Anoop Desai

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Anoop Desai
Anoop Desai.jpg
Anoop Desai in June 2011
Background information
Born (1986-12-20) December 20, 1986 (age 32)
Cary, North Carolina
OriginChapel Hill, North Carolina, United States
GenresR&B, soul
Occupation(s)Singer, actor
Years active2006—present
Associated actsUNC Clef Hangers

Anoop Manoj Desai[1] (born December 20, 1986) is an American singer-songwriter best known for his time as a contestant on the eighth season of American Idol. Motivated by the death of his friend Eve Carson,[2] Desai auditioned for American Idol. Desai made American Idol history by being the first ever 13th finalist on American Idol. Favored to win by celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Keith Urban, Desai achieved a sixth-place finish, becoming the second Indian American to advance to the final stages of American Idol.[3]


Early life[edit]

Desai, an only child, was born in Cary, North Carolina. His family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1998. He went to Fuller GT Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina.[4] His parents both work in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Desai’s father, Manoj Desai, graduated from IIT Kanpur and came to the US in 1977, and his mother, Nalini Desai, studied in a college program in Navsari, Gujarat and earned her doctorate in South Africa, and works in the bio-tech field.[5] He is fluent in Gujarati.[5]

In the 1990s, Desai appeared on the WRAL-TV (NC Triangle) television children's show,, and played the character "Raj". The show won multiple awards, including seven regional Emmys, two national Iris awards, and a national Gabriel Award.[6]

Desai attended Carnage Middle School and Phillips Middle School, then later went on to attend East Chapel Hill High School, graduating in 2004. During his time at East Chapel Hill High School, he was a member of the all-male a cappella group, the Chiefs of Staff. He was awarded a four-year academic merit scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was the Haywood W. Hinkle Carolina scholar from 2004 to 2008.[7]

After being accepted and planning to attend college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Desai auditioned for and was accepted as a member of the UNC Clef Hangers, a long-standing male a cappella group founded in 1977.[8] He was accepted in the group as a senior in high school with the understanding that he would begin attending the University in the fall of 2004. Desai served as the group's music director during his junior year and as the group's president his senior year. Desai’s performance as a soloist on the song “She Has No Time” was recognized with the BOCA 2007 (Best of College A Cappella).[9]

Desai graduated from UNC in 2008 with a bachelor of arts degree, with a double major of political science and American studies.[10] He was awarded the 2008 Peter C. Baxter Memorial Prize in American Studies, as one who exemplified "intellectual excellence, personal warmth and creativity."[11]

American Idol[edit]


Desai rose to national fame with his participation in the eighth season of American Idol. He auditioned for the show on August 8, 2008 in Kansas City, Missouri, and was selected as a semifinalist following his "Hollywood Week" performances. Although he was not one of the three finalists chosen out of his semifinal performance group, he returned as a "Wild Card." The judges saved Desai for last on Wild Card night and after announcing that Matt Giraud had made the Top 12, Simon Cowell then revealed the twist of Season 8: that Desai would also move onto the finals, leading to the first ever Top 13 in Idol history.

Desai's first finals performance of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" was panned by the judges, with Simon Cowell saying that it was "very lightweight" and that he regretted choosing Desai for the Top 13. But Desai won the judges over again the next week, when he sang Willie Nelson's classic country ballad "Always On My Mind" for "Grand Ole Opry Week." Even Cowell was impressed, and retracted his remarks about Desai not deserving to be in the Top 13. Desai's rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" three weeks later, which also garnered praise from the judges, prompted Cowell to compare the contestant to a "yo-yo", going back and forth between good and weak performances.

Nonetheless, Desai landed in the Bottom Two that week, just as he had the previous week. He finished in the Bottom Three during Top 7 week, when Matt Giraud was saved from elimination by the judges. This meant the next week would be a double elimination, wherein Desai ended up being voted off along with Lil Rounds.

Celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and Keith Urban said they favored Desai to win.[12]

Desai returned for the season finale of Idol's Season 8 to perform "I'm Yours" with fellow Idol contestant Alexis Grace and singer Jason Mraz.


