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So you want to be an American Idol? Well, I don't know anything about being on American Idol, the TV show. But I do know a few things about being on American Idol, The Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


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Before you complain that American Idol, The Experience isn't the same as the popular TV show, know this: The winner of the day receives a Fastpass or "Dream Ticket" to a real American Idol audition whenever and wherever it's held around the country. If you watch this show's opening episodes each season, you know that people travel from around the country for a spot in the highly coveted auditions. So if you love to sing and have real dreams about becoming a real American Idol, your first shot at the process can start right at Walt Disney World.

Step 1 – Check if you qualify

You have to have a ticket into Disney's Hollywood Studios? Do you have the time? You should plan on spending the better part of the day. After all, if you succeed in one of the first shows, you'll be asked to come back to the final show of the day when the actual dream ticket is given to the final winner. So if you're serious about this, plan on making this your priority and if you don't make it, consider spending the time out in the park a pretty good consolation prize. In other words, plan on spending the day.

You must also be at least 14 years of age. If you are between 14 and 17, you will have to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at all times. For that matter, even if you are older, take someone with you as your coach and second eyes. You don't want to be dealing with the minutae. You want to be focused on doing your best performance. And they'll enjoy the backstage aspect of the experience.

By the way, you can be as old as you want. Some older gentleman did "La Bamba" last week and it nearly brought down the house. He certainly got the sympathy vote. But remember, even if you win the "Dream Ticket" from the attraction, you may still not qualify for the TV show itself, since there are eligibility requirements for age: The ages for that show are different. You may however, pass your card to another who would be within the age limits and other requirements. But you can still have the opportunity to be on this show, and it's worth doing.

Step 2 – Choose a song—or four to five

There are 113 songs total to choose from. Identify several you may be comfortable with. You may want to provide a variety of different songs; for example, don't do all ballads. That creates a greater opportunity for you to eventually appear because they need to make certain there's some variety in this show. Know that the lyrics (words) and underscore for each song on the approved song list will be a shortened version approximately ninety seconds in length. Also, there is a huge screen in the back of the theater that plays like Karaoke. So it isn't that you have to have it memorized. But you want to be as comfortable about the requirements of the song, so you can give it your best expression.

Although this list can change, as of today, the following are the categories and song titles to choose from, along with a brief description, including tempo and whether the song is appropriate for males, females, or both.

Complete song list as of January 2009 

Category Song title Made famous by Speed Voice
Country

 

"Achy Breaky HeartUp"

Billy Ray Cyrus/Garth Brooks

Tempo

Both

"All American Girl"

Carrie Underwood

Medium

Female

"Amazed"

Lonestar

Ballad

Both

"Boot Scootin' Boogie"

Brooks & Dunn

Uptempo

Both

"Breathe"

Faith Hill

Ballad

Female

"Do You Believe Me Now"

Jimmy Wayne

Medium

Both

"How Do I Live (Without You)"

Trisha Yearwood/LeAnn Rhimes

Ballad

Female

"Hope You Dance"

Lee Ann Womack

Ballad

Female

"Like It, I Love It"

Tim McGraw

Uptempo

Both

"I Told You So"

Randy Travis/Carrie Underwood

Uptempo

Both

"Independence Day"

Martina McBride

Medium

Female

"It's Good to be Us"

Bucky Covington

Medium

Both

"Life is a Highway"

Rascal Flatts

Uptempo

Both

"Lost"

Kenny Chesney

Medium

Both

"Man, I Feel Like A Woman"

Shania Twain

Uptempo

Female

"My Wish"

Rascal Flatts

Ballad

Both

"Our Song"

Taylor Swift

Medium

Female

"Sweet Home Alabama"

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Medium

Both

"The Kiss"*

[We think this is actually "This Kiss" by Faith Hill]

Uptempo

Female

"Walkin' After Midnight"

Patsy Cline

Ballad

Male

"What Hurts The Most"

Rascal Flatts

Ballad

Male

Disco/
Dance

 

"Best of My Love"

The Emotions

Up-tempo

Both

"Fame"

Irene Cara

Tempo

Both

"Hot Stuff"

Donna Summer

Tempo

Female

"I Will Survive"

Gloria Gaynor

Uptempo

Female

"Knock on Wood"

Amii Stewart

Uptempo

Female

"Last Dance"

Donna Summer

Tempo

Female

"Never Can Say Goodbye"

The Jackson 5

Uptempo

Both

"Turn Your Love Around"

George Benson

Medium

Male

"You're The First, The Last, My Everything"

Barry White

Uptempo

Male

Latin

 

"1-2-3"

Gloria Estefan

Uptempo

Both

"Bailamos"

Enrique Iglesias

Ballad

Male

"Just Another Day"

Jon Secada

Ballad

Male

"La Bamba"

Ritchie Valens

Uptempo

Male

"Smooth"

Santana (with Rob Thomas)

