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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


Read our interview with the Australian Idol contestant below!

Image: Supplied.

With the grand final only days away, we said goodbye to three contestants on Australian Idol this week. Anya Hynninen, Ben Sheehy and Amali Dimond have come to the end of their Idol journey, but it's just the start for their budding music careers. We caught up with Hynninen to chat about her Idol journey and what the future holds.

Continuing the cute family moments, Anya Hynninen auditions accompanied by her step father Bernard. He jokes with the judges and Hynninen dubs her his secret weapon. Bernard has an impressive resume, he’s played with WaZoo, Hot Chocolate and Santana. The pair perform Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire, with her engaging vocals setting here apart from other contestants. There’s not many country leaning vocalists in the competition, and Hynninen has a rich vocal tone and great control. Trainor likens her to Adele and you can definitely pick up on those qualities. She receives four yeses. More often than not, Trainor, Sandilands and Connick Jr. are the first to give their verdicts, and I want justice for Amy Shark.

Whilst we didn't get to see much of Hynninen's performances throughout the bootcamp, we were offered a glimpse of her haunting take on KISS’ I Was Made For Loving You during the top thirty two performance. But her top twenty four performance more than made up for it. She delivered a chilling rendition of Tina Turner’s The Best. The stripped back take builds in anticipation, as Hynninen's compelling vocal performance drew you in and holding your attention. Judge Amy Shark watched on, looking like she’s in love, and one would imagine the rest of Australia will be doing the same. Judge Harry Connick Jr. was scared about the song choice, but understood her decision after viewing the performance. Judge Kyle Sandilands thought it was “sensational” and wished it had been longer. Judge Meghan Trainor wrote down “so jealous of her voice” and thought she “slayed”. Like I said earlier, Shark was in love, calling Hynninen “Australia’s Adele” and then delivers the first touchdown of the season, fast tracking Hynninen in to the top twelve.

Surrounded by pillars of light, Anya Hynninen performs Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach for the first live show. Unfortunately, it seemed to be the absolute wrong choice. The track was slowed down slightly to a tempo that just made no sense, and the song didn’t allow for Hynninen to show off her vocal chops. There were pitchy moments as well, but it wasn’t a terrible vocal performance. It just wasn’t Hynninen's strongest offering when compared to the compelling performances we've some to see. The song choice was her undoing here, which was disappointing to see because she was one of the powerhouse vocalists within the competition. The judges know she can do better than that, and Shark commends her for being brave for taking on this song and giving it her own spin. Hynninen avoided the bottom four and continued in the competition.

We didn't get to see all four song choices for Hynninen during 'Judges Choice' week, but she was tossing between Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black and Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me. She wanted to do something “feisty” and choose Back To Black. It was a return to form for Hynninen. Her vocals were strong and the production was effective, but I would’ve liked a bit more growl in her voice. The song was chosen by Trainor, but wasn't enough to keep her out of the bottom four. She sings Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly with His Song for her bottom four performance, and with the songs cut drastically short we didn't get a chance to hear much. But fortunately, Hynninen continued in the competition.

For 'Heroes and Tributes' week, the budding singer dedicated her song to her hometown of Selby. She was looking to emotionally connect this week, performed Nina Simone’s Feelin Good. For the first 45 seconds of the performance Hyninnen is unaccompanied. There’s some nice vocal runs and she definitely is able to hit those big notes, but there seemed to be a slight disconnect which could have come down to a wrong song choice. “I don’t mind being booed,” Connick Jr. says before saying she “stole” the arrangement. I think stole is a bit of a strong word, I don’t seem to recall her saying she had done her own arrangement? Trainor and Connick Jr. go back and forth over originality and singers longevity if they’re not bringing their own artistry to their craft. It was a brutal and unfair comment, but thankfully one that Hyninnen seemed to shake off the following week.

