20/20 Goes Behind the Scenes of 'American Idol'

Clark took it in stride. "A lot of people are afraid of Simon because they don't want to hear him say sometimes what they already know. … And so I just take what he's saying and I listen and try to learn from it," he said.

Clark's next performance will be singing Seal's "Kissed by a Rose" with two other finalists. One of them is Patrick Lake. He's a rocker — a rocker with a mission.

Lake said he hopes to be the guy who represents rock on the show. "I got real good feedback from Simon and Randy in Atlanta."

But the judges couldn't find the right place in the show for a rock performance. They asked Lake to sing "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head."

Lake may want to rock, but it was his performance on the country-pop song that landed him his spot in the finals.

Buckling Under the Pressure

A good practice run doesn't guarantee a successful audition for the contestants, who are battling nerves, and, of course, the scrutiny of the judges.

Lake described his struggle, "We were out in back practicing earlier. We were doing alright. Everyone's walking by, 'hey, that sounds real good.' We got up there, ah, 'that sounds real bad,' you know," he said.

So why is it that otherwise talented people crack under this kind of pressure?

Cowell said, "They have no experience. They just think they have a God-given talent and a God-given right to be successful. … So when you put them on here and they freeze and they go 'oh, but I'm nervous!'"

Abdul, as expected, was a bit gentler, "As a performer, when you walk on stage," Abdul said, "Sometimes … it's an out-of-body experience. But you gotta somehow get back into that moment."

Corey Clark was also struggling. He tried to compensate by playing the Paula Abdul card. "I was a little nervous, and I started to forget my words."

Corey tried to serenade Abdul a bit, hoping to distract the judges from his nerves.

Randy Jackson hated it. Simon Cowell wasn't impressed. But Paula loved it.

A day later, Corey Clark, Equoia Coleman, and Patrick Lake have nothing left to do but wait for the judges' decision. Which is worse: battling nerves in the spotlight or the anxiety that comes with the waiting? It's a toss-up.

Lake said he hates the waiting more than the performance. Clark said his mind is running a million miles an hour. Coleman seems to bracing herself for the worst, with a very comforting thought. "If I don't make it, I'm Memphis' idol. I'm Monica's idol — that's my mom's name," she said.

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