Week # Theme Song choice Original artist Song Order # Result
Audition N/A "Thank You" Boyz II Men N/A Advanced
Hollywood First Solo "If It's Magic" Stevie Wonder N/A Advanced
Hollywood Group Performance "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" Jimmy Ruffin N/A Advanced
Hollywood Second Solo "My Prerogative" Bobby Brown N/A Advanced
Top 36/Semi-Final 1 Billboard Hot 100 Hits to Date "Angel of Mine" Eternal 6 Eliminated1
Wild Card N/A "My Prerogative" Bobby Brown 8 Selected2
Top 13 Michael Jackson "Beat It" Michael Jackson 8 Safe
Top 11 Grand Ole Opry "Always on My Mind" Brenda Lee 9 Safe
Top 10 Motown "Ooo Baby Baby" The Miracles 5 Safe
Top 9 Top Downloads "Caught Up" Usher 1 Bottom 23
Top 8 Year They Were Born "True Colors" Cyndi Lauper 4 Bottom 24
Top 7 Songs from the Cinema "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" - Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Bryan Adams 2 Bottom 35
Top 76 Disco "Dim All the Lights" Donna Summer 7 Eliminated
  • ^Note 1 Desai was initially eliminated, as he did not receive enough votes to advance immediately to the Top 12. However, on the March 4 results show, the American Idol judges selected him as one of the 8 Wild Card contenders.
  • ^Note 2 Desai was selected as one of the finalists. His selection marked the first time in the show's history that 13 finalists were chosen.
  • ^Note 3 When Ryan Seacrest announced the results in the particular night, Desai was in the bottom three, but declared safe second when Megan Joy was eliminated.
  • ^Note 4 When Ryan Seacrest announced the results in the particular night, Desai was in the bottom three, but declared safe second when Scott MacIntyre was eliminated.
  • ^Note 5 Desai was saved first from elimination.
  • ^Note 6 Due to the judges using their one save to save Matt Giraud, the Top 7 remained intact for another week, in which there was a double elimination.


Since appearing on American Idol, Desai has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Live with Regis and Kelly, The Mo'Nique Show,[13] Access Hollywood, Today, and local radio stations across the nation. He has also performed with Amos Lee in Atlanta, Georgia. Desai also performed on the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2009 with his fellow Top 10 contestants; the tour visited 50 cities in the United States and Canada from July 5 to September 15, 2009.

Desai's first single, titled "My Name," was co-written by Brandon Rogers and Desai, and was released on March 23, 2010.[14] His debut album, titled All Is Fair, was produced by Ian Schreier and was released on May 4, 2010.[15][16]

Desai's second single, titled "All Is Fair (Crazy Love)," was co-written by David Mikush and Desai. Desai was selected by Clear Channel Music and iheartradio as an "artist to watch" for September 2010 with this single as the featured track.[17] The music video for "All Is Fair (Crazy Love)" was released on February 3, 2011.[18]

Desai began performing in live concerts as a part of the All Is Fair Tour in Fall, 2010, with the first show in Carrboro, N.C., on October 8, 2010.[19] In addition to the headlining shows, he often performs at charity appearances.[20]

Desai now resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently working on a project entitled Zero: The Mixtape. The project is a collaboration with Atlanta-based musicians, writers and producers including DJ Trauma. The mixtape will be released in multiple parts, and the first installment was to become available on March 23, 2011.[21] The second EP is expected to release in July, and the third EP is expected to release in October.[22]

He is being represented and managed by The Industry Connect.[23]

Desai now performs hip-hop and soul music under the name TOTEM.[24]



2011 Zero.0

Extended plays[edit]

Year Album details Peak positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
2010 All Is Fair

2012 3 Cheers

  • Release date: November 20, 2012
  • Label: Independent
  • Format: Digital download

Digital singles[edit]

Year Single Peak positions Album
2010 "My Name"
  • Release: March 23, 2010[26]
- All Is Fair
2012 "Love War" (featuring Adhd)
  • Release: November 13, 2012[26]
- 3 Cheers

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Presenter Award Result
2009 Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Tour (shared with American Idol Top 10) Nominated


  1. ^ "It's Dim All the Lights for Anoop Desai: Movies". 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  2. ^ "Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai - Anoop desai". American Idol. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  3. ^ Times of India: Anoop Desai is out of 'American Idol' - April 23, 2009
  4. ^ "W.H.Fuller Elementary Gifted and Talented Magnet School, Raleigh, NC". Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  5. ^ a b Pais, Arthur J (March 19, 2009). "Anoop Desai in American Idol top 10".
  6. ^ Anoop Before Idol Archived 2009-05-26 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ UNC News Release
  8. ^ "The UNC Clef Hangers :: Carolina's Oldest A Cappella Group". Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  9. ^ UNC Clef Hangers Album Details Archived 2009-02-11 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ The Herald Dispatch Archived March 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ UNC Student News Archived March 23, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ The Boot: Keith Urban on Piano Serenades and 'Idol' worship
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2011-01-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Anoop Desai preparing debut set". USA Today. January 22, 2010.
  15. ^[permanent dead link]
  16. ^[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2010-04-25.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2010-11-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2010-04-25.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2011-02-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Anoop Desai unveils Zero The Trilogy". Asia Pacific Arts. 2011-03-23.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-01. Retrieved 2010-04-25.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ Parker, Lyndsey (June 29, 2016). "The Artists Formerly Known As Idols: New Names, Same Talent". Yahoo! Music. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  25. ^ "'Idol' boosts Connick, Sinatra sales". USA Today. May 12, 2010.
  26. ^ a b

External links[edit]