: Carrie Underwood, Robin Williams.

ABDUL: Chris Daughtry had (INAUDIBLE).

JACKSON: Chris Daughtry, Jimmy Kimmel, Simon's friend.


KING: And where do you do this?

Do you go...

SEACREST: We did it last night from the Kodak Theatre. And on Wednesday night, you'll see that played back and we'll also have some live interstitials where we can give the audience updates as to what's going on, how much money we're raising, what numbers to call and so on. But, you know, the star power, it's -- it's pretty incredible to see Brad Pitt walk out on the stage. Mariah Carey is there. Annie Lennox is there, all performing, all...

COWELL: And Randy was playing.

SEACREST: Randy Jackson.

COWELL: Randy was playing bass.

SEACREST: For the first time. I haven't seen this in a long time -- not the first time, but the first time in a long time up on stage with Mariah Carey playing.

COWELL: A lot of people said it was a very over the top performance, but I actually thought he was good.

JACKSON: So now they're judging me. Look at this, Larry. Look how this works.

ABDUL: But we also...


ABDUL: We got to have our own judging of the Russian "Idol" and he was...

SEACREST: Robin Williams. JACKSON: He was very entertaining, I must add, very entertaining.

KING: How, Simon, do you choose what you help?

COWELL: That's a good question. We've made a point that a lot of the money had to go to American charities. It's not fair to ask people who have supported our show to see all the money go overseas. So a lot of kids' charities, a lot of overseas aid. But all the charities involved, they were chosen, apart from the work they do, that they administer the money properly. So anyone who votes -- oh, sorry -- anyone who phones and makes a pledge rests assured that the money is properly delivered.

JACKSON: And poverty is still at just an amazing, alarming rate still in the world, as well as here in America. So I think it's really trying to attack poverty and really help kids and help families. It's...

ABDUL: It's amazing how these kids are so poised. And it's gut wrenching and heartbreaking to see what they go through.

KING: Do you show it, Ryan, on a regular "American Idol" night?

SEACREST: We do. This year it will be on a Wednesday night, which is conventionally our results...

KING: It's this Wednesday, right?

SEACREST: This Wednesday. It's our results show night. And the results we're going to put off until Thursday night this week. And we're dedicating the -- it's actually two-and-a-half hours. So longer than our normal broadcast -- two-and-a-half hours to raise money for these charities.

COWELL: But someone's going to go this week.

SEACREST: Someone will leave this week.

COWELL: Yes. Last year they didn't eliminate anyone, which I thought was wrong. But they are going to eliminate someone this week.

SEACREST: So what you're saying is they listened to you?


JACKSON: Simon loves eliminations.

COWELL: Everyone loves eliminations.

KING: Well, that's his bread and butter.

Could you conceivably do this show five nights a week?

SEACREST: The charity show?

KING: No, the "American Idol". COWELL: Oh, no.

SEACREST: I don't think you could.


SEACREST: I don't think it would have the same...


COWELL: We're only popular because we're not on very often.


SEACREST: As you'll see by the end of this hour.



COWELL: ...tail off after 15 minutes.

KING: So it wouldn't work the more you ran it like sometimes "Dancing with the Stars" ran forever, but...

SEACREST: I mean, I think, you've spoken out about saturation. If you get to a point where you're oversaturated with this show, it becomes less of an event. And what's great about it is that it feels like event television each and every time it comes on the air.

JACKSON: Yes, That's true.

COWELL: Your voice has changed.

ABDUL: You'll have withdrawals.

SEACREST: My voice has gotten deeper.

COWELL: You're not talking...

JACKSON: Your voice has changed.


SEACREST: I'm growing, live, right now.


COWELL: Every time you sit opposite Larry King.


JACKSON: One might say Ryan is trying to be more like Larry.

SEACREST: I get nervous, deferential...

KING: Uh-oh.

COWELL: Sit, listen, learn...


SEACREST: Learn. Larry is the master.

ABDUL: Learn from the master.

SEACREST: Larry, you'll be sick of us in an hour?

KING: Now, what...

COWELL: Just relax.

KING: Hold it.

Watch the way I do this.


SEACREST: Very seamlessly.

KING: You can copy that.


KING: Who do you want to win "American Idol?"

Cast your vote right now. Head to and have your say.

Ahead, we will rate the remaining eight. That rhymed.


KING: It's coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amazing grace, how sweet the song that saved a wretch like me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your money helped distribute eight million meds across Africa. Three thousand children die from malaria every day. Your money is helping to save those lives.


KING: "Idol Gives Back" -- great idea.

True, Ryan, that you're giving back a paycheck?

SEACREST: You know, we all are. We're all going to give back what we would make on that night, you know, for doing that regular episode.

KING: Yes.

SEACREST: So, it's something that, you know, I think when you stand up there or you sit there on the show and you're talking about what's happening and you're asking for other people to give, then you should do something that's relative to what your life is about.

KING: Great.

SEACREST: And it's something we can do.


KING: Put your money where your mouth is.

Randy, can -- how do viewers donate?

JACKSON: Viewers donate either through phone calls or Ryan is doing -- it's almost like a telethon on this Wednesday night, right, Ryan?


JACKSON: Where you're going to sit there and you're going to have stars that are sitting at a table and they're going to call in and take pledges and calls.

KING: You have phones?

SEACREST: We've got the phones. You can call and we'll give tallies throughout the course of the night live.



KING: That's great.

