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“So You Think You Can Dance” is returning for season 14 to the 18-30 age group with an old friend of the show’s back in the mix: Mary Murphy.

“We’re putting people on the Hot Tamale Train!” an exuberant Nigel Lythgoe commented on my radio show last Friday. The show’s co-creator and judge called from Los Angeles in what is now seemingly an annual tradition after the competition’s renewal. “I’ve got to say, I’ve supported Mary. I’ve got a great chemistry with Mary that I love. She can beat me up and hurt me and I can be rude to her, and that’s all part of the fun of the show.”

Both Lythgoe and Murphy were in Brooklyn earlier this month for auditions alongside Vanessa Hudgens, the former Disney star who as of late saw herself star both on Broadway and in “Grease: Live”.

“She’s just the triple-threat,” gushed Lythgoe about Hudgens. “They can act, they can sing, they can dance. Therefore for a start, they recognize the amount of work that goes in to being a great performer, and number two the talent that is required.”

The former “American Idol” producer was pleased with the talent he saw in Brooklyn, going as far as to make a rather bold prediction.

“I would suggest, and I’m not going to name names, that one of the kids we saw there is going to be the overall winner,” Lythgoe said. “There was a young man there that was outstanding.”

There have only been two other contestants that made Lythgoe feel that way: Carrie Underwood and Season 11 “Dance” winner Ricky Ubeda. Not a bad group to join.

It’s a story all-too-familiar these days in music: two artists collaborate without even meeting, let alone stepping in the same studio.

The latest example of this that we talked about on the radio show involved Brielle Von Hugel. The Staten Island native has three singles on Spotify with over a million streams: “Naked,” her featured vocals on Nervo’s “Alone” and the B.o.B-assisted “Stronger.”

Not only has Von Hugel never met the artist, nee Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr., but originally she didn’t even intend for him to have bars on that particular track.

“I originally wanted B.o.B to be featured on another song that I wrote,” the singer/songwriter revealed during an interview on my show last week. “So my team sent over my music just so he could get a feel of my style; he actually liked ‘Stronger’ better.”

Von Hugel was honored that he wanted to jump on any track, and so she gladly obliged to his request. The B.o.B-version is a Spotify-exclusive; a rap-less rendition is available everywhere else.

Also out is her latest, “Naked,” a song that deals with feeling comfortable in your own skin. The track was influenced by the bullying that Von Hugel experienced both as a kid and as she continued her music career, a path that would eventually take her to “American Idol” before becoming a member of Postmodern Jukebox.

“I feel like now more than ever I’m so comfortable in my own skin,” she noted. “A lot of great things are happening, so I really sing that with truth and I love the message.”

Von Hugel just wrapped a U.S. tour with PMJ and now heads to Europe for a four-week jaunt where she’ll tally only three days off. When the artist returns to Staten Island in May, she’ll continue working on new solo material.

After spending her 2016 battling cancer and completing the New York City Marathon, American Idol alum Jax kicked off the new year with some new tunes.

The New Jersey native, nee Jaclyn Miskanic, released an EP on January 27 called “Funny.” Yes, she’s pretty lighthearted in person, but at times perhaps all she could was laugh when she dealt with both personal and professional highs and lows.

“It’s kind of just about a toxic relationship that you can’t get enough of,” she explained when I asked the inspiration behind “LSD” – a song which plays off of the Beatles’ classic “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and one that we world-premiered on the radio show last week. “I think everyone has been there in their own way.”

The first time Jax joined my show was about a year ago; she had just released “La La Land” and stopped by to promote it. The next time I interviewed her was over the summer, after she revealed the thyroid cancer diagnosis and her plans to not only defeat it but then conquer the NYC Marathon.

“I feel great. I ran a freakin’ marathon!” Jax insisted when I inquired last week how she was feeling. “Everything’s good.”

Jax was happy to complete the 26.2 mile trek through New York City’s five boroughs, an experience she simply described as “awesome.” Will she run it this year as well?

“I think I will… don’t quote me!” she responded. “I have to start running again. I just got an Apple Watch. I think that was like my mother’s way of telling me you need to start working out again!”

The annual marathon doesn’t take place until later in the year, giving Jax plenty of time to not only train but also promote and perform her new EP… or at least devise a plan to do so.

“I think we’re kind of winging it,” she revealed. “We’re just putting out the material and hoping that everyone kind of connects with it. We have some shows and ideas coming up so we’ll keep everybody posted but I’m just really nervous for the release.”

Also out January 27, a new EP from Hot Chelle Rae guitarist and long-time friend-of-the-show Nash Overstreet, who coincidentally co-wrote and produced a song on Jax’s project. The “Idol” runner-up recalled meeting Overstreet a few years ago during her run on the TV show but he actually remembered a chance-encounter with the singer at a talent show in New Jersey a few years prior to that. Regardless, the two linked up via social media and eventually hit the studio together to collaborate on “Stars.”

The track is one of six on the new EP; Jax recorded a number of other songs as well that she hopes to release in the not-so-distant future.

