'X Factor': What the Top 10 Finalists Think of 'American Idol'
Last week, we asked a group of American Idol alumni for their thoughts on Simon Cowell’s new show The X Factor and the opinions were all over the map — some, like season 7’s Michael Johns and season 8’s Nick Mitchell, loved the production value, others, like season 5’s Elliott Yamin, gristled at X Factor’s bells and whistles; Season 10’s Didi Benami marveled at how Cowell’s tableside manner has changed (for the better, ‘natch), while for many, the image of a Cowell-Paula Abdul reunion immediately rekindled its share of warm, fuzzy nostalgia.
Now, we turn the tables and ask the X Factor contestants for their thoughts on the Fox talent show predecessor. Not surprisingly, most of this year’s Top 10 are fans, some would have tried out, if they were eligible, and one (Marcus Canty) can even call himself an Idol reject.
Read on for the X Factor contestants’ take on America's most-watched singing competition series.
Marcus Canty: In a case of curious coincidences, 20-year-old Marcus Canty had actually auditioned for American Idol judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul and was rejected. “I tried out back in season 7 and it kind of left a bad taste,” he tells the Hollywood Reporter. “Randy [Jackson] told me I sound like a chipmunk. And Paula said to work on my upper range a little. Simon didn't say anything. He was, like, ‘Randy, yes or no?’ And they all said ‘no.’” For his part, Cowell barely remembers the audition. Besides, the judge points out, “He's gotten better, hasn’t he? But looking at the audition process [for X Factor], what’s crazy about his was that he had the crowd behind him and he had the opportunity to dance, so you're seeing a very different kind of audition.”
Canty says that at 16, he “wasn’t ready” for Idol (for the record, Abdul agrees) and even though he was turned away, he has no regrets. “Now, I'm ready. Here I am, top 10, who could ask for anything better?”
Leroy Bell:The 60-year-old finalist from Seattle, Washington, who says he watched Idol “a few times,” has a soft spot for country music. “Right away, I could tell Carrie Underwood had a brilliant voice,” he says. “She was great and also the country guy who won recently [Scotty McCreery], he’s another really perfect country voice. They both stood out.”
Stacy Francis: No surprise here -- Stacy Francis, the over 30 favorite, readily admits that she watched Idol for years. “I love Fantasia,” she tells THR. “As a matter of fact, I loved her winner's song 'I Believe' and I really want to do that song on X Factor. I am begging them to let me do it because I feel like it applies to my life.” Beyond the season 3 winner, Francis adds that she also loves Adam Lambert, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Says the 42-year-old single mom: “For many years, I so wanted to be on American Idol, but I was always too old. When the show started, I was like 30 or 31. I missed the mark, but I definitely watched it sitting on my couch wishing that I was there.”
Chris Rene: It was a local Idol that inspired audience favorite Chris Rene to audition for X Factor, he reveals. “James Durbin,” says the rapper, who hails from Santa Cruz, the same hometown as the season 10 Idol finalist. “I never met him but I've seen his picture in the paper and I'm like, ‘OK, Chris, step it up because this is what you're born to do. You can't have no excuse.’ That’s the whole reason I'm here now.”
Drew: The 15-year-old didn’t miss a season of Idol, but when it comes to Drew’s favorites, year 4 winner Carrie Underwood takes the cake. “She is boss,” says Drew. “I've been to one of her concerts and she was amazing.”
Melanie Amaro, Astro: Not everyone is an Idol loyalist. Melanie Amaro says she didn’t watch the show since it wasn’t aired in the Virgin Islands, where she was living. Says Astro: “I would watch it for fun but I couldn’t tell you names.”
Rachel Crow: For 13-year-old contender Rachel Crow and her family, Idol was appointment television. “We used to plan our life around it,” she says. “It's always been a love of ours and everybody would ask me, ‘When you're older, are you going to try out for American Idol?’ Maybe I would have, but I love this competition because you can be so young.”
Lakoda Rayne: As all things Lakoda Rayne tend to go, the group’s four girls had similar experiences with X Factor’s predecessor. Says Cari Fletcher: “I would stand in front of the mirror, sing a song, pretend to hear the judges’ comments back to me and practice my reactions to good and bad comments. We found out that we all did it. We were all, like, ‘I wanna be the next American Idol because...’ And we’d come up with elaborate, amazing answers.” Adds Dani Knight: “We grew up watching American Idol and dreaming to be up on that stage one day and it's crazy to think that now on the X Factor, we're performing in front of Simon and Paula.”
As for favorites, for Paige Ogle it’s all about Idol’s Adam Lambert. “He melts my heart,” she says. “I’ve met him and he’s an amazing person and so sweet.” Hayley Orrantia, meanwhile, still has a soft spot for seaons 5 fourth placer Chris Daughtry. “I, like, cried when he got kicked off,” she says. “It was the most unexpected thing to happen on the entire show.”
Josh Krajcik: Leave it to 30-year-old burrito slinger Josh Krajcik to tell it like it is. “I’m sure there's some good talent on [Idol], but this show's better,” he says. The key difference? “We try to take songs and make them new and our own, whereas with Idol, it seems that they just kind of cover the way the song was originally. I think that sets us apart and having the resources and the technology to do the stage show we can do.”