We have a King Came question about this.

And so watch the screens.

LAURIE MCCARTER: Hi. My name is Laurie McArter (ph). And I was just wondering, "American Idol Gives Back," how much of the proceeds would actually go to the children in the United States compared to the children overseas?

KING: Paula?

ABDUL: Excuse me. It's all about the -- the ratio I'm not sure about.

SEACREST: The idea, though, the premise is to split it up evenly. Last year, we split it up evenly and that's the intent we have this year. COWELL: That's a good question.

KING: Between?

JACKSON: Between the charities.


COWELL: There's a lot...

ABDUL: Yes, a lot of people are asking us.

COWELL: ...a lot of money going to charities in America. And that will always happen.

ABDUL: It should be. We're -- we are...


ABDUL: Well, we are Americans.

KING: And it goes to Great Britain, as well?


SEACREST: It goes to Africa.

JACKSON: Africa.


JACKSON: Just Africa and America, yes.

SEACREST: You know, Simon and I went to Africa last year and I think -- and we talked about this on the way back. We have, as we said earlier, a lot of problems here in the States. But when were in Africa and we saw those kids -- the spirit that they have -- they don't realize how bad they have it.


SEACREST: And so that was interesting to us. They have this amazing spirit and this hope and these smiles and they show up and they're excited at this little school. And so, I think, the idea is to try and share everything across the globe.

KING: Who handles the fund -- who -- is there a group you have that handles the whole apparatus?

SEACREST: I stay away from it. I don't want to be near the counting and the accounting. But I think that that's -- our executive producers, Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe and also Richard Curtis and "Comic Relief" are involved in the actual funds.


COWELL: There's so much money involved now, Larry, that they are -- they're very, very credible the way they distribute it.

KING: Did you announce how much money came in last year?

SEACREST: Last year was $70 -- about $76 million, $77 million.


SEACREST: And, obviously, the goal is to try and get close, if not beat that, again this year.


SEACREST: But that was an incredible amount of money.

ABDUL: When you have a platform that raises that much awareness and that much financial aid, it's truly -- you can't even think about it.

JACKSON: Yes, I think Paula has hit on something, Larry. It's also still about the awareness, because I think people think when do you a charity and you raise money, the problem goes away. This problem will continue. Poverty is still grave even in America, even in L.A.

KING: It's one of the black marks on America.

JACKSON: Yes. Yes.

KING: Why should anyone in America go without?


ABDUL: And it's in our own backyards.

JACKSON: It's in our own backyard.

KING: All right, let's discuss a little about the season.

You're down to, what, eight?

Do you like all eight?



SEACREST: Do you like any of the eight might be the (INAUDIBLE) question.

JACKSON: Of course not.

COWELL: No, you're never going to like everyone, Larry.

KING: Didn't they have to go through a lot to get to be eight?

COWELL: Well, they went through a relatively tough process, yes. But I've always said on this show, it's like winning a lottery ticket. So if we're going to give you the amount, the money, you've got to put up with a little bit of pain along the way. I think that's only right.

KING: Do you each -- do you like having a favorite in mind, Paula?

I mean your mind could change.

ABDUL: Yes. I mean with these kids, they're -- I mean, I think, we all pretty much agree on who the top -- who the top (INAUDIBLE)...

JACKSON: Yes, who the top ones are.

ABDUL: It's hard even with -- to say who's the top three, to be honest with you, because someone -- you think someone is really great and then you go oh my, God. (INAUDIBLE).

KING: How does this rate, Ryan, with past groups?

SEACREST: Well, you know, credit to the three sitting next to me. When they were on the road this year, we knew, as they put people through, that this was going to be the strongest group as a whole that we've ever had. And I think you see that on the show this year. In years past, we've had a few get through maybe and some interesting characters.


COWELL: I don't necessarily agree with that.

SEACREST: Well, of course.

COWELL: No, and I'll tell you why.

ABDUL: I do.

COWELL: Because I don't look at the whole, I look at the individual. And you've got to say, do you have anyone as strong as Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson?



COWELL: I'm not interested in (INAUDIBLE)...


SEACREST: When you sit back and look at the group collectively, it's the strongest group.

ABDUL: But...


ABDUL: But "American Idol"...

COWELL: It doesn't matter about the group. ABDUL: What's become of the show is that they're "Idols" and there are several from each season that are getting record deals or winning Oscars, you know. It's a pretty good thing for (INAUDIBLE).


JACKSON: And I think -- I think the thing is...

COWELL: (INAUDIBLE) that's not going to happen a lot (INAUDIBLE).

JACKSON: But you see more from this season...

ABDUL: This season...


JACKSON: You see more from this season.

ABDUL: This season, I guarantee it.

COWELL: Do you think someone from this season will win an Oscar?

JACKSON: I don't know about an Oscar...

ABDUL: No. That's a once...

JACKSON: ...but you see more than good record and have success.

ABDUL: That's a once in a lifetime.


COWELL: Yes, but can I say something?

ABDUL: Wait a minute.

KING: All right. One at a time. One at a time.

COWELL: I think it's wrong to say that just because you're in the 12 that you have an automatic path. I mean this crazy thing about...


ABDUL: And you know what?


COWELL: Why bother voting?

ABDUL: No. I understand...


SEACREST: No, that's not what they're saying.

ABDUL: But this season... SEACREST: No.

COWELL: They are.

SEACREST: They're not.

COWELL: They are.


