During his brief time as an American Idol cast member in 2011, Chris Medina attracted attention not only with his strong tenor voice, but also his heartbreaking back-story. Medina’s fiancée had been involved in a car accident several months before his audition, suffering a traumatic brain injury as well as severe fractures to her skull and face. He became one of her main caretakers, indefinitely postponing the pair’s engagement in order to help her recover. He also tried out for American Idol at the insistence of his fiancée, who accompanied him in a wheelchair.
Medina passed his initial audition and entered the Idol semifinals, where he was eventually cut from the competition by a teary-eyed Jennifer Lopez. Days later, he was contacted by Rodney Jerkins, the Grammy-winning songwriter behind Destiny's Child’s “Say My Name” and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” Touched by Medina's dedication to his fiancée, Jerkins wrote a new song for the singer. The resulting “What Are Words” became a hit on iTunes, YouTube, and the Billboard charts in March 2011, making Medina the first person from American Idol’s tenth season to release any post-show material. ~ Andrew Leahey