Idol's Ben Briley Talks 'Bennie and the Jets,' Harsh Judges' Comments, His Sped-Up Johnny Cash

Ben Briley took a gamble during Top 11 week of American Idol — and wound up paying the price.

The Tennessee native, who’d been known for his country-tinged performances, got behind the piano, shook up his wardrobe, and gave a lounge-y twist to Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” that didn’t go over with the judges, and ended up with his elimination from the competition last Thursday night.

Now, Ben sits down with Reality Check host Michael Slezak to talk about his fateful Soundtrack Week decision, his position battling for the 15th slot for guys this season, and his rollicking rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Tune in from 12:00-12:30pm ET for the live Q&A, where they’ll cover all those topics and more.

And if you don’t get to watch the interview live, fret not. You can watch a replay below starting around 12:35!

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. Kim R says:

    Seems like a nice guy and quite sure of his own musical choices. That’s good, it makes for a regret free experience. I kind of stumbled into the live interview. Cool. :D

  2. Suzi says:

    Is he chewing tobacco?

  3. Suzi says:

    Really enjoyed the interview. Seems like a very nice, mature, well centered man.

  4. Flicker says:

    could we shorten these hang outs somehow? maybe have summary recap article or video? i used to love these videos but now don’t last through even a minute of them

  5. Tusk says:

    I thought Ben had said that Randy liked his decision to do BATJ? Now he’s saying no one did, that he had to fight for it?
    So the actual issue is Ben’s self evaluation, or in baseball parlance, he was a utility player (competent at all position) but he wanted to be the clean up hitter (The spot in the line up with the most power, relied upon to drive home the runs)
    His point about the judges should have critiqued his performance rather than his decision to ‘change things up’, or that “they were confused as to who he was as a performer”, is very valid though. Of all the country singers of this season, Ben was the ONE who was more adventurous with his decision, which IMO I will still give him props for, although for the competition, it is a “Make it or Break it” kind of decision. But if you think about it, the time to ‘change things up’ would be before top 10 when you start building your idol identity for the rest of the competition…

    song on radio by the year? Better check that Idol history again :P

  6. Jeremiah says:

    First of all, I just want to say that Lee DeWyze released an awesome stop-motion music video for his single “Fight” yesterday. It’s really creative and if anyone here hasn’t seen it yet, they should definitely check it out.

    As for the continued use of the Google Hangout format, my feelings are best summed up in the words of Dexter Roberts – “Aw naw!”

    I understand if this is something that you actually have to do for some reason (budget cuts? Some kind of corporate partnership between TVLine and Google?). But if it’s just an experiment that you wanted to try out, then my reaction is pretty much the same as it was to Ben’s performance last week. I applaud you for trying something new, but it’s not working very well.

    On the plus side, the audio and video seemed to be in better sync this week than they were last week (despite the problems experienced at the beginning). I’m not sure if that’s just because I watched live last week, and started watching after the interview concluded this week. Whatever the reason was though, that marked at least a small improvement.

    The one other thing that I can think of that would improve the Google Hangout would be getting rid of that bar at the bottom, showing the faces of whoever isn’t on screen. I remember that it came and went last week, so I assume that it’s something that could be disabled. It was a little bit of an annoyance last week, but I thought that I might be able to get used to it if I had to. However it was a lot worse this week, since it took up more of the screen, and almost cut off the bottom of Ben’s face. Does anyone actually like having this here? Because I can’t think of why anyone would want to see additional screens, containing the faces of people who aren’t talking, while trying to focus on an interview. It just doesn’t seem to serve any purpose.

    Anyways, I hope that I’m not coming across as being overly critical – just want to give you some constructive feedback. I’ll try to make this the last time that I say anything about the Google Hangout. If you don’t make the switch back to the old, edited format, I’ll definitely be disappointed, and I assume that others will be as well. But I certainly won’t stop watching or appreciating what you do. :)

    • LeahKittyS says:

      I just listen to the interview and then open up another page and do other things while I listen; I avoid watching altogether.