JACKSON: There are five or six people at least that will get record deals out of this.

ABDUL: Five or six that will get record deals.

COWELL: Yes, but you shouldn't be promoting that.

JACKSON: No, no, no...


JACKSON: But I'm saying, as a whole, these kids are more talented.

COWELL: Because then why bother voting?

ABDUL: Because it's...

COWELL: If you've made it already, why pick up the phone?

ABDUL: That doesn't stop people from voting.

COWELL: It does.

ABDUL: No, it does not.

JACKSON: I will say this, though. I think this is one of our most original casts.

COWELL: You've got to wait.

KING: What part of it...

JACKSON: These couple kids that I see this time have more originality. They're taking a little more chances, I think.

ABDUL: There are more than several that -- when you hear one note out of their voice, you know who it is.

KING: What part of the winning is the judges' vote as opposed to the public?

SEACREST: The public votes for the winner.


SEACREST: The judges give their input.

KING: You're just giving input?

You don't...

SEACREST: They're giving it...

KING: You have one vote each?


ABDUL: No. We don't vote.

JACKSON: No votes. We don't vote.

ABDUL: It's not like "Dancing With The Stars," where they get to...

SEACREST: The premise is you go on auditions. The judges put through -- from the thousands that come out around the country -- to the final group that America votes for. America decides. I think it's going to be the greatest race to the finish that we've ever had.

ABDUL: Absolutely.

KING: More to come on LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


SEACREST: Simon, what's the issue tonight?

What's the problem?

You don't like country music?

COWELL: No, I love country music.

SEACREST: But what's the -- what's the problem?

JACKSON: What is the problem?

KING: Ryan and Simon -- can't these guys just get along?

Is there ongoing feud a joke or is it for real?

The answer, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.


KING: Don't forget, on Wednesday night, "Idol Gives Back".

All right, true or false that you, Simon, don't like, Ryan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ooh. COWELL: It's like anything, there are times when I like him. There are other times, particularly on the show, where I find him annoying.

KING: But that's the time we see it, though.

JACKSON: Yes, exactly, Larry.

COWELL: No, I described him recently as like a little mosquito you have in your bedroom, which is after a while it's oh, shut up. You know, it's annoying. You don't hate the mosquito, you just want it out of your face.


KING: How do you react to that?


SEACREST: Well, thank god I have thick skin after seven years of doing this show.

KING: Yes.

SEACREST: No, look, here's -- Simon is obviously very, very good at what he does. And he has a great instinct and knows how to identify this talent and how to...



SEACREST: Yes. And knows how to do his job well. But here's -- it's not about me liking me or disliking me. It's about being right. He just wants to be right.


JACKSON: Yes. That's OK.

SEACREST: So if he's challenged, then he squirms a little bit.

KING: And you challenge him.

SEACREST: I love it. I love it. I don't always...

COWELL: I don't think it's challenging.


COWELL: I think it's getting in the way when you're not invited.

JACKSON: Oh, we all challenge you.

COWELL: It's a genuine (INAUDIBLE).

SEACREST: That's the pot calling the kettle black.


KING: You're not supposed to have an opinion?

COWELL: I would never interrupt something you're doing.

SEACREST: You know, it's not necessarily about my opinion. I do question, sometimes, number one, you can't understand him half the time when he's on the air.

COWELL: Can I say something?

SEACREST: Number...


SEACREST: In a second.

COWELL: No (INAUDIBLE) have an opinion.


SEACREST: No. And I don't have an opinion per se on the show.

COWELL: Exactly.

SEACREST: I ask...


SEACREST: I ask you to clarify.


ABDUL: Actually, it's a lot to do with you getting magazine covers and...

SEACREST: Well, there's a little (INAUDIBLE)...


KING: Oh, there's jealousy?

JACKSON: Oh, jealousy.


JACKSON: What a word, Larry. Please.

KING: Well, look, here's the new issue of "Details."

ABDUL: Solid. That's solid.

JACKSON: Now, Simon and I were wondering...

COWELL: It's like a conspiracy.

JACKSON: Yes. Yes.

ABDUL: You look (INAUDIBLE)...

JACKSON: Ryan, what is this like some maverick -- this is some maverick cowboy thing, right?

SEACREST: What was the magazine they had back in your day that was like this?

COWELL: It was an angling magazine.


ABDUL: Well, 50 years ago it was...

KING: OK, moving to other areas.

JACKSON: Yes, moving right along, Larry.

COWELL: This will never end.

KING: How do you, as an honest judge...



KING: How do you compare a country performance with a rock performance?

JACKSON: You know, there's -- there's a lot of ways.

COWELL: Apples and oranges.

ABDUL: But apples and oranges (INAUDIBLE).

JACKSON: It's not so much the style as was the vocal good?

ABDUL: That's automatic.

JACKSON: Was it in tune?

Was the melody sang great?

Did they have any emotion to it, you know, was there any connection?

ABDUL: Did they connect to the audience?

Did they -- overall (INAUDIBLE).

JACKSON: The mechanics of singing they still, you know, exist. I mean, you know, you and I talk about this all the time. You can compare Frank Sinatra to the greatest country singer -- Frank Sinatra every time. Just, you know, you felt the emotion in every note.

KING: Like you do with Willie Nelson.

JACKSON: Yes, every note. These are the grassroots.

ABDUL: And you know what?

KING: How could you vote one against the other?

ABDUL: Identifiable.