For the semi-final, Hyninnen is singing a more contemporary song when compared to her previous performances. Viewers chose to task her with performing the current #1 song across the globe, Miley Cyrus’ Flowers. She was looking to make the song her own following Connick Jr.’s brutal comments. She is stripping the song back and taking a more ballad approach. There’s some lovely strings added to Hynninen’s arrangement but something about it felt a bit undercooked. Again, it wasn’t a great song choice for the singer, and unfortunately I think the authenticity of what we saw during her audition has become lost within the context of the competition. Shark had hoped for more of a different arrangement and Connick Jr. seemed to agree, but spent most of his time defending his comments from last week. Sandilands delivered tonight, saying “We like to sing the words that know in the style we like. It’s a contest. This isn’t a show-off joint. This is a place where you sing to win. You win the record deal and then you go and you do your airy-fairy arty party stuff.” Whilst yes Connick Jr. is an artist, Sandilands has had decades as the countries top radio jockey. He knows what sells and he knows what listeners want. Trainor acknowledges how hard it is to take on the #1 song in the world and commends her efforts.

Each contestant got one last chance to perform on Monday nights elimination episode, Hyninnen took on James Brown’s It’s A Man’s World, and delivered what might be her best performance since entering the top twelve. We were reminded of her powerhouse vocals, and just why she made it into the top twelve. But unfortunately, Hyninnen's Idol journey came to an end as Royston Sagigi-Baira, Phoebe Stewart and Josh Hannan progressed to the grand final.

Congratulations on everything you've achieved on Australian Idol and making it to the top six. That's such a great achievement and you should be super proud of yourself.

Thank you, I'm very happy.

I remember your audition and thinking it was one of my favorites, so seeing you continue through the competition was so great. Taking it back all those months ago to that first audition, what made you want to audition for Australian Idol?

I had a friend that I knew from school, from high school joked about auditioning, [laughs]. I was like, 'you know what? I might as well'. Like, I was at university, failing, to be honest [laughs]. I failed my degree and it was a music degree as well. I was like bartending and working till like 4:00 AM every night, technically every morning. And I was like, 'you know what? I need a life. I need to change, so I'm just gonna audition and see what happens.' And then it just kept progressing and I didn't expect it. And so I was like, 'I'll just ride the wave for as long as it's there.'

Maybe you were failing your degree, but you didn't fail Australian Idol - that's a pretty good swap.

[Laughs] True that!

Obviously it's been quite a long journey from that initial audition to now. What's been like your favourite moment throughout this whole competition?

It's not quite a moment, but it's like more like my highlight is, I think aside from the contestants being lovely, I think all the staff are just nice, beautiful angel people. They're so nice and I've just made so many connections and relationships with them and that's been one of the highlights. Like, you go into the studio every day and everyone great. The receptionists all know your names and they all know what song you sung and it's just like really nice.

That's so lovely. Especially with it being such a high pressure situation it's nice to be surrounded by good people. It's been fourteen years since Idol aired last. How do you think like a show like this can change the trajectory of someone's life and career, and how do you think it's done so for you so far?

Well it's interesting because as far as like how it changes the trajectory, it like takes you basically from a nobody and puts you in front of people's faces. Which is like a good thing and a bad thing because you go from like, a lot of other contestants are literally just finishing year 10, year 11, whatever, so that's crazy. And then they go on and people are looking at them and they're saying, 'oh, you're my favourite, you're my favourite'. And then the whole other side of it is you can get a lot of hate. And it's like the first time for a lot of us that we've gotten that because we haven't been in the public eye. So that's been definitely something that we've had to get used to. Like the people making opinions on you and kind of comments that read like they're telling you who you are instead of who you actually are. They don't know at all. And a lot of your personality is edited out anyway. But I think that it can totally, it's like a great platform for just getting your music out there and just getting another audience and doing that kind of thing. And then getting in front of a record label and stuff like that, it's really good. That's probably why I wanted to go on it as well. I wanted more industry people to find me.

I hate hearing about the negative comments, but don't forget that's just someone sitting at home on their phone and you're on the biggest stage in Australia right now. Now, had you gone through to the grand final, what would have been your dream song to finish this journey on?

