March 6, 2009 / 12:09 AM / in 9 years

"Idol" gets Latino flavor with Puerto Rican Nunez

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “American Idol” is going to be hearing a lot more Spanish this season.

<p>Performer Jorge Nunez poses at the party for the 12 finalists of the television show "American Idol" in Los Angeles March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>

Puerto Rican college student Jorge Nunez, who divided the judges over his heavy accent, won congratulations from Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez after singing his way through to the coveted Top 12 of Fox’s top-rated talent show.

Encouraged by the superstar music couple, Nunez said he hoped to sing a few verses in his native language in future rounds of the competition, saying “my voice sounds best when I am singing in Spanish.”

Nunez told reporters in a conference call on Thursday that Anthony and J.Lo, both of whose parents were born in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, sent a text message to show host, Ryan Seacrest, after his performance this week.

“Please tell Jorge that Jen and I could not be prouder. We were in tears witnessing, honestly. Pure talent,” said Anthony’s text.

Nunez, 21, has received conflicting advice from the Idol judges, who first advised him to lose his thick Spanish accent if he wanted to advance in the show.

But British judge Simon Cowell told Nunez this week to keep the accent, noting that many a Spanish and Latino singer had achieved popular international success.

“I wanted to follow their advice and let them know I had listened to what they say. But I can actually feel more relieved now that Simon has said he wants me to keep my accent,” he said.

“I would like to integrate a few verses in Spanish (into my performances). It is part of who I am and if I get the chance to sing in Spanish, I‘m not going to lose it,” Nunez added.

Some 45 million, or 15 percent of the U.S. population are Hispanic or Latino, according to 2007 census figures.

Tatiana Del Toro, 24, also from Puerto Rico, was given a second chance to advance by competing in the “wild card” round later on Thursday.

Nunez was joined in the Top 12 by Lil Rounds and Scott McIntyre, the show’s first blind contestant.

McIntyre, 23, told reporters he did not think his impairment would be a problem even as the competition heats up with new songs and choreography every week.

“I have never thought of it as a disadvantage...I don’t want people to look at it in that way,” said McIntyre, who has been blind from birth.

“I am quite the dancer,” he added. “Sometimes it just takes some-one to show me the steps and I‘m really good at keeping an awareness of my space. I’ve had some practice performing for some churches. I am very comfortable performing on stage.”

“American Idol”, now in its eighth season, has been America’s most watched TV show for some six years and currently attracts a U.S. audience of about 24 million per episode.

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