JACKSON: No you -- those are both great.


JACKSON: But there's a lot of area in between.

SEACREST: That sounds good.

COWELL: Yes. I think we're in a bubble on this show. And I think...

KING: What do you mean?

COWELL: In other words, you know, within the bubble of the show, people can start believing things are great when they're not. And I always watch the performance back. And I think if I saw that performance on any other show, independent, would I bother to stay tuned?

And a lot of the time, I go no, I wouldn't.

ABDUL: Well, you know what, I must say something, that this season in particular, even past winning contestants are saying that this season, that they're so glad that they're not in this season, because they have so much presence this year.

COWELL: Like who?

Like who?

ABDUL: Which celebrity?

COWELL: Which contestant?

JACKSON: I think Jordin Sparks...


JACKSON: I think Jordin Sparks even said that the other day.

ABDUL: Oh, you know, I know what you're trying to do.


ABDUL: I know you know. COWELL: What?

ABDUL: I know you.

SEACREST: Which contestant?

JACKSON: Meaning that they wouldn't want to compete with this group?

ABDUL: Exactly. They're happy they started early in the game.

SEACREST: Because it was easier to stand out in groups past or something?


KING: How much of the talent is pizzazz?

Would Willie Nelson win "American Idol?"


SEACREST: Right now, he's too old.


COWELL: No, no. You wouldn't be able to understand him (INAUDIBLE).

JACKSON: And he's not really for "Idol". "Idol" is not for everyone.

ABDUL: That's the pot calling the kettle black.

JACKSON: "Idol" is not for everyone.


JACKSON: No. Come on. It's not for everyone.


KING: So you have to be young.

JACKSON: Well, it's not even that. You know, if you're a singer or a songwriter and you're in some band, bands don't do "Idol". So, I mean, you know, if you're in a band, you don't need to be on "Idol".

SEACREST: Well, you know...

JACKSON: It's about a solo singing performance.

SEACREST: There's also -- if you go back and look at our seasons one, two, three and you look at the contestants now, the genre -- the contestants that actually audition now compared to the select group, the smaller pop group that did then, is very different. COWELL: Yes.

SEACREST: It certainly opened up a lot. I mean they...

JACKSON: I think, you know, you get a rocker now, you get somebody out of a different walk of life that says OK, later for this band, I want to make it. Let me jump in and go on the show so I can be a star.

KING: Would Tim McGraw win?

ABDUL: He could.

COWELL: Maybe.

JACKSON: I like him.

ABDUL: Yes, I think so.


KING: Good-looking, young.


KING: Hell of a singer.


JACKSON: A good singer, yes.

COWELL: But he didn't need to come on the show. He was already a star.

KING: Of course not. But I mean...


COWELL: But I take your point.

JACKSON: ...back when he started out. There's a lot of people that would have won.

COWELL: Elvis Presley would have won.

JACKSON: Elvis Presley would have won.

ABDUL: Do you remember...


KING: In a walk, right?


KING: Presley in a walk. In a walk. (CROSSTALK)

COWELL: Oh my god, yes.




COWELL: And that is the definition of an "American Idol". You're just are good. And that's all we're trying to do. I don't like patronizing these people and saying, you know, it's good enough for the real world if it's not. That's what we're there for. It's just an opinion.

JACKSON: But as you think about Elvis, you think about he's got the charisma, he's got the voice, he's got the personality...

KING: Pizzazz.

JACKSON: He's got the whole thing.


ABDUL: And, also, this season the kids are so unique and original with their sound.

KING: He doesn't agree.

COWELL: I disagree.

ABDUL: He never does.


ABDUL: I think Jason Castro has a certain quality. They're all identifiable and that's what makes them important.

COWELL: I think there are two or three in that category. I can't sit there and agree with you and say every one of them is a distinguished star.

ABDUL: No, no.


JACKSON: No, but I think two or three -- that there are.

ABDUL: They have a distinct...

JACKSON: There's way more than there was last year.


JACKSON: So I mean last year there might have been two... COWELL: Yes, they're definitely better than last year.

JACKSON: They're definitely better than last year.

COWELL: Yes. I agree with that.

JACKSON: Yes. Yes.

COWELL: I agree with that.

JACKSON: Definitely.


SEACREST: Now you see what I go through.

KING: OK, guys.


KING: Yes, I see what you go through.

ABDUL: You take David Archuleta and you take Dave Cook -- two different singers.

JACKSON: Two different singers.

ABDUL: Both great and both different and unique.


KING: One thing we have learned tonight, Ryan Seacrest earns his pay.


COWELL: What about me?

JACKSON: Yes, and me?


JACKSON: And me, Larry.


COWELL: ...and toss the brick.

JACKSON: And me, Larry.


COWELL: You're doing it again.

SEACREST: I'm sorry.

COWELL: It's Larry's show.

JACKSON: It's Larry's show.

SEACREST: Well, let him speak.

KING: What do Simon, Randy and Paula really think about David and Carly and Michael?

They'll tell you right after the break.



JACKSON: I didn't love it. I liked it. I didn't love it.

ABDUL: What you did at the end...

JACKSON: What was he doing at the very end, though?

ABDUL: Oh my god.

JACKSON: That run at the end was not in tune, Lapone (ph).


COWELL: I'm going to be honest with you -- and this is not going to make me very popular.

JACKSON: It wasn't a good look to me.