Medium

Male

"Turn the Beat Around"

Vicky Sue Robinson (Gloria Estefan version)

Uptempo

Both

"Waiting for Tonight"

Jennifer Lopez

Uptempo

Female

R&B

 

"100 Ways"

James Ingram

Ballad

Male

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough"

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrel/Diana Ross

Uptempo

Both

"Ain't Too Proud To Beg"

The Temptations

Medium

Both

"For Once In My Life"

Stevie Wonder

Medium

Both

"Get Ready"

The Temptations

Uptempo

Male

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine"

Marvin Gaye version

Medium

Male

"I Want You Back"

The Jackson 5

Medium

Both

"I'll Be There"

The Jackson 5

Ballad

Both

"Midnight Train to Georgia"

Gladys Knight and the Pips

Ballad

Female

"New Attitude"

Patti LaBelle

Uptempo

Female

"Reach Out, I'll Be There"

The Four Tops/Diana Ross

Uptempo

Both

"Respect"

Aretha Franklin

Medium

Female

"Signed, Sealed, Delivered"

Stevie Wonder version

Uptempo

Both

"Stop in the Name of Love"

The Supremes

Medium

Both

"Superstition"

Stevie Wonder

Uptempo

Both

"Then Came You"

Dionne Warwick & the Spinners

Medium

Both

"Vision of Love"

Mariah Carey

Ballad

Female

"You Are The Sunshine of My Life"

Stevie Wonder

Medium

Both

"You Keep Me Hangin' On"

The Supremes

Uptempo

Female

"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"

Aretha Franklin

Ballad

Female

"You're All I need to Get By"

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Medium

Both

Disney
songs

 

"Best of Both Worlds"

Miley Cyrus

Uptempo

Female

"Bet On It"

Zac Efron

Medium

Male

"Breaking Free"

High School Musical

Uptempo

Both

"Circle of Life"

Elton John (from Lion King)

Medium

Both

"Colors of the Wind"

Vanessa Williams (from Pocahontas)

Ballad

Female

"Ever Ever After"

Carrie Underwood (from Enchanted)

Uptempo

Both

"Go The Distance"

Hercules

Ballad

Male

"Part of Your World"

Jodi Benson (from The Little Mermaid)

Ballad

Female

"Play My Music"

Jonas Brothers (from Camp Rock)

Uptempo

Both

"Reflection"

Christina Aguilera (from Mulan)

Ballad

Female

"Rock Star"

Miley Cyrus (from Hannah Montana)

Uptempo

Female

"This Is Me"

Demi Lovato & Joe Jonas (from Camp Rock)

Uptempo

Both

"You'll Be In My Heart"

Phil Collins (from Tarzan)

Medium

Both

Rock/pop
ballad

 

"A Moment Like This"

Kelly Clarkson

Ballad

Both

"Alone"

Heart

Ballad

Female

"Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me"

Elton John

Ballad

Male

"Drops of Jupiter"

Train

Ballad

Male

"Home"

Daughtry

Ballad

Male

"If It Makes You Happy"

Sheryl Crow

Ballad

Female

"Iris"

Goo Goo Dolls

Ballad

Both

"Just Once"

James Ingram

Ballad

Male

"Kiss From A Rose"

Seal

Ballad

Both

"Looks Like We Made It"

Barry Manilow

Ballad

Both

"Stand By Me"

Ben E. King

Ballad

Male

"Unchained Melody"

The Righteous Brothers

Ballad

Both

"What A Wonderful World"

Louis Armstrong

Ballad

Both

"Your Song"

Elton John

Ballad

Both

Rock/pop
uptempo

 

"Big Girls Don't Cry"

Fergie

Uptempo

Female

"Black Horse and a Cherry Tree"

KT Tunstall

Uptempo

Female

"Bohemian Rhapsody"

Queen

Uptempo

Male

"Breakaway"

Kelly Clarkson

Uptempo

Female

"Don't Stop the Music"

Journey

Uptempo

Female

"Express Yourself"

Madonna

Uptempo

Female

"Face Down"

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Uptempo

Male

"Footloose"

Kenny Loggins

Uptempo

Male

"Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Pat Benetar

Uptempo

Female

"I Can See Clearly Now"

Johnny Nash

Uptempo

Male

"I Feel The Earth Move"

Carole King

Uptempo

Both

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody"

Whitney Houston

Uptempo

Both

"If Everyone Cared"

Nickelback

Uptempo

Male

"No One"

Alicia Keys

Uptempo

Both

"Old Time Rock and Roll"

Bob Seger

Uptempo

Both

"Over You"

Daughtry

Uptempo

Both

"Rock With You"

Michael Jackson

Uptempo

Both

"Since U Been Gone"

Kelly Clarkson

Uptempo

Female

"Somebody to Love"

Queen

Uptempo

Both

"Suspicious Minds"

