A University of Mississippi student who scored 15 minutes of fame on Season 14 of American Idol continues to make music in Oxford.
Michael Simeon, who invited J. Lo to slow dance with him and won the respect of American Idol judges during his audition, winning a golden ticket to Hollywood, is a UM engineering student who covers popular songs and some original music for fans on social media. He also sometimes plays venues and bars around Oxford.
Michael’s mother, Linda Smith, said, “Michael could hum before he could talk.”
Even in childhood, his musical abilities were evident. Michael received his first guitar at age 7 and dedicated himself to learning to play when he was 9.
He began playing the drums at 11, and playing piano at 14. A year later, the teenager made his first studio recording. He released his first EP, “Music Therapy,” his junior year of high school.
Simeon’s true Idol journey began at 16. During his first audition in New Orleans, Simeon and his two siblings all auditioned and were sent home, told they just weren’t ready.
“He was hurt and disappointed, but he was determined to get better because he really wants to make a living making music,” Smith said.
At 19, Simeon auditioned for Idol season 13 during their Idol bus tour. During this audition, he made it through. He received little on-screen exposure and was sent home in the Top 48.
Simeon didn’t give up. The next year, he was invited to New Orleans for an executive audition. Oddly enough, this audition ended in failure as well, but Michael remained hopeful. The last audition was in Nashville, and Simeon journeyed to the casting call with his family once again.
This time, everything changed. Given the golden ticket in Nashville, Simeon was sent to following rounds, where eventually, he serenaded Jennifer Lopez and gained nationwide exposure.
“During season 13, I didn’t get much time on the air, so I knew I had to do something to stand out the next time around,” he said.
That’s when he decided to ask Lopez to dance.
“He had told his dad that regardless of whether he made it through or not, he was going to ask Jennifer Lopez to slow dance,” said Smith.
As an electrical engineering major at the University of Mississippi, leaving for weeks of filming was a challenge. Simeon said the bulk of filming fell during exam week and the week prior.
Consequently, Michael’s grades suffered, and he ultimately took the next semester off, but he has been resilient, and is now back on track to graduate in spring of 2017.
Season 14 of Idol was a success. Simeon made the Top 24, and was one of the last 12 male contestants in the competition. One of his favorite Idol moments was rapping during the song “Classic” by MKTO during one round.
Since returning to Oxford, Simeon continues to pursue music in the community. Shortly after coming back, he created the hashtag #michaelsmusicmonday to continue releasing videos of covers and original songs every week.
He has two songs on iTunes and actively posts to Facebook, Instagram and Soundcloud. Michael’s fan base calls themselves the “Simeon Squad.”
Although he’s focusing on finishing his degree, Simeon plans to release new acoustic content soon. “Engineering isn’t a backup plan,” he said. “I will continue to pursue music, and engineering is just part of the bigger picture.”
Michael’s mother said he will “always sing, always pursue music and always make people smile.”