  7. Teeny Bikini says:

    I think when the judges say “challenge yourself” – they mean take a song that is not in your genre or stereotypically “you” and morph said song into something that seems to be organic to “who you are as a singer.” I still remember David Cook singing Billie Jean… Singing “out of genre” has been done many times and rewarded on this show, but it has to be done well – because you will be stoned to death if it isn’t. I still respect the heck out of Ben and kind of wish him and his tenacity and his artistry were still on the show, instead of the ever-monotonous Dexter. But them’s the breaks. I hope he keeps going. Talented dude.

  8. Luiz says:

    Michael, I LOVE your interviews, I do, and I’ve been following all of your work non-stop since 2011. But now I have to write some constructive criticism: these interviews are too long, and it’s been hard to follow them (that doesn’t mean I don’t try, though). I understand that it’s easier (and probably cheaper) this way, but I think some editing would make it really really better – 20 minutes or so would be a more appropriate time, and editing probably would give some nice dynamics to the video.

    I spend at least half of the time paying attention to other stuff and end up giving up before the end. And when I think about the fact that Emily and Ben were two of my 5 or 6 favorites of the season, I imagine it will be torturing for me when you interview, in this format, some people I don’t like – and that has never been a problem for me in any of your past interviews.

    When Idoloonies became Idology (whose name you guys changed to Reality Check later, which was nice), I didn’t really like the changes, but they never bugged me, and then I quickly started to like the new format. I’m pretty sure it’s not the case here.

    I don’t know if I’m with the majority here, but I really hope this changes. And I hope you understand that I mean well when I say this, because I’m not just a fan of reality singing competitions, I’m also a fan of your work. =)

    • Jeremiah says:

      Personally, I don’t mind the length. If these interviews were edited, they could probably go on for an hour and I wouldn’t get bored. I feel that it’s just the format that keeps them from flowing well.

    • syb says:

      I do agree that I’m discouraged from even firing it up at 50 minutes. If it was somebody I was totally into, maybe I’d hang with it, but Ben, we hardly knew ye. I may be in the strong minority, but I prefer columns to videos anyway. I don’t expect MS to have to write any more. Nothing wrong with the video interview–that’s my problem, but this is one where I’ll wait for the cliff notes.

      I did really like Folsom Prison Blues as done by Ben. “The speeded up version” was OK with me. It worked. The Rico Suave Bennie and the Jets, not so much.

    • Flicker says:

      With all my respect and love of you Mr Slezak and Idoloonies, Idology and Reality Check, etc etc, and appreciating all the constraints you/ TV line might be facing, I have to concur with Luiz and Jeremiah… this format just doesn’t work, any change would be welcome.

    • Meghan says:

      I agree – I’ve been watching Slezak’s exit interviews with each contestant for a long time and really look forward to his thoughtful questions. However the sound quality and video quality on these Google Hangouts doesn’t do it for me and I don”t want to watch/listen to 50 minutes of an interview with a contestant that I wasn’t super into in the first place. 15 minutes would be the perfect length.

  9. Jim Welker says:

    I knew 100% Ben was history! He had a horrible voice and shouldn’t have made the top 200!

  10. Jared says:

    Really enjoyed that interview with Ben. I also think he was thrown under the bus by the judges, but he did manage to show off a lot of talent in the all too brief time he was on the show. I hope I get a chance to see him perform at one of his gigs because I have a feeling he really gives the audience a good show. I’m glad that he also was a Haley Reinhart fan, I KNEW there was something special about him. (ps. interesting that this chat almost became a dip video. Ahh Ben, you are a southern boy.)

  11. aravis says:

    Nice long, detailed interview. I’m already looking forward to the other contestant’s interviews.
    I didn’t know that was how the Disney Idol park worked.

  12. Leonel says:

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