Elvis Presley

Uptempo

Male

"Sway"

Michael Buble

Uptempo

Male

"The Great Escape"

Boys Like Girls

Uptempo

Female

"Walk Away"

Kelly Clarkson

Uptempo

Female

"Walkin' In Memphis"

Marc Cohn

Uptempo

Both

"Walking On Sunshine"

Katrina & the Waves

Uptempo

Both

"You Really Got Me Now"

The Kinks

Uptempo

Male

"You're My Best Friend"

Queen

Uptempo

Both

Step 3 – Get to the park early

There's no guarantee you're going to get in, even if you have a strong voice. You want to get in line early and find out. Don't go to the front of the theater. Go behind the theater opposite of Sci Fi Drive-In. There you will enter a queue for your first audition. You don't want to sit in a long audition line. Act like a professional and get there early.

Step 4 – Perform your first audition

After queuing, you will be assigned to one of four booths for your first audition. Your initial audition will take approximately two minutes, including feedback from the Casting Director. Sing any song a cappella (no accompaniment track or music), including the ones listed. It doesn't matter. Just no original material They just want to make sure you have the ability to potentially provide an entertaining experience. And don't worry about any "Simon" like judges at this point. Think of it as auditioning to your high school choir teacher. In fact, the judge we met, was just that--a former high school choral instructor.

By the way, Disney does an incredibly professional job handling you during this audition process. They know it's sometimes scary. To that end, they've created a really sharp experience, and they've paid attention to a lot of important details to make this work for you. But remember, it's not about you. While you may get the applause and even the ticket, at the end of the day, the purpose of this attraction is for Disney to entertain guests. You have to be able to provide an experience that's worth their time. Either you have it or you don't.

Step 5 – Perform your second audition

Here's where you need to select up to three to five songs from the song list. Prior to entering, you will need to sign a consent form because you will be videotaped. You'll also be given an MP3 player so you can listen to your selected underscore and see the lyrics on the player. Then you enter a second audition with another judge. During this second audition held in a slightly larger office than the first audition, you use a microphone and sing one song to an audio playback of an instrumental recording with the words to the song displayed on a screen in the back. Based on your talent, the experience either comes to and end or the producer asks you to be either a "Guest Performer" or an "Alternate Guest Performer" in one of the shows that day.

Step 6 – Get your lanyard

If you are selected to continue, you are given a lanyard loudly proclaiming you're a performer that day. You're allowed out in the park until an hour before the show, when you need to be back. If you're really serious about getting that ticket, then you better bust your tail promoting yourself and asking people to vote for you. Remember, every vote counts. Don't think you'll be in the next show that happens that day, because the producer has to balance the show and the variety of songs/talent in those shows. You may have auditioned early in the day, but asked to come back at 3:00 for a 4:00 show.

Step 7 – Come back an hour early

Here they are going to further set you up for success. Hair and makeup professionals will fuss over you, and you get a chance to go through a tech rehearsal of the song with all of the lighting, bells, and whistles. Think carefully about how you want to dress. You want to look right for the song you are singing. As they say, a song is really a story. Your look and appearance better support the story. If you're serious about doing this, you'll know what I mean.

Step 8 – Perform

Give it your all. Ignore the judges, since they mean nothing to your performance. They are just there to make the experience look authentic (which ironically, is the one thing they don't do). Hopefully, they will change this, and let the judges be themselves rather than a formulaic view of the ones on American Idol. Either way, ignore them. All that matters is how you come across with the audience so that they will vote for you at the end of the show on some keypads next to their seat.

Step 9 – Do it again

If you are voted the winner, you are invited to the last show of the day. It is the final winner of this show that gets the Dream Ticket for that day. Spend the time before this to get people to show up and vote for you. And then be ready to give a great show, which as I understand, can be the same song as performed earlier. After all, theoretically, it should be a different crowd.

Step 10 – Enjoy It

Dream Ticket or not, it's the most amazing talent show you will ever have the opportunity to participate in. If you make it onstage, you'll have a chance to perform before a audience of a thousand on one amazing stage. Without going professional, it's hard to do better than this. And even if you never make it past the first audition, it will still be the most memorable moment of your day at the Disney Hollywood Studios.

And if you just want to be a guest, do it. You'll enjoy it. I did. In fact, I really wanted to come back to other shows later on the day. It's a great experience and worth your while.



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(Send an email to Jeff Kober)

J. Jeff Kober, (@MousePlanetJeff) president of Performance Journeys and CEO of World Class Benchmarking, is also a thought leader on best-in-business practices at the Walt Disney Company. He brings those ideas to organizations via keynotes, seminars, and workshops to organizations around the world. He has authored "The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney" as well as a "Disney at Work" series of apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, available via DisneyatWork.com. You can find out more about his newest book, "Lead With Your Customer: Transform Culture and Brand into World-Class Excellence" at LeadWithYourCustomer.com.