ABDUL: Beautiful. That voice of yours. Oh, my God.

COWELL: Look, we're not going to remember this in 10 years time, are we?

ABDUL: I like your hair cut.

JACKSON: It was all right. It was all right.

ABDUL: You couldn't have picked an American composer?

JACKSON: I think it was stellar.

ABDUL: Thank you.

JACKSON: I think it was unbelievable.

COWELL: Your best performance by a mile.

ABDUL: Your best performance. I just...

JACKSON: Dude, you might be the one to win the whole lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We're back with our judges. And we're going to look at the final eight contestants and get their thoughts. And we've got them up on the big board.

We begin with David Cook. Many see David as one of the favorites. There he is. Mr. Cook, age 25 years old. He plays guitar. He's been in two bands. Is he a favorite?

RANDY JACKSON, AMERICAN IDOL JUDGE: Definitely a favorite. He is definitely one of my favorites. I think he's got a shot at winning the whole thing, this kid.


JACKSON: Love him.

ABDUL: I think he's fantastic.

KING: Simon?

SIMON COWELL, AMERICAN IDOL JUDGE: This is the guy I would actually choose to listen to on a personal level. Forget what I think about the business. I like this guy. I think he's very good.

ABDUL: Very talented.

JACKSON: My favorite.

ABDUL: He's like insane talented.

KING: That says a lot. Ryan, you can have an opinion on this one?

RYAN SEACREST, AMERICAN IDOL HOST: I'm a little afraid of it. I feel like we're in the results show. I'm about to deliver results standing up here.

KING: This guy the favorite?

SEACREAST: Well, he certainly sounds like it based on what the judges said but I think he also has sort of broken down the walls of this competition. He is not just a traditional pop artist. I like him.

ABDUL: His voice is amazing.

KING: Our next talent, one of the final eight, this will be, one of them will be eliminated Thursday night, is Carly Smithson. She's been in the bottom three once. Age 24; born and raised in Dublin; moved to Los Angeles at age 13 to pursue a singing career and had a major label record deal. What about Carly, Simon?

COWELL: I tell you the problem I have with Carly is I don't think she knows who she is. I don't think she -- I don't think you can listen to a Carly song and go, that's who she is. Does this, does that. She's a good singer but I think every artist has to know who she is.

ABDUL: And one --

JACKSON: He's right. I have to give him trumps (ph) on that. He's right, 100 percent right.

ABDUL: That's her Achilles. She has an amazing voice.

JACKSON: She's got an amazing voice but --

COWELL: She doesn't know who she is.

ABDUL: You can't deny it. But I don't think, I think she picks songs that she thinks we're going to, you know, approve.

JACKSON: She has no idea. Who is she? We just don't know. He is absolutely right. They're both really right. She's got a great voice.

ABDUL: She is very talented and you're too hard on her with her not looking like a star.

COWELL: Let me tell you why I said that.

ABDUL: I know why you said that.

JACKSON: He always is on her about her clothing.

SEACREST: But by the context, he made a comment about her appearance, said she didn't look like a superstar. And said you should change the way that you look on the show.

COWELL: You know what? I was actually directing my comments at the stylists. If you're performing in front of 55 million people --

ABDUL: But they do pick out the clothes that they want.

SEACREST: The contestant took it personally.

ABDUL: You know what? She's a girl, too.

KING: Our next guy is Michael Johns, he's 29, born in Perth, Australia. They're all laughing. Did Michael do something wrong?

SEACREST: No. Randy.

KING: He moved to the United States in 1998, started singing at age 5, plays guitar and was member of a band called "Rising."

ABDUL: This is one of his best performances.

KING: Michael Johns. Do you like him, Randy?

JACKSON: He's a really talented guy. My problem with him is up until recently he's been picking the wrong songs. He's kind of like this bluesy, soulful -- blue-eyed soul kind of singer but he always picks stuff that doesn't allow him to do his thing. But this was good.

ABDUL: A lot of people started going oh, no.

JACKSON: He has a big voice.

KING: Simon, an American tennis player could win the Australian open. Could an Australian win "American Idol?"

COWELL: Why not?

JACKSON: Why not?

ABDUL: You know, he's wonderful.

COWELL: I like this guy. Sometimes he's a little like he's auditioning for a spot as a lead singer a rock band.


COWELL: And then he gets it right when he does the whole kind of blues soul thing.

ABDUL: Perfect.

COWELL: Yes, this suits him.

JACKSON: This was really good for him.

COWELL: I don't like it when he's kind of doing the whole Michael --

ABDUL: This was great.

JACKSON: I don't like that part either. I don't like him being the rock guy.

COWELL: No, no. We don't like it.

ABDUL: And he's very likable.

COWELL: He's a nice guy.

SEACREST: This was his best night I think on the show so far.

ABDUL: This was the best night.

SEACREST: He's got the heart throb factor. He's got the skill set when he uses it right.

KING: Do you know what they're going to sing before they come out?

COWELL: We watch the dress rehearsal.

JACKSON: We watch the dress rehearsal. That's the only way we know. KING: finally in this segment, contestant four out of eight, Brooke White. She was in the bottom three last week. Age 24; plays piano and guitar; worked as a solo artist with a backup band.

ABDUL: She puts her heart and soul into every song. America really connects with her. She's got a very unique thing.

KING: Have they voted already or they don't?

JACKSON: Each week.

ABDUL: Each week.