I would've loved, I'd really tried to get it and I didn't end up getting it. So even if I went through, I wouldn't have been able to sing it, but I wanted to sing Before I Go by Guy Sebastian. I wanted to sing that.

That would've been a nice little Idol moment, an idol contestant singing an Idol winners song. Throughout the competition, what do you think was the best piece of advice you received?

I think like everyone kind of has the same advice and it's basically just don't stop. Which is so true. Like you can get lazy and there's like fuck all money in this. Like fuck all money [laughs], like gigs pay literally nothing unless you're doing really big ones. And so you've just gotta keep persevering and just have tunnel vision I think is what everyone's basically said. Like, it really doesn't matter how singer of a thing you are. If this matters, if you've got something to say and if you've got perspective and you've got the work ethic and you just don't stop. You just keep blazing away basically.

That's some good advice. You also got a bit of constructive criticism last week. I loved your sassiness on Sunday night because I've noted that particular comment isn't said to everyone when where it could be applied to a few performances. Hw have you gone about taking on all that constructive criticism and feeding it into your performances each week?

You know, it can be really hard because like at the pointy end of the competition, you lose a lot of control. Especially when it comes to arrangements and stuff like that, it's actually not completely as it seems. A lot of people don't let you do what you want to do and then you get flame for it on TV. [Laughs], you know what I mean? So that can be really, really frustrating. I mean, and so I get annoyed because they know what it's like. The judges know, especially Harry [Connick Jr.]. He would know that that is what would've happened. and so it kind of annoys me that I just kept getting flamed [laughs]. Like he Probably knew that they weren't letting me do what I wanted do. So I told him to suck it and I don't feel badly because if a man said it, they would think it's funny. A woman says that, they say it's unprofessional and nothing. That's ridiculous!

Yeah, it's hard and especially when you're unable to do anything about it. But I guess guess the good thing now is you've built a new audience and you'll be able to put out your own music. You'll be able to do your own kind of covers and people will kind of be able to see the artistry that you did show so early in the competition. Speaking of your new path and career, how do you think Australian Idol has prepared you for your career moving forward?

I feel like it's just been like a massive bootcamp. It's been like brutal and at times horrible and at times amazing. It's been like emotionally like an absolute rollercoaster. Like it's been so full on and I think every single person that works, like that has helped create Idol has seen me cry probably [laughs]. I'm a Pisces so the tears are rolling out [laughs]. But it's been incredible. It's really taught me like this kind of stuff you're gonna have to deal with for years and years and years. So it's good to kind of get used to how to talk about what you want and how to put your foot down and when to not be a dick. To sometimes watch what you say a little bit [laughs].

We know the top three making it to the grand final are Royston [Sagigi-Baira], Josh [Hannan] and Phoebe [Stewart]. Who would you love to see take out the title of Australian Idol?

I think that they could all do it. And like the Australian public, I literally have no idea. But I feel like in terms of representation and in terms of just the bigger impact I think Royston. Because I think so many people are looking up to him he's just got so many people that will need him to do well. I think him, but I think they're all amazing and they're all slay.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to audition for next season?

I would say don't [laughs]. No, have someone that you can call at any time of the day to vent to because that's important. And someone that you trust to tell you what they think. I think that's important. Because sometimes you can get, especially when you're about to audition, if you are bad, you need someone, you need a friend that's gonna tell you if you sound crap. Because I reckon that is pretty heartbreaking sometimes. When you can see that someone's maybe not amazing and they audition and then they get humiliated, it's like heartbreaking. Need someone that's gonna tell you if you sound shit, I think. And that will continue for the whole competition if they progress.

That's good advice. So to finish off, what is next for you now that the show is wrapping up?

Well, I released everything under Anya Alchemy, which is my stage name and my middle name. I've got like three songs out or something. I'm like a singer songwriter by trade first, so I've got like 2000 songs on my little Mac just ready to go [laughs]. I'm ready to put out the EP and do a tour probably.

Watch the grand final of Australian Idol on Channel 7 Sunday night at 7:00pm AEDT. Stream it on 7 Plus.


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