Idol's Burnell Taylor Talks Trio Trainwreck, Motown 'Mmms' and His Almost Audition Song

burnell-taylor-american-idol-idology-interview-slezakBurnell Taylor has apparently watched a few episodes of Idology this season — and he’s not afraid to dish out what he’s gamely taken during my weekly American Idol pow-wows with cohost Melinda Doolittle.

The Season 12 seventh-place finisher dropped by TVLine HQ to talk about his ’80s-leaning fashion sense, his infamous group performance with Lazaro Arbos and Devin Velez and what he perceived as unwarranted criticism over “not knowing” the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” (Spoiler alert: Burnell says there’s a difference between knowing something and knowing it well enough to be comfortable covering it on live TV.)

Other gems from this freewheeling conversation: Which song Burnell considered in place of “I’m Here” down to the final seconds before his memorable audition; why he chose Ruben Studdard’s “Flying Without Wings” for Top 10 week; and how he approaches learning a new song. All that, plus Burnell pays proper homage to the Idols who came before him.

Press play for the whole enchilada, and for all my Idol-related news, interviews, recaps and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. marie says:

    You know, we just see such a more genuine side of these kids in these Idology videos than we get to see in the scripted, regimented, tightly edited (at least the pre-recorded portions) broadcasts. Thanks for that, Michael. Burnell is quite entertaining, droll, and downright funny. Enjoyed that! (Still like his vocal tone, too.)
    But we’ll never know about the “Ms,” I guess, LOL.

    • marie says:

      (Hey, first, finally! Ridiculous how that tickles me…!)

    • Harvey says:

      Really, though, the editors need to keep their nose out of the footage and just let us see how funny and relatable these kids are. Burnell and Devin were both way more likable in these 10 minutes than the entire show.

      • HitTheGroundRunning says:

        Yeah and look what they heck they did to Haley. And heck, even on of their chosen favs, Lauren from that season, they made her into mousy good little lauren and robbed her of all of her biting wit and intelligence. Gah, it’s production that makes a mess of all these things. If they actually were reality tv they’d be ten times better.

    • PeaceMaker says:

      I’m a singer, and years ago i was taped at a concert and there were all these mysterious Ms at the end of certain words. I had no idea I was doing that. It had something to do with the way I was shaping my mouth, and I had to work with my voice teacher to get rid of it. People have no idea what goes into singing and what it takes to use your body as an instrument.

    • Lunakit says:

      It’s the little things in life, really…. :-)

    • Yo says:

      Completely agree. These people are nothing like their presentation on television. What a nice, genuine kid! And, yes, funny! With a terrific attitude! Keep on truckin’, Burnell!

  2. GinaR says:

    Aw, he’s sweet and funny. I always like these interviews. For the most part, even folks who come off a little iffy on the show, always seem to redeem themselves here.

  3. forwarddad says:

    Enjoyed it. He truly is very southern in his mannerisms and his speak. Hope he does well.

  4. Sara says:

    Damn, can’t wait to see Lazaro here next week.. One word: awkward

    • Mafs95 says:

      Either the interview will be longer (about 15 minutes), or Michael will ask him less questions

      • Sara says:

        The stuttering is not the problem, its the questions. And The answers. God, I’m doing the facepalm just thinking about it.

        • Mafs95 says:

          Michael knows how to make the contestants feel comfortable, but I’m curious to know how will Lazaro answer the questions about judge’s comments, what people on the Internet were saying about him and the performances he forgot the lyrics LOL

        • Nat says:

          Yeah, I think he’s not very good at answering questions in an interesting/original way. I don’t know if that has to do with the stutter, but it’s not going to be a picnic, that’s for sure.

        • Lee says:

          All I can say is expect Lazaro to make more excuses for his poor performances because that’s what he is best at doing.

          • WDDB says:

            Really? Because Burnell wouldn’t have made Top 5 EITHER. Nor would have Devin. Get it?

            So people can stop with the “trio” stuff.

  5. Mafs95 says:

    I believe this season’s tour is going to be a little bit awkward behind the stage LOL

  6. dj says:

    Burnell is awesome. Great interview.

  7. Glam Dixie says:

    Ohm Burnell, you were adorablem and you should have outlasted Lazarom but way to be a class actm.

  8. Kristi says:

    I love all the behind the scenes tibits that he shared! Right down to the positioning of the person who is going home. I love how he rolls with the punches in regards to criticism as well. Great interview!

    • QueenJ says:

      Your comment reminds me, since they notice order of standing next to Ryan then certainly they notice performance order. Like when Burnell found out he was going first he must have thought well then it’s or sure I’m gone. They must all hate hearing they are going first.

