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Point Pleasant singer advances to 'American Idol' semifinals

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Point Pleasant native Chase Likens survived Pittsburgh, Hollywood and Las Vegas to land in Los Angeles and the "American Idol" semifinals, where his fate now rests in the hands -- or dialing/texting/mouse-clicking fingers -- of viewers.

His achievement was announced Thursday, when he was named one of the final 10 semifinalists. The other 14 were chosen Wednesday. The semifinalists were whittled down from more than 300 in the Hollywood rounds to 70 who performed twice in Las Vegas (a new feature of the show this year) to the group of 24.

"I was just awestruck. There just weren't any words," Likens said in regards to his triumph in a video on the "American Idol" website. "Especially seeing as where I'm from. I'm from such a small town, and there's not a whole lot of, uh, famous people, I should say, from that town."

The 21-year-old Marshall University junior auditioned in Pittsburgh, singing Lady Antebellum's "Love Don't Live Here," fitting his self-described crossover-country sound. Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler was the first judge on board with the performance, nodding deeply in approval and proclaiming, "Bingo!"

Likens only had to sing for about 15 seconds before the judges stopped him and passed him through to Hollywood.

"I auditioned for 'American Idol' because I believe my talents are just as good, if not better, than the contestants before me who have been on the show," he said in the video.

One of Likens' last performances before becoming a semifinalist was a group rendition of "Dedicated to the One I Love" in Las Vegas with contestants Skylar Laine, Colton Dixon and Cari Quoyeser. (Laine and Dixon also are semifinalists; Quoyeser was cut after that performance.)

Tyler said of his performance, "Chase, man, for someone who came in here singing his true love -- country and western -- you sure are stretching out in a real good way."

Likens isn't new to "American Idol." He auditioned in Nashville last year with Chris Young's "Gettin' You Home (The Black Dress Song)" and Clint Black's "Nothin' but the Taillights." That earned him a spot in Hollywood, but he was cut in the group round there.

A theatre performance major, Likens began singing when he was 5 and performed at his elementary school talent show. Since then, his singing achievements include being the 2008 Jackson County Colgate Country Showdown winner, a two-time winner of Gallipolis' Ariel Jr. Idol and the Jackson County Jr. Fair Idol.

Likens will perform in the live male semifinal round at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Fox. This is the first round open for voting.

He said viewers can expect "a lot of high-energy performances from me, a lot of crossover-type country music. America can expect to see just overall great things and a real down-home sensibility."

Staff writer Bill Lynch contributed to this report. Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4881.


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