COWELL: I like her. She doesn't have a governor. In other words she gets on stage and she says what's on her mind without thinking about it, without being too much of a politician.

JACKSON: She is a pretty transparent as a performer. I just think that with her it's about really picking the right songs. I mean, people have been comparing her to like the new Carly Simon folk movement. She's just staying in that area to me. Anything outside of there is weird.

COWELL: I totally agree. Carly Simon - she's great. Her problem is the last two weeks she's been boring.

SEACREST: Do you think she has the skill set though to make it into the final three or four?

COWELL: With song choice, yes. She needs drama.

JACKSON: With song choice, yes.

KING: Is she a country singer?

COWELL: No, I tell you, she needs more than that. She needs drama. When she does the folk thing it doesn't work.

KING: Let me get it right. Who do you want to win American Idol? You can still vote now at

What about the other David and Jason? This might be a battle of the best.

We'll kick it around when we come back.


COWELL: This is classic footage.

KING: We're back. And now continuing our rundown of the final eight contestants; this Thursday night one will be eliminated. And we now see David Archuleta. He's viewed by many as one of the season's front runners. He is age 17 grew up in Utah, raised a Mormon, plays the piano. By age 12 he won the singers competition on "Star Search" and suffered a virus that paralyzed one vocal cord and never fully recovered. What do we think of David, guys?

JACKSON: I think David is really, really talented. He's also ones of the ones to beat. I think his big thing though is he started out with a big splash. It's about picking the right song.

And it's hard to know who you are at 17. But I think he's got an idea. He just has to stick to his heart and be that.

SEACREST: I think he was right up here at the top of the crop and it's hard to maintain that each and every week. That's his challenge I think.

KING: Paula.

ABDUL: He's been doing this for a long time. You know, when we were on the road I kept referring to him as the 16-year-old savant. He really has that presence. He knows who he is.

KING: Simon?

COWELL: He's the one to beat, Larry. He really is.

KING: Not David Cook?

COWELL: You know, this guy is going to have the teen vote. He's going to have what I call the granny votes. The kids love him.

SEACREST: Where would you want to be going in to the final the one to beat or the one on top?

COWELL: The one to beat for sure.

JACKSON: The one to beat. A hundred percent dude.

KING: Our next talent is Kristy Lee Cook. She was in the bottom three last week; the third time she's been on the bottom three. She is 24, plays piano, was a member of the band "Six Shooter." Pretty girl.

JACKSON: Yeah. She is.

COWELL: The odds of her winning are one million to one.

JACKSON: Yes, I don't think she'll win but I think she definitely could have a recording contract somewhere down the road. She'd definitely make a good country girl.

ABDUL: And young girls really, really --

KING: Why are the odds so heavy, Simon?

COWELL: She has no chance of winning, Larry. I honestly -- the trouble is, I mean, she does sound okay doing country music. She's just not a great country singer, that's the problem. It's all about being invisible and forgettable.

ABDUL: None of these kids are forgettable. They're still on the show.

COWELL: What did she sing last week?

SEACREST: You tell us.

COWELL: Exactly.

ABDUL: What was last week?

COWELL: My point.

ABDUL: She sang "Proud to be an American."

COWELL: She's singing the song --

KING: Next talent is Jason Castro. He's been in the bottom three once, age 20, plays drums, was a member of the band "Keeping Lions" and wears his hair in dread locks.

JACKSON: Jason's cool. I don't think he'll win either. I don't think he's got a shot at winning. I think he's okay as a singer. I think actually he's one of those guys that --

SEACREST: Really? Randy, this is different than what you said on the show.

JACKSON: No, no, no, no.

SEACREST: Shall we type up the score?

JACKSON: I never said he's going to win. He's one of those guys that's a singer/songwriter in the bar and you hear him and go oh, it's a nice song. I like it.

COWELL: He's on the other side of the fence right now. It's interesting.

JACKSON: No, Larry.

COWELL: Ryan actually has a point.

ABDUL: He's got a definitive style vocally.

COWELL: Every one of these kids is unique.

ABDUL: He'll arrange one of the songs how he hears it and Ricky (ph) will say, that's different.

KING: Would you give him a recording contract?

JACKSON: I wouldn't but I'd sign Kristy Lee Cook. I wouldn't sign him but I'd sign Kristy Lee Cook.

COWELL: Really?

SEACREST: You'd walk away from that kid? JACKSON: Yes. I'd sign Kristy Lee Cook though.

COWELL: I think this guy is all about song choice. When he same the Jeff Buckley (ph) song "Hallelujah" he was really good. The trouble is he turns up every week and he looks like he doesn't care.

JACKSON: The thing is that that song "Hallelujah" is such an amazing song.

ABDUL: I think his whole demeanor is like the laidback type.

KING: Okay. One more to look at.

ABDUL: I think he's worthy of being signed.

KING: This is Syesha Mercado, she's been in the bottom three twice. Age 21; been singing since she was 3 years old and has a background in theater and dance.

SEACREST: It was a big night for her.

ABDUL: It was a big night for her. But I do agree, I think we are all on the same page that I wish she would have sang the song vulnerable like Dolly Parton, just like this. And never went into the power side.

JACKSON: With her I feel more like I'm looking at an actress singer as opposed to just a singer.


JACKSON: I feel that's probably going to be her thing.

KING: Well, she's done a lot of theater.

COWELL: Or the theater.

JACKSON: Yes, I think it's going to be more of her thing.