  9. Kait says:

    Burnell made me laugh! He has a really good attitude, I hope he finds a niche for himself somewhere in the industry

  10. nk says:

    Great interview. When Idol is re-tooled after this season, I hope that the new executive producer realizes that we the viewer need this sort of un-packaged honest feedback from contestants DURING their idol journey.

    And hopefully they doubly-realize that they need to poach Slezak and Melinda away from Ausellio’s talons in order to do this properly.

    This show needs new life, a honest an open interview series is a good start and a powerful way to take the focus off the worthless judging panel.

    • Danny says:

      Nk- Wow!! You took my post out of my hands. I made a crack to Marie & was going to come back and post pretty much what you did.
      Yea, get this kind of stuff ON the show, not after it’s over. And also, yea- get MS & MD on Idols payroll.

      • Jamie says:

        The problem with getting MS and MD on Idol’s payroll is that they would then become puppets and not allowed to say or do the things they can say and do now. All of their originality would be quashed. I would, however, like to see Michael be a recurring guest judge, and, perhaps, act as a consultant for Idol. Actually, I think he already is a consultant for Idol; they just haven’t told him and he isn’t getting paid for it. (heehee)

  11. Penny Tration says:

    Who set up the cameras for this interview? Nothing like looking at a profile of the sitting interview subject from a standing position. Is this a Christmas home video of a new puppy? Television 101 – camera is on same level as who you’re shooting. K?

  12. Maj says:

    Help this poor European girl…what did Burnell say after Michael called him on the m’s? Michael found it really funny but I just can’t understand him… :-/

    Other than that, loved this interview. Burnell sure has some personality. But then I think almost everyone does, it’s just that not everyone is ready to able to show it on TV…

    • deedee says:

      Maj, in response to the “mmm’s”, Burnell said that he pronounces & phrases thing differently from most people, and that’s what makes him different and unique. Michael liked that answer, and laughed along with Burnell about it. That’s all I got from that whole exchange.

  13. Tom22 says:

    Great Kid! Smart, confident.. well-spoken.

    Realistic about hard work and complications of the industry and how a voice or a show success isn’t going to get you anywhere if you don’t run after that starting gun is fired.

  14. SG says:

    Very good interview, actually Michael made me love Devon & Burnell much, much more after his interviews! Those kids characters shins on interviews, spc. With you Michael. Runs to watch your Kris Allen’s interviews. They are my absolute favs.

  15. Amy says:

    Loved Burnell in this interview. Loved his singing on the show too. He was charming and funny…made me laugh several times. With his takes on “the trio” (although I think he’s right…looks like Laz was making sure he made his mark in time for that first line, more than trying to upstage), about his elimination and LOL about his “rock star” moment. To me, that last one is the nature of the beast…almost everyone has one of those moments on Idol given all the various theme weeks, there is usually one that doesn’t fit someone to the point of it being too uncomfortable to pull off, still they try their best.
    I know I was alone in this from reading posts here, still…while I found both Paul and Devon to be a little negative and catty….I found Burnell adorable and likable, with a great attitude. And to Burnell….I still love your “Let It Be”; one of my favorite performances this season.
    I wish him lots of luck…he certainly has been pursuing this dream, seriously…had no idea he tried Idol Season 10 (if they said it on AI, I forgot) and for X-Factor too.

    • Lee says:

      You know, I think Blake was the first Idol to sing You Give Love A Bad Name on the Idol stage–and he changed it up. I don’t understand why Burnell didn’t do the same thing. He could’ve turned it into an uptempo, jazz/R&B song with a piano, sax, etc. The problem with this season is that most of the Idols lack imagination and creativity. All of the guys were like that. I think just Candice and Janelle reinterpret songs that fit their style.

      • QueenJ says:

        I strongly believe that the producers have them on a very short leash. I agree though, Burnell knew it was going to be a train wreck and it’s sad he couldn’t fix that. I’ll believe some is due to inexperience but even Candice and Janelle really have not been all that creative. For this season, yes, but not compared to some of the truly reimagined covers we’ve heard over the years.

  16. Amy says:

    PS. Michael, re: acid wash revival…yes. Right after that night and your review…I forget what store I was in, but there it was. Not sure how “big” of a way it’s back or for how long…but seems to be “a thing”, among those young enough not to have worn it first time around. Haha…the rest of us…are done with it. …that said……I used to have a favorite jacket I lived in then…sigh…I loved that jacket. :)

  17. syb says:

    I always liked Burnell when they showed his bits on Idol, but now I REALLY am fond of him after this interview. Smart kid, fantastic down to earth attitude. Doesn’t take himself too seriously, funny as heck, and just love the Louisiana dialect and laid back vibe.

    I enjoyed his vocal tone if not his song choices so much, or some of the styling. I hope he makes a record, and I’ll check it out. He’s got the personality for the business.

