"Idol" finalists: Swinging kids in a grown-up world

Amid the multi-million-dollar glare of
“American Idol,” it's easy to forget the basics: These are kids –
teens, often – in a grown-up business.

Listen to Hollie Cavanagh – who made
the final four before being eliminated Thursday – talk about
Wednesday, when she and Jessica Sanchez were singing while on swings:
“We had fun with those swings during rehearsals,” she said. “We
were trying to swing higher.”

For a moment, these two – Cavanagh is
18; Sanchez, still in high school, is16 – were just kids at play.
The same may sometimes be true of Joshua Ledet, 20, and Phillip
Phillips, 21. :”For some reason,” Cavanagh said, “Joshua was
trying to buy a bunny to put in Phillip's room.”

These young people are often asked to
do old songs. “The hardest was Billy Joel week …. I ended up with
'Honesty' and I'd never really heard it,” Cavanagh said.

Born 15 years after “Honesty” hit
the charts, Cavanagh has modern pop tastes. She grew up in Liverpool,
before moving with her family at 9 to McKinney, Texas, with its
bigger horizons. “In England, you do the same things every day.
Here, there are so many things to do.”

She auditioned on last season's “Idol,”
got to Hollywood and got lots of air time, before failing to make the
next cut. She tried “The X-Factor,” but was told that her “Idol”
agreements precluded that. In her second “Idol” try, this season,
she kept advancing – but rarely seemed to be on-camera.

“My friends were like, 'Are you sure
you tried out this year? Are you sure you were on the show?'”
Cavanagh said.

Later, she kept having close calls. In
six of her final seven weeks, Cavanagh was in the bottom three.

Last week, she was alongside her teen
friend Skylar Laine, convinced it was the end. “Skylar had killed
it every week.”

Laine was ousted; Cavanagh survived.
This week, judges loved her first performance, but criticized her
choice of “I Can't Make You Love Me,” a soulful Bonnie Raitt
tune. (“I love the song and I think the lyrics are so beautiful,”
Cavanagh said.)

So she went into Thursday's results
show, expecting to be going home. “It was just my gut telling me,”
she said. “I was just preparing myself.”

This time, she was right. For a moment
or two – until the “Idol” tour – she can revert to simply
being a Texas teen who likes swings and current pop songs.