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Of the more than a million people across the country who have auditioned for American Idol, only a few dozen know what it’s truly like to live the Idol life. And that’s why OKmagazine.com brings you Idol Roundtable, where former finalists Mikalah Gordon, Anoop Desai and Diana DeGarmo will share their insider insights on the new season. In preparation for tonight’s episode, here’s our esteemed panel’s take on the merits of Hollywood week.

While American Idol is ultimately a solo-singing competition, every season features a group round during Hollywood Week — and this year, choreography was thrown in. We wanted to know what our Idol vets thought about the necessity of having a group trial in a solo competition.

“I think the group portion of Hollywood Week is good because it shows more of the contestant’s character than anything,” Diana tells OK!. “Working with others, singing harmonies and learning choreography puts the contestants out of their comfort zone and can really show someone’s true colors.”

OK!’S IDOL ROUNDTABLE: ANOOP, MIKALAH & DIANA DISH ON THE LAST WEEK OF AUDITIONS

“I think they are necessary, absolutely,” Mikalah explains to OK!. “It makes you work the harmony parts and you will need the choreography for touring.  If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be in the business at all.”

Anoop also sees the benefit to having a group round, not necessarily because it prepares contestants for a future in a band, but because it’s a test of their strengths.

“Well, they definitely make good TV! But the group round is mainly about seeing how you perform under pressure,” he explains to OK!. “The further down the line you go in American Idol, stress and time constraints are just part of the game. Performing under less than ideal circumstances is the norm. I think the show is justified in testing how resolute the contestants are early on. As we saw this year, one girl already cracked under the pressure and quit. The group round is meant to weed out the weak competitors.”

OK!’S AMERICAN IDOL LIVE BLOG: HOLLYWOOD WEEK NIGHT 2

Our panelists agree that watching the newcomers hit the stage in Hollywood has sparked a flashback of their own time competing on AI.

“Every time I hear the theme music I have flashbacks,” Anoop admits to OK!. “I remember every vivid detail, whether it be how I chose my outfits or calling my mom, who was home at that point, to give her all the details. I remember us being split up into rooms (which they don’t do anymore) and being so nervous that I wasn’t in the right room. My stomach spins with nervous excitement every time!”

Mikalah had a similar reaction to the start of Hollywood Week, telling OK!: “When the contestants marched out on stage for their first audition, I started getting nervous for them and remembering my own time there,” she dishes. “The setting was the same, the drama was the same (although, thankfully, I was never a part of any) and I empathized with the palpable tension that makes Hollywood Week what it is.”

Another face of the show our esteemed panelists are all on board for? The addition of judge Ellen DeGeneres, who replaced Paula Abdul this season.

“I have been so proud of Ellen!” Diana says. “Her comedic sensibility has been refreshing and real. She is going to be a lot of fun to watch through out the rest of the season.”

“I think Ellen is doing amazingly so far,” Mikalah says. “She has been tough, funny and honest. She’s a great fit and isn’t really the ‘Paula’ of the show, which is good because Paula is her own person.  I’m not feeling Paula’s absence yet. I think it’s because they aren’t focusing on it, so it’s not in your face like it was when it was first announced.”

I think Ellen is a terrific addition so far,” Anoop says. “Her criticism is fair and often funny. She’s been my favorite voice on the panel so far. She also draws some attention away from Simon, which I think is a good thing for the show and the performers.”

According to our panel, one name to watch and pay attention to (if you haven’t already!) is Andrew Garcia, who did his own version of Paula’s “Straight Up,” which has often been covered in past seasons.

Check back next week for more from OK!’s American Idol panelists, and log on to OKmagazine.com tonight at 8 p.m. ET for our live blog of the whole two-hour show. Some of the Top 24 will be revealed tonight!

Download this week's issue of OK! Magazine for only $1.99
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