  18. billh says:

    I never liked Burnell during the show, but I really liked him during this interview and would probably not mind seeing him on Tour. just shows how Uncle Nigel and Co can shape opinion so easily.

  19. waterbug says:

    OMG! I love Burnell. What a wonderful laid back and infectious personality and he is also very cute. i can see why Amber gave him that “look” and Candice is best friends with him.

  20. LauraMipsome says:

    Idol should really take a cue from Slezak’s interviews… Honesty is so much more appealing than manufactured, over-wrought, forced-down-your-throat garbage. Time for reality tv to get more real… time to evolve.

    • HitTheGroundRunning says:


      as I said above, the only thing that can save these reality tv shows is by actually making them reality tv!

      otherwise just give us real scripted shows scripted by talented creators

  21. Raghu says:

    Slezak is totally smitten!

  22. Steve says:

    Burnell needs to take some English classes so he can speak proper English. Im not meaning this in a bad way but his diction and grammar are horrendous for someone his age, and dont sound very professional. Cmon

  23. CJS says:

    Burnell was definitely the best guy in the top 10 & he deserved to be the last guy standing. Such a shame he had to leave before Lazaro.
    What a great interview. Burnell is definitely a great guy. Here’s hoping he has great success in the future.

  24. Ctzctz1 says:

    Idol needs to hire Michael to do interviews during the season. Great interviews with those voted off.

  25. Lauren says:

    Great interview, Michael! I love hearing the behind-the-scenes info, like how Burnell almost picked a different audition song, and how he knew he was going home because of where they placed him on stage. He seems like a really genuine, funny guy, I was sad to see him go.

  26. dan says:

    I really hope Burnell has a successful career, he seems very sharp and genuine, very funny, too. This interview really made him lovable.

  27. AlyB says:

    What a sweet guy. I love his whole chill, funny vibe. I actually loved his voice. He was my favorite of the guys this season. I hope he gets the chance to make his mark beyond Idol. Great interview Michael. Yours are the only ones that make me feel like I’m actually getting a glimpse of the real person.

  28. HitTheGroundRunning says:

    Hah wish he had worn that acid washed jacket! Shut up all of these ridiculous style critiques once and for all. (and stop hating on the 80s, man it’s better than dirty grunge and hipster styling we’ve been stuck with for all too long)

  29. HitTheGroundRunning says:

    Man, dude, is really funny. And not just smart but really wise. They really should somehow let more of the real contestants come through instead of all the made up scripts or sob stories or this or that.
    Best of luck to him!

  30. spongebob says:

    A great funny interview! LOLs! I can’t imagine how the Lazaro interview will go or how you will be able to keep a straight face, but I’m excited to see it. :)

  31. aravis says:

    Loved this interview! Laughed so hard in parts. Very interesting about the MMMs, that he really didn’t know it was what we were hearing.

  32. Lori says:

    He’s adorable.

  33. Alienate says:

    I too love Burnell. From day one. This was icing on the cake. Thanks, Mikey!

  34. Jake says:

    Again, why doesn’t Idol ever show these personalities in a setting like this?
    Of those remaining, I’m particularly loving Amber and Candice. Everyone can sing well, but based on everything we’ve seen thus far, for me it’s: 1) Candice 2) Amber 3) Janelle 4) Kree 5) Angie.
    Kree easily has one of the best voices this season, but she lacks creativity and emotion, both things that Janelle, the dark horse this year, has steadily improved on. Angie is good but not exceptional (and some of her social media flubs have shown her true colors in terms of how she treats others, namely Lazaro). Candice is easily the best singer and performer, and while Amber is clearly going home either this week or next week, I find her to be the most marketable of the group and the most easy-going on stage.

    • Jake says:

      BTW – By “creativity” as it pertains to Kree and Janelle, I’m referring to changing up song arrangements and risk-taking, as Janelle has taken chances with both while Kree really hasn’t.

    • Ange says:

      Please explain “some of her social media flubs have shown her true colors in terms of how she treats others”. Not being catty, I’m really interested. Thanks!

      • Erika says:

        Angie had favorited some tweets from fans who were very angry Lazaro didn’t go home. They weren’t nice tweets at all and Angie agreed with them by favoriting them. Either she doesn’t care or didn’t think anyone could see her favorites….

      • Malia says:

        I saw those favorited tweets. I also didn’t like Angie’s reactions when Lazaro was called safe each week – everyone else clapped, but she just glared and didn’t even fake clap.

  35. Atlgal2013 says:

    I love you Burnell! Keep at it cause your voice, spirit and sense of humor are beautiful!

  36. MamaLis says:

    GREAT interview! You GO Burnell! Loved the interview, love your energy. Hope you go far. Michael sure has a gift for bringing out the best!

