America got a taste of burgeoning St. Louis singer YZthaSinger recently on “American Idol,” and though he’s no longer part of the competition, we haven’t seen the last of him.
The 19-year-old was seen during the ABC show’s Hollywood Week rounds, first in a duet (Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”) with fellow contestant Aliana Jester. Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan favorably critiqued the pair, and they advanced to the next round. But YZthaSinger didn’t make it past the solo rounds, in which he performed Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).”
YZthaSinger (Aziz Muhammad) and his family moved to St. Louis from Memphis, Tennessee, in 2012, and he graduated from Central VPA High School. (Gabbii Jones, who appeared on “Idol” in 2018, is another VPA grad.) He was in a male singing group called Project X from 2015 until the group disbanded in 2017.
One of his earliest memories of singing was performing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” in the third grade as part of a Black History Month program.
Though he answers to YZthaSinger, as he was billed on “American Idol,” he will start going by simply YZ. He plans to release an EP this year.
Q • How would you describe your “Idol” experience in one word?
A • Learning. I learned a lot about myself about interacting with other people. Being at home, I don’t get to be around music-inclined people, super-talented people. I was given certain nuggets on the show and loved being out there.
Q • What kind of nuggets?
A • One of the most important things was about my name. I go by YZthaSinger, but the judges told me I give off an entertainer vibe. I don’t want to just be a singer. I’m open to doing more. I wanna act and dance. And to add to that (another nugget was), practicing your craft. I sing every day. I’d been doing it for fun.
Q • How did you and your duet partner approach your song?
A • We started with just the vocals to make sure we got the lyrics, then we wanted to make sure we were entertaining the judges, doing things serenading each other, holding hands and really selling it.
Q • How did you choose “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” for your solo?
A • I was looking at the list of all the songs I could choose from. I tried to do something with a different vibe. I’d never heard anybody do it from a male perspective. I said, “I can do this.” It was a no-brainer. I was the first to pick it. Then it was “Oh, snap, I’m not the only one doing it.” I liked my version. It was different. Every time I sing, I sing with instrumental tracks. It was good to hear my voice with real, live instruments.
Q • What surprised you most about the “Idol” process?
A • With it being a competition, it surprised me how friendly everybody was. I understood it was a competition, but there was so much helpfulness, so many cool people to talk to. So many relationships came out of that.
Q • Do you still talk to your duet partner? (The show played around with a narrative of whether the pair’s on-screen chemistry was a thing off-screen. It wasn’t.)
A • I still speak to her.
Q • How did you come to audition for “American Idol”?
A • I received an email. A producer said auditions were coming up in a city near me. I thought it would be good, but I wasn’t really sure. I thought maybe I’d do a Skype audition, but they said it wasn’t guaranteed if I did it through Skype. I told my mama, and she said if I wanna do it we could rent a car and go (to auditions in Chicago). She drove me, and I made it.
Q • What was the Chicago audition like?
A • One thing I noticed was there were so many people here, so I can’t be playing no games. And everyone’s got the same dream of being the next “Idol.” We all wanna do this. I had to buckle down.
Q • What did you perform at the Chicago audition?
A • “Adorn” by Miquel. They really liked it. It got me through. It’s been my favorite song for years. I got videos of myself doing it on Facebook.
Q • Had you ever auditioned for a TV show before?
A • I’ve tried to audition before and didn’t make it, and it deterred me. But trying to be an entertainer, you can’t let a no stop you. (He auditioned for “The Voice” in 2018 in Indianapolis.)
Q • Did you watch “American Idol” growing up?
A • I watched it all the time. My dad’s a singer, and he loved watching shows with live singers. So it was always in my mind that I could probably do that one day.
Q • What are your favorite “American Idol” memories?
A • Simon Cowell being a judge and laughing with my daddy. All the people I saw on there were super-cold singers. I would learn how they do this run here, this little change there.
Q • Who are some of your influences?
A • Chris Brown. When I first started, I wouldn’t sing any other artist. Also Miguel, Trevor Jackson, Jacob Latimore and Eric Bellinger.