COWELL: Yes, you're right.

ABDUL: I think she has a pretty, beautiful voice.

JACKSON: She's got a great voice.

COWELL: How can it be incredible? That's the problem. I always thought there's a feeling to this girl.

KING: I would say it's a pretty good final eight.


COWELL: It is.

JACKSON: Really good final eight. Really good.

ABDUL: You see how good they are.

KING: Okay, guys. Scandal, controversy, or sensation, call it what you will but a stripper on "American Idol?"

Next on Larry King Live.


KING: We're back with our group. By the way, one of the season's top 12 David Hernandez was revealed to have worked as a male stripper. You think that contributed to him getting voted off?



COWELL: I have to say, you know, within reason, that sort of stuff doesn't bother me in the slightest.

KING: Nor the voter.

COWELL: I mean, if they're going to make their mind up on that then it's all a bit stupid.

KING: Agreed.

JACKSON: When you look at the entertainment business, Larry, my God.

COWELL: I mean, Randy wouldn't have been on the show.

KING: Hold on. Anderson Cooper is off tonight. Campbell Brown is sitting in; she will host AC 360. I forgot to go to her after the segment. Of course it's new to me, Campbell uses the end of the last segment. But we move things around in television. What's up tonight?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": It's a good thing you're so adaptable Larry. Well, coming up at the top of the hour on 360 the story that continues to shock a lot of us; the raid on the polygamist compound in Texas. Many more children have been removed than previously thought and there are now allegations of statutory rape and brain washing.

We're going to talk to some of the volunteers who are sheltering these women and children and find out exactly what's going on inside the compound. We're also going to talk to a woman who escaped the polygamist sect.

Plus tonight a little politics, Larry, Barack Obama narrowing the gap in Pennsylvania. That plus Senator Clinton dismissing a top aide has some people saying her campaign is in very serious trouble.

We've got all that and more, Larry, at the top of the hour on "360."

KING: That's Campbell Brown doing work, working overtime. She'll host "AC 360" at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Guys, we have an email from Nancy in Sturgis, Kentucky. How is it determined what order contestants sing in? Should every contestant have a chance to get the "pimp spot"? The "pimp spot" is I guess the final slot. Usually seems to go --

COWELL: To be fair now, you'll see --

KING: Our term or your term?

JACKSON: Is it p-i-m-p?

KING: Yes, pimp.

JACKSON: Yes, we're going to use it. That's cool. Pimp spot, I like that.

SEACREST: We're going to start using it this Tuesday night. Tomorrow night, live.

COWELL: It is supposed to be fair. I do believe that they work around so that you start the show, end the show, you're in the middle of the show.

ABDUL: The whole cycle.

JACKSON: Just so you know I think most of the time when there's not a mentor they pick the names of the songs out of a hat.

KING: By the way, don't forget "Idol Gives Back" Wednesday night. Long show, how long is it on for?

SEACREST: It's two and a half hours, there's an extra half hour. We start early and then we go for two and a half.

KING: "Idol Gives Back" Wednesday night, don't forget. And you can help by tuning in by calling in and helping.

Let's take a call, San Juan, Puerto Rico, hello.

MALE CALLER: Larry, I'm wondering -- we've been watching this show every season religiously and I'm wondering whether they're planning on somebody suggested recording the top ten performances of the season like David Archuleta, "Imagine" and David Cook and the Billy Jean rendition they did. Michael Johns And perhaps the Queen's songs he's done.

COWELL: You mean as a compilation album?

KING: Yes.

JACKSON: Why not?

SEACREST: You should do that.

JACKSON: Everything's available on iTunes. But that's a good idea.

COWELL: I think it would do well. You should be in the record business, young man.

JACKSON: That's a great idea.

SEACREST: Like you say each week and each night you can download those songs but I think it's a great idea to have them all together.

JACKSON: You can download them on iTunes.

ABDUL: I'd have a conflict.

KING: Paula, you're the only recording artist here. Where is the record business with iTunes?

ABDUL: Well, iTunes is a real wonderful outlet.

KING: you can download anything right?

ABDUL: The whole internet is giving the chance for artists to do it their own way and be in control.

KING: As an artist would it bother you?

ABDUL: No, because there's lots of upsides to it. You know? And I'm pretty grateful for it.

JACKSON: Yes, iTunes is hot.

KING: Helena, Montana, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is for Simon.

KING: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of all the previous winners of all of the previous "American Idol" seasons, who is your favorite winner and why?

COWELL: I would have to say Kelly Clarkson because I think we have a lot to be thankful for to Kelly Clarkson because by her winning and doing so well it kind of gave the show credibility.

And now I've got to know her better over the years. I like her more as a person now as well. The great thing about Kelly is, I have to tell you, no messing around with this girl. She makes up her own mind what she's going to do.

ABDUL: And I never get tired of hearing her voice.

SEACREST: And she's got a new record right now.

JACKSON: New record right now, working on it.

KING: We have another email question from Suzanne in Durand, Oklahoma. What do you feel about the fact that idol voting often seems based more on charm, personal history, or looks than on genuine performing talent?

JACKSON: All I can say is that every season the winner is the one chosen with the best vocal talent. I think they've gotten it right every time.

COWELL: Not true.


COWELL: Season five.

JACKSON: Who won?

COWELL: Taylor Hicks.

JACKSON: Who's the runner-up?

COWELL: Well he wasn't the best singer.