  37. Brigette says:

    I adore him. Such a shame he didn’t make it further in the competition. :(

  38. Angel says:

    Michael first off thanks for always giving a true look at the contestants. I hate the way the show washes out their true personalities. I have been on the Burnell train since his audition and out of the mediocre boys crop they put through I have always felt he was way above the rest. He has that special unique tone and I love his Burnell-isms that was just him. He is not an upbeat singer and some artist aren’t. I think there is a place for him in this industry and hope that like he says he’ll put in the work and use this platform to get him there. After S8 I’ve learned that I have to support my favs after the show ends even if its just to keep them motivated to go on no matter where the chips may fall.

    So Burnell please know I’ll support you whether you make it big or keep small I have my eye on you and I’ll be there to throw my support up for whatever musical project you go forward with.

  39. Adam Fachry says:

    Lol I once said that his tone reminds e of Chris Brown and apparently, the CD tht got him inspired was Brown’s. I knew there must be some kind of influence going on there.

  40. James A says:

    Good stuff as usual Slezak!

  41. tt says:

    Love Burnell and the interview. happy you didn’t ask about him and Amber. I expected it but was glad you didn’t .

  42. Dave says:

    Didn’t like Burnell at all on American Idol. I was surprised he made through as far as he did. I found him to lack maturity both on stage and off. We heard how he thought it would be funny to tell another contestant the house was on fire for an April Fool’s Joke and as a result someone’s toe was broken. Funny. On stage he had a very exaggerated opinion of himself, and his abilities. America chose the right person to vote off without fail; he should have been gone the week before.

    • MC says:

      I agee with you. I don’t care for him. He’s just very young and immature right now. I notice how Candice is a student of all types of music and Burnell seems lazy by comparison. Devin was easily my favorite boy from this season, although it would have been nice to see Nick Boddington make it to the top ten.

  43. darcy's evil twin says:

    What an entertaining interview. Thanks again, Mr. Slezak.

  44. Tiff says:

    Michael, why didn’t you ask him about the Amber thing?! I mean, I know it’s not our business, but come on! There was a kiss!

    Other than that, great interview. I loved Burnell and was shocked and saddened that they didn’t use the save on him, since it was obvious that Lazaro was going home next. This interview proves just how funny he really is, and I don’t think we got that on Idol. Like others have said, I feel like we’re way more engaged with the contestants this way…it’s just sad that the show doesn’t let their real personalities shine through.

  45. WDDB says:

    All these people just lurve Burnell.

    But they didn’t vote for him, did they?

    • Angel says:

      I voted for him but sometimes it’s not enough. All the negative comments makes me wonder why even come to read/watch an interview about someone you clearly dislike.

  46. ed slough says:

    I am so ashamed of Randy Jackson. Lazaro’s popularity was not, in my opinion, “sympathy” or “pity” but rather as a profile in courage. Let’s face it. We all understood instantly that Lazaro had been bullied all through school. The kind of bullying that usually silences the recipient. You’d probably never see him raising his hand in class. So, for Lazaro to enter a public singing contest where he would be judged on national TV was a “profile in courage.” Lazaro was an inspiration! And some of us (I include myself) saw “no harm, no foul” in voting to advance him in the competition. After all, the best vocalists would still get the most votes. So, what’s the harm in advancing Lazaro to #8, or #7, or #6? Of course, no one envisioned the trainwreck which was Lazero’s performances in American Idol Top 6 night. OMG!

    But Randy seemed to “blame” Lazaro for not being eliminated on cue. In retrospect, Nikki’s advice in “Top 8” and “Top 7” nights for Lazaro to “ignore Jimmy” was horribly, horribly wrong. Lazaro’s vocal range is limited to his middle registers. And Lazaro is apparently tone-deaf and didn’t have a clue… I suspect Jimmy probably precipitated the trainwreck by withholding his vocal coaching of Lazaro the week before “Top 6′ (i.e., couldn’t Jimmy have told Lazero to sing in a higher key?). So, Randy, you were “on board” with advancing Lazaro through “Top 8” week. Look at the humiliation you precipitated. Shame on you Randy! And shame on Nikki too (She really enjoys hearing herself talk with absolutely no regard for the impact of her words on contestants)!

  47. Blinged Up says:

    I. Love. Burnell! Frankly, I’m finding this season a little more boring without him.

    Burnell, if you’re reading, you’ve got some new fans at my house and we’ll watch for future music from you.

  48. ed slough says:

    Burnell should have been “saved” by the judges. I don’t know what they are waiting for – – –
    Burnell had a less than stellar night (Top 7 night), but most certainly could have redeemed himself. His style is so unique, and his voice so rich. I think he belongs in this season’s Idol Top 3!!!