This is my longest and one of my favorite interviews to-date.

I first met JAX earlier this year. She is a ball of good energy and simply a fun person to be around. And that’s why I’m not surprised how composed, outgoing and at times laugh-out-loud funny she was as she described the process of discovering that she had both Thyroid Cancer and Hashimoto’s disease.

In typical JAX fashion, she is overcoming both while yet again serving as an inspiration to the fans that adore her. And she’s coming through even stronger than ever; in November she’ll run the TCS New York City Marathon, which will be her first ever marathon. Hey, go big or go home.

JAX spoke candidly with me about this past year. Watch the interview below and contribute to her marathon cause here.

A brand new “2 Slices & A Story” on your screen starring American Idol finalist, Jersey’s own and all-around great person JAX! And you’ll learn something that she can’t stand during this chat…

Fresh off the release of her well-received sophomore LP ‘Better,’ Haley Reinhart stopped by to perform for listeners and chat about the new album, future plans with Casey Abrams and Postmodern Jukebox plus how she landed a gig on Bill Burr’s “F Is For Family.”
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As the final field of contestants was narrowed to three ahead of this week’s American Idol series finale, a specific statistic probably came in to focus for Nick Fradiani: the Connecticut-native has a 33 percent chance of being the final man to win the singing competition.

It would have been quite the coincidence considering he was also the first winner from the Northeast.

“I remember when I first got on the show, I found that out,” Fradiani told me earlier this year. “I was like, ‘I’m doomed! I’m never going to win.’”

The Wheaton College graduate never allowed this to affect his performance as he sang his way to the title. A whirlwind of events followed for Fradiani.

“The single was released back in May,” he recalled of the track, “Beautiful Life.” “I did the radio promotion from about May right up until the tour ended.”

Fradiani essentially worked two jobs: promoting his single at radio stations during the day and performing with his fellow Top 5 finalists on the 37 city tour at night. He continued this until September, and then returned to the studio to finish up his album. Now, he’s back at radio with a new single, “Get You Home.”

“It’s the most up-tempo, funkiest song on the whole album,” Fradiani described. “Figures that’s what the label liked! But I loved it, I loved writing it. And there’s a sample in it from Young M.C.”

Fradiani intertwined “If you want it, you got it,” from the 1989 hit “Bust A Move.” The “Idol” winner was 3 and a half years old when the song was released, and busted a move or three this week on the show’s finale.

Also gracing the “Idol” stage one more time: previous winners Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Kris Allen. They and other winners from yesteryear were joined by a slew of finalists who have found success in their own right: from “Daughtry” front man Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert to Broadway star Constantine Maroulis, actress Katherine McPhee and country star Kellie Pickler.

Some stars are so far removed from their time on the show that you might even forget they once competed. But for at least one winner, who will also return to “Idol” this week, that might be an accomplishment in itself.

“The hardest thing about coming off of ‘American Idol,’” Lee DeWyze told me a few years ago, “is coming off of ‘American Idol.’ Everyone’s got a different path.”

And for the show’s second-to-last winner, that statement certainly holds true… literally.

Haley Reinhart has traveled an interesting path from “American Idol” finalist to independent solo artist. The Chicago-born songstress signed a deal with Interscope after her top 3 “Idol” finish and recorded her debut album “Listen Up!” That would be her only release under the label. Reinhart eventually joined fellow season 10 alum Casey Abrams in Postmodern Jukebox before stumbling upon the next chapter of her career, all thanks to a gum commercial.

“Wrigley and Extra Gum kind of sought me out and had me record the song kind of overnight and it worked out,” Reinhart explained of her new single, a cover of the Elvis Presley classic “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” “It worked out, they put out the commercial, it blew up and now it’s being played on the radio.”
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For the most part, Reinhart seems to be enjoying the ride.

“I’d rather things take their own course and their own time to completely fall in to the right place,” she said. “I don’t like anything to be forced. So thankfully in this instance and in a lot of other cases, it’s overnight and you don’t expect it, and those are the greatest gifts.”

Reinhart’s gift to her fans will be the sophomore album “Better,” due out in April.

“I actually had to hold back putting out the album because of all the buzz that’s happened around this single,” she revealed. “It’s been a labor of love for about three years or so now.”

But Reinhart isn’t complaining. After all, there are some things you can’t predict and others you simply shouldn’t force.

Day 2 of the broadcast Backstage at The 58th GRAMMYs is always more hectic but also a lot of fun: you’re set up, in a groove and a lot of artists are coming by – usually more so than the previous day. It was great meeting ‘Idol’ winner Nick Fradiani, BØRNS and actress/singer Hailee Steinfeld. I also loved catching up with our bud Alessia Cara and seeing Zendaya for the first time in a minute.






East Brunswick N.J.’s JAX stopped by to chat about her new single “La La Land,” her trip to MSG to see Billy Joel, how she feels about her time on “American Idol,” and what she has planned for 2016!