JACKSON: Who was the runner-up?

SEACREST: Right or wrong, the business is based on that.

Whether it be right or wrong the business is based on the whole equation because you've got the internet and you've got the television show and you've got the radio. It's not just one outlet anymore.

KING: We have another segment remaining. "American Idol" still going strong but could this be the show's last season? I'll ask my guests; we'll get an answer too when we return.


KING: Okay, guys. The world waits with bated breath. Simon, is this the last year of "American Idol?"

COWELL: Do I tell them?

JACKSON: You're live all over the world.

COWELL: Yes, we've decided that we're going to call it quits after this.

SEACREST: I'm going to show up.

COWELL: Kidding.

JACKSON: I'm going to show up.

KING: Was he kidding or not?

Were you kidding or not kidding?

COWELL: I'm kidding. We're doing at least another two more.

JACKSON: Yeah. KING: Because they say were you bored?

COWELL: I always get bored. No, I do get bored. I get bored on the audition shows. But I can't pretend.

SEACREST: By the way, it's beyond bored every year. We get on the plane and he says, I can't do this another day. Right? True?

COWELL: I absolutely hate it but I can't sit there and pretend that I'm loving it if people are coming in and torturing me. I just hate it.

KING: "American Idol Gives Back" will air again on Wednesday night. On a recent show of "American Idol" Jimmy Kimmel roasted you. Did you like being on the other end?

COWELL: No. Very uncomfortable.

ABDUL: I loved every second of it.

COWELL: A little bit too close to the truth is what I felt. I didn't like it.

ABDUL: He said some funny things that were actually true.

SEACREST: It hit close to home because it was awkward.

COWELL: Very uncomfortable.

SEACREST: At one or two points --

KING: So are you all signed for two remaining years that he's guaranteed?




KING: Would you say it is two years and over?

COWELL: No, no. I actually think the show can last a long time. Partly because of the reason we said before, Larry. We're not on all the time so hopefully people don't get too bored with us.


JACKSON: And there is a ton of talent out there.

ABDUL: You'll never, never miss --

KING: You don't get tired of -- look what all you do; starting early in the morning.

SEACREST: Yeah. KING: You run a network.

JACKSON: We run a network --

SEACREST: By the way, the truth is for me, and I know for all of us, without the show I wouldn't have everything else.

COWELL: That's not what you said to me.

SEACREST: What I said you to is completely different but that's all. We're very grateful for it and sure we get tired but tired of it? No. I'd like to see it go on for a long time. I'd like to see Paula gray on the show.

KING: Has it affected your career?

ABDUL: You know what? That's an interesting question. I have sold over 55 million records. Being on "American Idol" has really flipped my world upside down. I mean when you're on television, and you're reaching that many, I feel like it's a whole new experience. I feel it's, I said upside down meaning good upside down.

JACKSON: In fact, Larry, she has a hot song out right now.

COWELL: Outside that ---

ABDUL: It's like there is no tomorrow.

SEACREST: My blood is rushing.

ABDUL: With Randy Jackson.

JACKSON: Paula Abdul, I got a hot record on right now. Larry, you need that record.

KING: You produced it?

JACKSON: Yeah man. I'm getting it to you today. What?

SEACREST: You can walk to breakfast with the headset with the CD.

KING: Did you like it?

COWELL: Unfortunately, I did.

KING: You really didn't want to, did you?

COWELL: I really, really wanted to hate it and I remember listening to it thinking oh, gosh I actually like this. It wasn't a good day for me.

KING: Do you get more up for this give back show?

SEACREST: I think you do. I think what we do is entertainment and escapism every week but what we're talking about on Wednesday night is our world. That's what this is really all about, the ability to talk about these issues and share the awareness.

However, we do really at the end of our hour have fun. We do smile and we do have a good laugh and we don't take ourselves too seriously, Larry, and I think that's the key.

JACKSON: We toss it up every week.

SEACREST: We don't plan it, that's for sure.

COWELL: That's true.

KING: Predict a winner?

SEACREST: There will be one.

KING: There will be one.

SEACREST: Yes. Randy?

JACKSON: A boy. It's about a boy. It's a boy that's going to win this year.

COWELL: It will be David versus David.

SEACREST: David and David.

KING: The two Davids.

COWELL: That's what I predict.

JACKSON: Yes, me too.

COWELL: That will be a good final.

KING: Now the harsh question. Who gets eliminated Thursday?

COWELL: I would say Syesha or the girl I can't remember.

ABDUL: Kristy Lee Cook.

COWELL: Kristy Lee. One of those two girls.

KING: One of those two.

ABDUL: Well, Kristy has been --

COWELL: Or maybe Jason.


ABDUL: Or Jason. It's the most bizarre season because we don't know.

KING: And you would record Kristy, right? That's what you said.

JACKSON: Yeah, yeah. KING: Thank you very much for an illuminating hour. We appreciate that because you took enough of a pause there. Sorry on the wires.


KING: Who do you want to win American Idol? Right now -- drum roll -- Jason Castro is in the lead but there is still time to vote.


ABDUL: Yes, girls love him.

KING: Yes, he's in the lead. That's -- you guys must be shocked.

ABDUL: You know what, he is wrong. He is wrong.

KING: You can see videoclips of this show or send us a video e- mail but by all means, cast your ballots.

I'm voting for Campbell Brown who's in for Anderson Cooper tonight. Anderson, you win Larry King Idol. Go.